Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fabrical and Digital, The Art of Karen and Bill Bogdan

Main Showcase Introduction

Wedding Party at Gervasi

Gervasi - Piazza Dining

Inception 1


The North Canton Little Art Gallery is currently showing the work of these two artists until Dec 4th.  Intrigued by their pieces in the Stark County Artists Show at the MassMu (see previous blog), I decided to get a larger offering of their work in a different context.  The Canton Rep wrote a full article (meaning multiple paragraphs in this sound bite age of ours) about this current show as well just a few days ago.

The printed program and list of works available at the NCLAG has several pages about the artists, their process, their relationship and this show as well as many visual examples. Bill likes to write so I was not surprised and it did allow for a deeper connection to the show by knowing all this detail. I would encourage you to read it over once before and once again after viewing the show. I did so and it made me go back and look at some of their pieces again with a different perspective and appreciation.

I do know that putting this show together was more intensive than most. Curator Elizabeth Blakemore worked her magic on the Bogdans to get the right feel for this show. Bill is making a name for himself with his woodcuts (The Chess Player) but there are none here. Instead, we have digitally enhanced oil pastels of a realistic nature, drawings in the true sense of an artist capturing a moment with a tool in his hand, not under it, like a mouse. Karen’s pieces are fabric (and mixed media in some cases) for the most part, textiles, not quilts. For the sake of space and not repeating what has already been written or what is available at the show, I am just going to offer some observations as my notes come together.

The way the show is laid out, with his more “gentle” works placed in-between her more “passionate” creations, gave me a clue to their connection as a couple. I use those two words in quotes because this presentation made me feel he is “there” in that space to say “I’ll keep you calm, I’ll keep you grounded”.  Their 50 years together is documented in the big showcase and the best way to start the gallery walk.

Ladies first so let’s explore Karen’s works. She was an elementary art teacher which means she must know many ways to make things and many historical art figures that kids can relate to such as Henri Rousseau. Her piece “Save the Forest” captures his spirit.  “The City”, a wood sculpture, appears to be channeling Red Grooms. “City Flowers”, a black and white pieces, is reminiscent of the boogie woogie jazz age of NYC.  Perhaps I am leading you to think she has no focus, but quite the opposite is true. She has an keen interest in textures, techniques and experiences….a voice saying “hey, lets try this now” much like an elementary teacher can’t stay in one place too long. I can relate. It gets a bit crazy up in the old brain with too many ideas and not enough room to hold them.

Continuing on, “Inception 1” is a big bang piece of layered fabrics, some transparent, some translucent, to give a feel of gasses in the big abyss of the universe. The work is stretched over deep sided canvas (or so it appears) which is a welcome change to the traditional flat on the wall display method associated with textile arts. In contrast to the delicate nature of “Winter Scene”, I have to talk about “The Carousel” because you can’t escape it. I would imagine that there are quite a few who would wonder “why is that here?”…well let me tell you why I think it is. Created in 1995, the oldest piece in the show by decades, it is an anchor piece. We all have them, the ones that marked a milestone or a change or that we just darn well like and want to share. “The Carousel” is big and bold and brash and loud…..but so is a carousel in real life. They spin, and shine and have loud music and go up and down….this multimedia fiber piece captures that essence, that craziness that makes a merry go round the favorite of many a child.  

Okay, a few words about the gentleman now. As I said, his pieces are surprisingly quiet in nature from what we have come to expect. All recent (2012 – 2016) these 14 framed works are digitally enhanced prints of his own drawings originally in oil pastels. The style is reminiscent of early Van Gogh with the layering of markings, the linear quality and the figures going about daily tasks, most notably in the Gervasi pairing.  All the subject matter and scenes are local.  One however, “Goodrich Smokestacks”, at first felt like I was viewing the World Trade Center Twin Towers by the way he has visually framed the imagery. So too does “Red Ball over Market Street (Akron)” have a minimalist graphic quality, especially if one does not know the reference. Both are strong pieces which work well together.

I would hope that the traffic is good through the gallery to see this show as it has universal appeal and offers much to take in. The only thing missing is a current photo of the couple. It would have been fun to have them pose in the same manner as the photo from long ago and include it in the showcase. Thanks to Karen and Bill Bogdan for sharing their story and their work with all of us. 

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