Thursday, May 5, 2016

74th Annual May Show – North Canton Little Art Gallery

The Triumph of Craft - detail
With mixed emotions I took a tour of this year’s NCLAG May Show, one of the two “local” competitions that seem to validate the status of artists in Stark County. Without all productive and talented artists in our area participating in these shows however, it is unfair to really assess the value of these exhibitions in that regard. As a showcase opportunity however, this year’s offerings are a wonderful array of nature inspired imagery. One could almost label this a theme show.

Beautifully hung by curator Elizabeth Blakemore, each piece is in harmony with the ones that surround it and nothing overwhelms any particular wall. There are focal points due to contrast and scale, but nothing shouts out over its neighbors….well, except for Russ Hench’s big ummm….rooster painting that screams across the whole library. By far my favorite in the whole show, it did receive an Honorable Mention in the acrylic category. Loud and large and just so much fun to look at, his impressionistic approach using flat brush strokes and the slightly off kilter angle of the fence, truly does bring to life this tipsy rooster walking down a Key West sidewalk.

There are 52 entries in the gallery with 21 of them NFS, which I find an extraordinarily high number. I wonder why? Full disclosure, yes I did enter, no I did not get in as the entry stood. It was a two part entry as one unit. The judges wanted one, not both so it’s a no. Stop by Journey to visit my rejects…a nice perk to having one’s own gallery space. The jurors were a husband and wife team from Ohio’s Polytechnic University (the in-transition U of Akron, my undergrad ala mater) who obviously spent a great deal of time going over each piece and pulling together a very cohesive distribution of works that focus on craftsmanship, technical skill and strong fundamentals. Personally I found it a bit light on message or statement pieces, but there is a good bit of humor mixed in so I’m okay with it.

Michelle Mulligan’s “Art Her-Story” is outstanding. Earning Second Place for 3-D entries, this found object and gourds creation is worth the need to get down on your knees and look at the detail and personalities of the faces. If you know art history, you will recognize the ladies depicted.  Heather Bullach, a truly gifted painter has 2 pieces, neither of which earned and award, but I would have given her one. Her oil on board “The Rising Sun” captures a moment in time through the use of only one, yes one, brushstroke. A single hint of yellow on the side of building in this small landscape is amazing. Her career is just beginning.

Gail Wetherell-Sack’s “Poppin’ Red” is also a fun piece in that her title is layered with meanings as one works through this mixed media Honorable Mention work.  Handmade papers, cut outs, pop-outs, bright colors, lime green frame, patterns, textures etc…I was a kid in a candy store. Her use of the green frame brings up the issue of framing….(eating some crow right now…..) but this year, the frames became part of the works more so than ever before. The idea is growing on me. Without some of the creative framing such as Lee Ann Novotny’s “A Superior View from Paradise”, a delicate colored pencil landscape, the piece may have been overshadowed. Instead, the framing almost functions as a window enhancing the concept of her work. But as framing may givith, it also can taketh away….gold metal frames are as out of date as saddle shoes, time to leave them at home and paint the edges of a deep canvas. Deep canvases being a way to validate that pieces are new.

My carpal tunnel is kicking in so time for this post to close. But I do want to mention the First Place winner in mixed media by Daniel Vaughn entitled “Which Way?”, a 12 x 12 black square that houses and intricate Lego pattern. At first one thinks, yeah, I’ve got bins of those puppies in my basement, but the concept grows on you. I would love to see a whole wall of these squares, like quilt patterns, or a whole room full in patterns and designs that treat the little bricks as strokes of color when laid on their sides. Hmmm…..I feel a dress coming on.

On view through May 31st, make the time to visit this year’s show. Congrats to all!

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