Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Stark County Artists Exhibition 2016 at the MassMu

Karen Bogdan "Deep in the Forest" Fabric art and paint

Note* I was going to include more pictures but Artwach beat me to it as we chose many of the same.

Finally got a chance to stop by and see this year’s show. When I walked in, I wrote “wow, color!!”  It is a more colorful presentation than in past years, but rather slim in content and at times felt a bit dated. Full disclosure, I did enter the usual three, but only halfheartedly because I felt it was my duty as a Stark Co artist to do so.  With my retirement from the canvas now in full swing, or at least dormant for the foreseeable future, I just didn’t feel the urge to be a part of the show. It was a joy however to walk the gallery alone and take in the works of some of the best talents in the area.
The judges and I would still be in a fistfight if I had been one of them. I don’t know them, I suppose I could google them, but why. Knowing their preferences or styles would not have changed my opinions, maybe just help answer “what were you thinking???”

My husband is fond of saying “if you can’t make it good, make it bigger” which applies to a few of the pieces, ones that reminded me of foundation level still life set up paintings, basic assignment type of projects. The 3-D category was positively anemic, where are all our craft media artists?  A few works were practically carbon copies of each other in style and technique by different artists and a couple may be oldies but goodies!  However, all that being said, there were some absolute gems to explore so let’s move on with what I discovered.

Spencer Molnar, “Devil in a Blue-Green Dress” (Honorable mention) was the best of the three he has included, hung side by side as well. Enter 3 of the same, hope they take one, good odds. In this case all three got in and yes, they are well done but I would rather see them side by side in a larger solo show, not next to each other, because here the star was tarnished just a bit by her neighbors.

I was fooled by Lee Novotny’s “The Watcher”. From a distance it looked like a photograph with the framing an integral part of the work itself.  Much of this show I enjoyed from a distance which attests to the skill of the artists to deal with depth so successfully. Contrast and scale are essential elements to pull this off. Diane Belfiglio’s “Going Deeper ll” is a prime example. With no contextual references, one can see this underwater subject matter as perhaps celestial or abstracted imagery that grows more powerful the farther you step back. Up close, the blue form appears to be a felted material collaged on, not a drawing, a testament to her skill with oil pastels.

Emily Bartolone’s “Space and Motion”, a work of roll paper, pen and ink, though non-representational, was to me a like looking at a map that had gotten wet, been forgotten, had coffee set on it, and maybe even put into a bottle at some point. I spent quite some time imagining different coastlines and trying to make a reference to a location even though I knew no real one was to be found.

Karen Bogdan’s “Deep in the Forest”, a fiber arts piece, I felt was the better of her two included here. I loved the complex layering of the leaves, capturing sunlight and shadow by the textiles and their placement. The addition of stitching and her use of scale made this one of my favorites, but also because it felt more like a painting than a textile with the framing a big part of that.

Bill Bogdan’s woodcut, “The Chess Player”, should have won something. Perhaps it was too complex in meaning. This larger work is multilayered, not media wise, but mentally. The use of positive and negative space, the “live” man in the light and dressed, the “inactive” man, empty, barefoot and slumped over….dead? Only one piece is missing from the board, a pawn, on the side of the inactive player. The timer is numbered on the light side, empty on the dark…has time run out? The title is singular, not plural. Is this a contemplation of his own mortality? Is the game over or just beginning? So much to see and contemplate and I am sure most visitors will walk right past. Too bad, they will miss something important that art is intended to do, capture our attention and make us think.

“We Will Call Him Snappy” by Nate Forshee has a great title for his off centered portrait of a turtle. This offset placement is a compositional moment of genius, notice how concentric circles and the repetition of circles are formed by the shapes of the animal itself, like raindrops in a pond. Turtles live in ponds.

The mixed media works of Kelly Rae were stunning. I hope to see more of her work and perhaps a solo show.  The atmospheric landscapes are conducive to contemplation and I am glad she gave no reference to a specific location because the viewer can now let their own imagination take them to this “place” with whatever emotion is needed at the time.

Brian Robinson’s talents with soft pastel are beyond words. He needs a big solo show someplace so I can see more. The scale alone is intimidating for “Resting Soil”. One can feel the warmth of the earth in the spot on the field illuminated by a sun we cannot see.  Again, the “from a distance” factor is in full play here, both his pieces are even better when standing back, if that is even possible.

A few final mentions, Tom Wachunas (good thing you didn’t touch that flag, my DAR would kick in); Nanette Ream (you have a future in textile design, the “Fish” was fantastic); Michael Weiss (finally some clever fun in this show, thank you!)

Congrats to all the artists whose work hangs on the walls, putting your soul on display is never easy.
Until next time…..thanks for playing.

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