Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rhythm and Obsession at the North Canton Little Art Gallery

Russ Hench and Judi Longacre have combined their art for presentation within the same space. Though not a literal or physical connection, their pieces are perfectly suited in both spirit and element with pieces of Judi’s wearable art/jewelry seeming to have escaped the showcases and taken up refuge on Russ’s canvases.

Several red dots are present on the labels for Judi’s work. While in the gallery I also was the first to learn that the Little Art Gallery had purchased one of Russ’s pieces, “Row Boats to Heaven” for its permanent collection.  It is heartening to see that art is not just for looking at anymore.

I remember the first piece of art I ever saw by Russ Hench. It was at the CMA in a Canton Artists League show and I fell in love with it at least 12 or more years ago. I know he would go far with his work, it just sang true then as it does now. Only two pieces in this show pay homage to his early days and techniques (as far as I know about his career anyway), the metal repoussage works in the showcase that are reminiscent of Don Drumm’s stylized suns.  One of my two absolute favorites is in the other showcase, “Stranger at the Block Party”. It took me a while to realize what he meant by the title because I was enchanted with all the different sizes, shapes and textures of the squares, layer upon layer upon layer. When I used to teach art and wrote various curriculums for art programs, I only taught 5 things, over and over and over because they are the only elements needed: line, shape, color, texture and space. Russ captures all of these as well in each and every one of his pieces. This show would be an excellent place to take young artists to see the basics in action. Okay, why I missed the one golden ball almost dead center, the stranger at the party, is because reflected in the bulb was a perfect black square created by the reflection of the doorway of the gallery itself, a happy accident of circumstance for sure.
 My second favorite is Autumn Sapphire which is rich and luscious and creates many layers of visual space. I wrote the word “sophisticated” in my notebook as I could see this piece on the walls of some estate in Elle D├ęcor. If one sits on the central bench within the gallery, it becomes obvious that his pieces share a common bone structure of a weighty focal point and subsequent chutes and ladders of additive elements. His statement says that the titles are not to imply any type of storyline but because people like to have a point of reference, it is natural to create one. Personally, I prefer the pieces with no photographic elements because the flatness and reality of those surfaces cannot match the quality of his manipulated imagery.

I do want to mention the watercolor reproductions that are interspersed with his larger creations. Two of them really captured my attention, “Door Knob” and “Reel Mowers”. It is great to see that he has the natural talent to draw and paint in complete realism, but that it does not limit him or bind him in his creative process.

Not to be left out, the wearable art jewelry creations of Judi Longacre (J*U*D* I as in individual if you are listening out there!!! :-)). She collects and reworks antique, vintage and previously owned jewelry, buttons and other time worn trinkets.  I admire those who wish to honor things that represent moments in time and memories past.  Just recently I saw a bridal bouquet made from vintage and antique floral jewelry pieces.  As many of us approach the time when we must break up homes and dispense of family heirlooms, how wonderful it would be to pass along a bracelet or broach made from Grandmas’ favorites. I am sure Judi would accept the challenge to take someone’s treasures and create a one of a kind work of art.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The places I go with no effort at all.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!  written by Dr. Seuss popped into my head this morning as I checked my Facebook page thingy to see what everybody was up too.  And why this poem?, because it dawned on me that none of us really have to go anyplace but to our computers to go everyplace with everybody else.

I did not have to answer my door for trick or treaters this year to see any cute costumes. All I had to do was click on those albums posted by those with kids and I got my fill of ankle biter angels and toga wearing toddlers.  Black Friday was easy too, but why are you taking pictures of crowds and putting them on line to show that you are standing in line? Does this mean your arms are not full of enough stuff yet because one hand still remains free?  I’ve been to several parties that I would never have attended in person. All those album shots of alcohol infused antics provided enough fun with no designated driver needed.

Thanks to those online albums I have been on several vacations as well. However, do heed the advice of local law enforcement who says to not post that you will be away. Far too many home invasions happen because the “bad guys” read postings all the time and know exactly where to go and when. 

I find the back and forth banter pretty funny. So many times I have longed to jump in with a snarky snippet of my own, but wish to avoid any potential addictive habits. For now, I am content to follow the airing of issues that others may have. Some information I find to be a bit too personal for public consumption at times, but then again, I am learning that there are people who need copious amounts of feedback for one reason or another. The whole program (and after all that is exactly what FB really is, one big computer program that is as close to artificial intelligence as we may get outside of top secret developments), is akin to a school lunchroom. If I could paint that concept I would. Envision along with me what I mean….

Certain threads and connections of “friends” are like lunch tables of different “cliques”.  The same individuals tend to congregate every day on mutual conversations. Those who lurk and on rare occasions post a comment are the lunchroom monitors. There are very little cross conversations which I believe is because various groups of “friends” know different people and not all the same people so not all postings are on everyone’s page….or something like that.  The albums of pictures are akin to Monday morning weekend wrap ups, but every day is a Monday on FB. And yes, those employers, college admissions officers, and even law enforcement are checking those pictures too, making their jobs so much easier (so are parents who can gain access through other’s pages).  I will admit to telling a parent that his then 14 year old son was listed as being 22 on his FB page and interested in women and other inappropriate content.

Like all trends, fads and eventual cultural shifts, I wonder where this program will be in 10 years. Humans tend to be an impatient species, always looking for something new, improved, different or better than before (which is a good thing or we would not have cars, planes, cell phones etc….) but I wonder just how long it will be until we so isolate ourselves that the ability to communicate in full paragraphs and in conversations of thought provoking length and depth are a thing of online archives.

Unfortunately the saddest thing I have witnessed recently is a commercial showing some type of flat screen reading device (a kindle perhaps?).  The commercial had three vignettes that appalled me. One was a parent and child crawling into bed for a bedtime story and the child hands the parent this device.  Umm…where are the illustrations that encourage a child’s imagination? The second scene is a couple on beach chairs looking at these things. Now if one falls asleep reading at the beach using this device, I give it 5 minutes before some other person swipes it right off their lap and runs. Nobody would ever take a crumpled paperback, but electronics are fair game.  And lastly, people are shown standing around “reading” off of one of these things. A bit hard to fold down the corner and close the cover if interrupted as one has to “save” the current page nor is any one likely to start a conversation with you about the book you are reading. How ironic if the book happened to be “How to meet people and make friends in the digital age”.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Shutter Speed: Senior Show by Alyssa Dibell (and some other musings...)

The McFadden Gallery space at Malone will be host to a series of rotating student exhibitions through December 10th for graduating seniors. The day I stopped in featured Alyssa Dibell and her aptly entitled show, Shutter Speed. Before I get into discussing her work, viewers need to understand what a senior retrospective show entails in order to give the installation a fair assessment. Depending upon the size of the art program in question, a senior show can focus on a specific body of work in a unified vision, or incorporate a variety of works showcasing what the student has learned. Malone would be considered a “small” art program compared to Kent, Akron or OSU so the latter style of show is well suited to how its graduates present themselves as emerging professional artists.

The posted statement relates how she chose her title for the show. Simply put, a shutter on the camera is the devise that opens and closes (at super fast speeds) allowing light to hit the film or sensors (digital cameras now have to be considered) thus determining exposure.  Like time spent in college, how one develops (as an artist in this case) is determined by the times and places and exposures one encounters during this very brief period of their life. Ms. Dibell’s show is a snapshot album of what she has learned. Though a bit disjointed to include a little of everything (quite understandable and in a way, how we honor our teachers), I could see an emerging vision and hear the beginnings of her artistic voice.

I honestly don’t know if the work will still be on view by the time anyone reads this, but I have a feeling we will be seeing her work again so you can say you read it here first!  My personal best in show goes to her watercolor “Epic Proportions” which is almost a painted version of the styles and markings found in her fabric works. My notes say “open the quilt to add a window with the watercolor behind it, pull the two media together and integrate”.  Visually, she has depth in several areas and now is the time to focus on the media and work her strengths into one direction combining these elements. By this I mean mix the photography with fabrics making multiple layers of printing techniques. Many of her works have very visceral surfaces some formed by staining and others by additive elements. This is the point however where she gets a bit overwhelmed with “stuff” added to the surfaces.  My favorite word pops up here again, “edit”, which is a learned skill and one she can in no way be faulted for at this early stage of her career. Many a senior show suffers from this malady, mine did too, because we want to get it all out there and experiment. I learned to edit through fashion.  The same formula works for interior design, menu planning or any other situation where there can be just “too much” stuff.  Okay, jk, so what is the formula?

Simply this, close your eyes and count to 10. When you open them look at whatever is in question, know that you must remove one item from it. The key word is must. Often one “thing” will lead to two or three and by taking away that which is the weakest, what remains is stronger. The process can be repeated as many times as something bothers you when opening your eyes. Of course we all know that when it comes to our own shows, houses or tables, rules don’t apply. Okay, back to Ms. Dibell’s show….I suggest she take her three personal favorites, and play with the techniques she used to make each one, then integrate those methods to create one piece.  See what happens by challenging herself to make it all work with the goal of getting the resulting “style” into a juried show here or elsewhere. That first acceptance letter is a real kick in the pants! Now that I have discovered the Malone galleries, and other local college venues (Stark State’s 2nd floor hallway, Kent State Stark’s lower level space and Mt. Union’s Crandall Gallery) I hope others will consider adding these locations to their art hopping and shopping habits. Emerging artists are all around us so don’t miss out on new talents (mixed in with us older folks too every now and then).   Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just wondering why....(quizz time)

Saturday was a “review-a-palooza” for me and still I could not hit all the shows that opened or are on display right now. Since there were errands out north, I stopped in at Akron U to see the faculty exhibit and then to Summit Arts Space to see Kaleidoscope. Both are well worth the time and effort to go see, especially the latter which is probably the best Akron area show I have seen in a long time. Summit Arts Space on Market Ave near the Akron Art Museum will be on the First Saturday Akron Art Walk in December. Might as well make a weekend of art hopping and shopping by going to Canton’s First Friday, then to Don Drumm’s Studio and then the full Artwalk on Saturday.  Don’t miss Jack Baker’s Art Glassworks in the North Hill area.  I completed my rounds by going to see a senior exhibit at Malone in the McFadden Gallery. More on that show later. 

I am not going to do a full (or even a partial) review of either of the two Akron shows because I have bigger questions to ponder. My side porch, a glass of wine and my husband allow me to work out many of my blog ideas before reaching this stage of the process. I am direct, he is a diplomat. I am blunt, he has bedside manner….so you get where I am going. He helps me say what I want to say in a dignified way. So when I came home with questions regarding the participants (as opposed to the products) in these shows, how to best frame the issue was the topic at hand. Because I may feel differently than others (world shattering newsflash there folks!) and the answers to the questions may never be known, the best way to ask them is in the form of a multiple choice quiz. (And you thought you were done with school…) I made a statement to him last night that perhaps I actually say what a lot of others are thinking but nobody really wants to say out loud, or in this case, ask.  So here it goes, 5 sample quiz questions and possible answers. You be the judge. 

  1. Why is it that many (not all!!) college art department faculty do not exhibit in or participate in “community” shows in the communities in which they work?
a.       They are too busy teaching to make enough work to enter.
b.      They are afraid (like all of us) of getting rejected and affecting their reputations as being art instructors.
c.       They feel that non-faculty level artists are not as good as they are and therefore do not want to mingle with the lesser “professionals”.
d.      Their own academic community does not encourage it so as to maintain quality control.
e.      They don’t want to be caught exhibiting in the same show as one of their students and thereby loosing the image of being better because they are the professor and thereby more professional.

  1. Why is it that realism and the skills of observational drawing and painting are not being stressed in foundation level art courses as much anymore?
a.       The instructors can’t draw themselves having come up through art programs that have veered away from the basic skills, favoring feelings instead.
b.      Digital media has overtaken the need to develop observational skills because any image can be captured at any moment and manipulated as needed.
c.       Realism is considered “basic” and boring. Something wild, crazy and creatively displayed is far superior because those who don’t get the message are just not that cultured in art.

  1. Why are titles no longer necessary?
a.       It is too much work to think of something related to the image.
b.      Labels are too confining to the idea presented.
c.       Someone (an instructor?) told them that if they can’t be clever, then be quiet.
d.      Nobody uses titles anymore, they are so old school. 

  1. Why is it that just because something is BIG, then it has to be good?
a.       Because professionals have worked out their ideas and can create larger pieces without making mistakes and wasting materials.
b.      Everybody knows that bigger is a better value and probably more important….because it is bigger.
c.       It stands a better chance of getting in a show because it is bigger…and everybody knows that blah blah blah…..
d.      Good art is big art, just visit any major city and you will see that it must be so because lots of money was spent on it and lots of money must mean it is good.

  1. If it is hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a space and….
a.       …I run into it thinking it is something under construction because it is made of construction materials, then it is performance art or in need of an apology?
b.      …it falls down, is it still art?
c.       …pretty much blocking the hallway, should anyone call the fire marshall or is that interfering with one’s rights as an artist and self expression?

Ah yes my readers, I could go on and on with such questions. But the dreaded self imposed word limit fairy has sprinkled his pixel dust on my computer keyboard so I shall quit before creating more controversy.  Oh, one last comment, to those who teach and exhibit and are actively engaged in your local community on all levels of participation, I thank you! Teaching by example is often the best lesson.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stark Arthology

Just back from the gala launch party for the new book, Stark Arthology, which showcases 69 of our county’s most notable artists. In all due fairness, quite a few well deserving creative comrades were not included this time around and for those who are familiar with the local art “scene” (I hate that word), those omissions are obvious, but for those who aren’t, this short (in duration) show will certainly impress!!

Writing about the work would be pointless. It is in this book and show because it is good stuff. Every type of media can be found here along with just about every topic, subject matter and style. What held my attention were the people and the “performance” associated with being a participant. One of my favorite past times to deal with awkward social situations (believe it or not, I am rather shy in situations where others all seem to know each other….) is to “cast” those whom I am watching, into some type of play. This event was like high school all over again in a way, people going around signing each others’ yearbooks and groups of like minded friends clustering into different parts of the school…umm…gallery.

First I must say thank you to those who asked me to sign page 38, I was very flattered. Your caring is genuinely appreciated. I consider myself humbled to be included with so many talented and visionary people. Some of you are just beginning your journey to notoriety and some of you are nearing the end of long and productive careers, able to be who “you” are. But right now… let’s revisit good old Everywhere USA High School. However….I won’t reveal who is who in this posting. I like my tires inflated. So if you wish to know who got a part in my “play”, come by the Snarky Art studio (and please sign my book too).

The superintendent and the principal should be pretty obvious.  The athletic director was there. I saw the head of the Guidance department now referred to as student services in current HS vernacular. There were many tenured teachers discussing the new student body and a cluster of teachers that have to admit that they are probably closer to the tenured set then to the new kids on the block. The men of the faculty tend to wander the hallways in a more solo fashion, stopping to chat with favorite students and fellow members of their departments.  A couple of assistant principals walked past, while one must have been off doing his job as well as a few female guidance counselors. Some of the new teachers are hard to distinguish from the students at times. There is the teacher down the hall who everyone thinks is a bit odd but they love her class. There is the equally odd theater guy who nobody really understands but who always produces a great show.  Off in some wing of the building are the woodshop teacher and the home ec lady. As far as the student body is concerned, we are all familiar with the cliques, good or bad, as happy or as miserable as they made us. The tough guys are well represented as well as the weird or nerdy guys that everybody really wanted to hang with because they were ultimately more interesting. So too are there the girl groups that I won’t even define here because we all went through that phase of our lives and NEVER want to revisit those days again! That being said, there were those girls who were probably very nice, really shy or even lonely, but because of the outside packaging, nobody bothered to look inside and find out the truth. And finally, we all walked the halls with people who went to the same school, but whom we really never knew. We may have known their accomplishments and their clubs, but names were not exchanged for one reason or another. Looking back, those are the people we should all get to know.  With the publication of this wonderful book, perhaps we can all learn about the other kids in our class and hold reunions a bit more often than every few years.