Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stark County Artists Exhibition 2011 at the Massillon Museum

This year’s Stark County Artists’ Exhibition has much to offer on many levels, some good and some not so much. The top prize is well deserved to be awarded for a painting, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, done so technically perfect that it could be mistaken for a digital image.  And therein lies a dilemma…… why should a skillful work of art created by the hand of a talented man (Frank Dale), be judged against or with something that is made by the manipulation of digital media and perhaps not even from imagery created or owned by the maker? Better get your hooks out because a big old can of worms may be about to open. 

As the art world moves further and further into the technical age, as colleges no longer stress the skills of drawing or painting for realism and (oh hell, I’ll just say it…..) that  “talent” is no longer a necessity,  what constitutes “art” has changed considerably. Perhaps it is old school versus new school or maybe just a thinning of the meaning to the definition of “artist”. Yes, I know, the 1950’s ushered in a whole new realm of art but the artist was still in physical contact with their media, even Pollack held the paint can with his hands.

As I have said in the past, this show needs to be divided into two…one for photography and digital pieces, and one for paintings, craft, and work made by more “traditional” media in which the artist is in direct contact with their materials.  The mastery of Marty Chapman’s “Tranquility” does not merit to be judged against a photo in which the subject is caught in the moment. Happenstance versus hours and hours of labor are totally different skill sets. Now I will concede that there does have to be the “eye” of an artist to manipulate and thus manifest imagery into product so I am not suggesting that one form of art is beneath another in any way, they are just two entirely different ways to express ideas and as one field explodes onto the scene in ever more creative ways, needs to be separated so as to give both sides their due respect and appreciation.  Both genres would benefit from having their own juries and their own shows.  The public needs to understand that computers and cameras can do things which people cannot. So too is there perhaps a different intent behind using concepts and imagery found online as opposed to ideas born deep within the soul of the creator.

Some of the electronic or photographic pieces in this show are mesmerizing for sure, particularly Mark Pitocco’s “Equivalence” which is haunting in its simplicity of message. Unfortunately, hanging Emily Vigil”s red hued “Transformer” oil painting directly over it, does neither piece a favor.  A definite color story happens along the back wall, which may explain the location of some pieces, but a few are overshadowed by their neighbors. Brian Robinson’s honorable mention award winning pastel, “June” is also worth taking the time to explore in detail as it is done on a rich brown toned paper that only peeks out here and there across the surface.  Judith Huber’s pastel “Pam’s Antique Sax” is a beautiful example of pure drawing and Erin Meyer’s “Lips” is a humorous soft sculpture that proved to be too inviting for the younger attendees at the opening regardless of what the sign said.

Some questionable pieces can be found in the show but I will not mention them by name or any other detail for one man’s prop is another man’s piece de resistance.  Along those lines, if one is going to use an iconic image that has been done thousands of times by others, then at least do it_______________. I will leave that blank for others to fill in as we all probably have an opinion.

I do want to encourage all to go see the show for treasures and gems can be found without a doubt. Clare Murray Adams “Green and Blue”, Isabel Zaldivar’s “Landscape in Black and White” and Kristen  Lupsor’s “Flora” to name a few. 

In addition to the main gallery show, definitely go upstairs to see the Massillon Tigers exhibition, but not for the reasons you may think. The story it tells is rich for the locals, but all of us need to look ever more closely at the front page newspapers mounted on the walls, not for the headlines touting the Tigers, but for the small stories below the fold.  These single paragraphs mention “incidents” in France, Poland and Germany. Look at the dates of the papers then reflect upon what we now know about this period of history and perhaps how we should have been a bit more interested in reading between the lines. The second floor is always worth a second look anytime one visits the Massillon Museum! 

121 Lincoln Way E. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 – 5pm, and Sundays 2 – 5 and always free!

** I must also point out, in the fairness of full disclosure, that I have a piece in the show this year, pictured above.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye

Yes, I have been very quiet over the course of the last few weeks. As the old adage goes, if you can’t say something nice….then don’t say anything.  However, there is a flip side to that…if one had many nice and wonderful things to share, don’t do that either because it comes across as arrogant and boastful. So…..I am sitting here comfortably between a rock and a hard place. Good thing I have a seat cushion and my water bottle (a scout is always prepared) because I may be here awhile. Hmmm…what to do, what to do……..

Can’t talk about the 99% situation…..

Have not had time to see a couple of newly opened shows…..

The empty nest is full of good news for the migrating birds…………..

Studio spaces are bursting with new projects and a couple of long term series’ in development…..

Grass keeps growing and growing so “think time” continues although I am running out of creative patterns to make each clipping session interesting. The fallen leaves do add an element of pattern and design not available in the summer months however. 

Guess it would be okay to share one big piece of good news….the fact the prayer REALLY works in case anybody was questioning that prospect.  After 10 years of battle, my Dad will finally get his cochlear ear implant right before Thanksgiving (how’s that for timing?) and over the two years which follow, will slowly regain his ability to hear the world and the people around him. I don’t give a rat’s butt what anybody thinks of Rush Limbaugh, but the man has one too and he can run a successful radio show. So hope and prayer and a mountain of paperwork and testing have all come down to the hands of doctors.  

Yes, it will be a mechanical device, but people invented it, people created it, people will implant it, and people will fine tune it. So all those who live and breathe for those latest phones and such, do stop and pay some tribute to the source of such things.  Don’t misplace the excitement for what that little electronic box can do for the blessings of the man and the people who made it possible for you to own one.

And one final message to all those sitting around a park someplace complaining about no work…you could start with picking up after yourselves so somebody else doesn’t have to (do the work).   If one is truly against big business, then put down the phones, the computers, and the name brand coffee, take off the shoes and the jeans, get out of the tents and the sleeping bags and stop using shampoo or other products in containers, don’t drive anyplace, and take your money out of any cyber location because they are all from what source? Say it with me now….big businesses. If you truly have nothing better to do, have you forgotten that an overworked mom could use some help, that abandoned lots could get cleaned out, children and the elderly could use a friend to talk to…………..guess I just think that free time could be a lot more productive if one thinks past themselves and towards what can be done for somebody else. 

Oops! I wasn’t supposed to say anything if it wasn’t nice.  So…How about that score last night? 31-28..go bears!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tom Wachunas at 2nd April Main Floor Gallery

One of many new shows opening tonight is an exhibition of 13 pieces by area educator, artist and fellow blogger, Tom Wachunas featured in the main floor gallery space of 2nd April Galerie. His work is often included in area shows as single entries so to see a whole collection at one time and be able to absorb his messages is a rare treat.

By his own definition, his work is “Christcentric” and he makes no apologies or justifications for his soul searching metaphors. His artist’s statement gives insight into how to view his works as real objects as well as symbolic studies of what we may or may not know or believe about the Holy Spirit. As with all art (or music, movies, books, clothing, TV shows etc….) some will like it and some will not. Some will see only the “message” and not move past that. What a shame.  The pieces need to be digested for a time, explored from various angles and appreciated for their elements and content whether one is interested in the spiritual side or not.  Tom has given us a body of work and not just a collection of pieces. There is a distinct difference between the two.  One needs to make connections between all 13 on view to appreciate his purpose behind the product.

“Big Bang Theory” is a large piece that reads like a chunk of space out of our cosmos. With its underlying grid that serves to provide a type of order and structure for the more aggressive wrappings that peel back from the surface exposing the ever expanding universe, this construction is both orderly and unconstrained. Christ on a cross is in the lighter area of the piece so too becoming unraveled and revealed to us. What follows along the walls cannot be labeled simply collages, assemblages, sculptures or found object art because they are all of these.

Several of the works contain almost a signature repetition of elements including thorns and roses, doves, sheep, and architectural remnants all embellished with organic markings that read both tribal as well as historical. Contained within deep boxes, I likened them to highly organic Louise Nevelson constructions, Nevelson being another artist whose work is often under-appreciated and perhaps misunderstood in its purpose.

Just outside my own studio are two wall pieces, one hanging down and one rising from the floor. Both play with perspective. The floor piece “Upwardly Mobile” will not be seen to its best advantage tonight with so many First Friday bodies walking past. I got down eye level with the work to see the details of the buttons and seams, chains and grains. How light and shadow affect the sense of depth is quite interesting to observe as well as the tar like surfaces. I did not touch the artwork, but whatever product he is using for the rich black coverings just makes one want to see if it is warm and oozy (I just made up that word…).

“A Brief History of Everything” is appropriately titled.  The long format suggests a timeline of um….time. The blackness of beginning, almost like an egg, unfolds and spreads out in part as paint, in part as part paper, and in part as promise.  Just so everyone knows… all the works have titles!

Two more pieces of which I want to call to your attention are “Knot Fully Revealed” and “Seven Woes”. Both are personal favorites because I was drawn to their incredibly rich and tactile surfaces. The basic elements of line, shape, color, texture and space come together in one simple and powerful unit within each of these works. The subset elements of positive and negative space, light and shadow and organic versus static can all be found in equal measure without one being more important than the other. Not an easy balance to achieve. I am sure his background as a neoexpressionist painter had much to do with his ability to make this symmetry happen so naturally.

His show opens tonight from 6 – 9 PM and will be on view for all of October, Tues – Friday 10 – 5 and Saturday 11 – 5.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Literary Art " by Pam Neff

Featured this month in the Loft Gallery of 2nd April is a fun installation/exhibition of works by Pam Neff. If you are a regular customer of Sublime Studios, you may have seen some of these pieces before, but when hung together as one story, the perspective changes. A must read is the large text “statement” about Rock Paper Scissors which has nothing at all to do with the actual show, but does add another layer to the concept of paper and echoes the humor found throughout.

How to classify the pieces depends upon how one defines the genre of using recycled materials to make art. Our downtown is full of “junque” and “stuff” recycled into objects that function as sculptures independent of the intent of the original material. Pam has taken a different route by repurposing objects, in this case, books, into sculptural pieces the still reference the original material.

Books are conceptually linked to intelligence and Pam shows a keen sense of humor and wit and smarts with this series. The dark walls are a natural setting to show off the contrast between text and page. Because the base supports are also dark, she has created a background of loose pages that appear to flutter along the walls as if blowing in a breeze so as to highlight each piece and subliminally keep the visual story moving along.

The technique of this aberrant origami will be offered in a workshop on November 15th. More info can be obtained by contacting  or pick up a flyer at the show (stuck between the pages of a book on the desk…clever!).  In addition to the 13 pieces on the outer walls, the center structure contains an assortment of framed and 3-D works, note cards, cookbooks and even a clock. If you have book lover in your life, one of these pieces would be a perfect holiday present and the wall pieces take no shelf space.

Okay, time for a bit more about exactly what you will see and why I found it entertaining. Personally, I like art that makes me think, or laugh, or both. Keep the drama, the angst, the creepy crawlies and the darkness for those who appreciate that genre. I guess I would rather read about such things than see them which is a good segue into Pam’s books. There is occasional “darkness” in some of the writings used, but you have to look for them. For example, on the pieces that resemble motivational posters, I read the writings behind the words and saw text about Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto of the late 1930’s. If you know your history, you will understand.  My laugh out loud moment however was on the cover of a journal….”Blank book seeks writer for long term relationship”.  What a perfect item to get for a marriage proposal! Fill in the blank on that one as far as what one could put inside to pop the question.

These wall sculptures have been created through a variety of manuscript manipulation with the occasional addition of an artist’s mini manikin. “A Real Page Turner” and “In The Middle of a Good Book” are just two of her offerings.  I don’t want to ruin the ending for you however, so you will have to visit the gallery and see how the story plays out.

Until this space at 2nd April Galerie is rented on a long term basis, the Loft Gallery is a wonderful location for mounting solo shows and installations.