Saturday, December 29, 2012

Home Snide Home

Who doesn't love a lemur?

Aaaaarrrrgh!!!! I can’t take these people anymore!!  Watching the various home search TV shows is driving me insane, although I continue to watch them because the idiocy of these people is addicting and makes me feel so much better about myself.

The comments made while touring homes is obviously staged and edited to have not one good thing included on the aired portion of the show. Now it has been proven that these types of shows are all faked anyway because the selected home has already been purchased and even lived in prior to the “search and tour” portions are filmed.  Ever notice that not one pair of shoes is left by a door, a roll of TP is not in the bathroom and never a stray jacket on a hook in the mud room? There is never any mud in the mud room either, or laundry in the laundry room or a magazine in the bathroom or child’s toy out of place unless the house is to be the “ugly” one. 

Not only does the couple looking for a home have totally unrealistic expectations (translation: we are shallow, demanding, spoiled and petulant with no vision whatsoever…) but they also are coached to view each home as if they had to move in with the furniture and d├ęcor of the existing space. Just his morning one woman could not walk through a kitchen because a ceramic rooster was on the kitchen table. Good thing she was not near my house, she may have gone running down the street in abject terror (I like chickens in my kitchen).

The other issue many have is the safety of their little rug rat. Somehow these helicopters think that little Jimmy will never grow up, that the one inch lip on a fireplace will forever haunt their lives as it waits to scar his face from a fall. Ever heard of pillows? Seen a few scars in my day come from a kid hitting the hardwood floor that surrounds the dang fireplace…nobody ever seems concerned about the ceramic tile or sharp corners of a counter either, but that fireplace is a death knoll for a purchase. Somehow the burning fire is of no concern…..

Yards are evidently another problem for parents. Fences seem to be mandatory because Jimmy might run into the street! I don’t know about you, but I used to be outside playing with my kids so they would not run into the street although I did teach them that the street is not a place to play unless one lives on a cul-de-sac and can yell “car” really, really loud. None of my childhood friends ever got hit by one and we did not live on a cul-de-sac, we just watched what we were doing and stepped onto the tree lawn when a car went by….. I know, maybe I expect too much from today’s children, like common sense.

The parents of four legged kids also seem obsessed with fences. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to realize these folks are speaking about dogs and not humans while discussing the merits of a yard. How come the issue of where it will poop never comes up when no grass is in site, but play time is so important?

Bathrooms are another big issue. The preoccupation with the appearance is stunning. Let’s see…does the toilet flush? Check. Does the mirror reflect your own image? Check. Does the water run? Check. Can the floor support your weight? Check. Okay good, now we can figure out how to change those offensive outdated gold fixtures lest your friends show up and judge you by the appearance of your faucets. I am sure they must talk about you behind your back on the ride home. “Can you believe Bob and Beth bought a house with GOLD fixtures? I am so embarrassed to admit we know people with such poor taste! Don’t tell anyone where we were tonight.”

Other seemingly insurmountable issues are other people’s collectibles on the shelves. Oh the horror that the shelves have been defiled by a figurine. For once I’d like to see someone view a walk in closet and pull a dress off the rack and say “Can you believe she would wear this? It is so last year, we can’t possibly move in here!”  I would also like to see the frustrated host/realtor turn to the wife/woman person (who seems to do the most of the whining much to the chagrin of her hapless male companion) and say “You Bitch! Get over it! It has a roof, it has a floor, it has electricity, it has running water….and if you weren’t such a lazy and self righteous princess with an expensive manicure, perhaps you could hold a paintbrush and change that color which so offends your view!!” but alas, such words only come from me in my own kitchen, surrounded by my ceramic chickens and shabby chic cabinets and floors. My kids are asleep upstairs having not been hit by cars for the last 20 years even though we live near a semi busy street, nor cut their heads on the one foot tall stone fireplace surround or run into the metal oven handle that stuck out at eye level when they were young. How did I ever live here? My fixtures are still gold too……so I apologize for all who have used my bathroom over the years. I hope you can forgive my poor taste in flushie feng shui.

And now I shall go back and subject myself to yet another round of picky and overprotective princesses with budgets and demands worthy of a television segment. I feel so much better now!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Local resident of my parent's backyard.

Dignity. I think that will be my word of the year. I’ve never had a word of the year before, but this seems like a good time to start. Forget resolutions, those require a sentence and a bit more commitment than remembering just one word and judging everything by that standard.  Dignity…short and sweet and simple to say.

According to the all mighty green book of grammar (which got me through high school honors English, college term papers and my son’s undergraduate thesis…so it knows of which it speaks…) the synonyms for dignity are:  adorn, advance, aggrandize, elevate, ennoble, exalt, grace, honour, promote, as well as…respectability, stateliness and greatness.  Why do I think dignity is the word of the year? Well…personally, if we had a little more of it (sort of like “self respect or self esteem” but not so buzz-wordy) and if we expected it more of others on both an individual and a cultural/social basis, then maybe our world wouldn’t be so…undignified.

As always, allow me to offer a few examples. Am I going to sound a bit judgmental?, yes, so be forewarned, but maybe aging of myself and those around me has made the need for dignity all that much more important.

Case in point number one: The oft given excuse for bad behavior, “he ‘dissed me” or “he don’t respect me” (poor grammar taken from context) which is just that, an excuse. Perhaps the poor fellow should have considered whether he had acted with respect in the first place or attempted to preserve his own dignity before indulging in whatever action or behavior produced the perceived result/insult. Simple fix, pull up your damn pants and cut out the exaggerated swagger, speak in complete sentences and look me in the eye.

Case in point number two, guard your image. By that I mean not only the impression others have of you, but the actual posting of pictures of yourself in situations which are more foolish than elevating. If one is in a profession where they rely upon the purchase of their goods or services for a lively hood…should said customers be able to view photos of you obviously inebriated, half dressed, oddly dressed, compromised or otherwise, as in not something you want your grandchildren to see someday? Heck with that, your kids’ friends can see them too leading to embarrassment issues on their part. Kids expect their parents’ to act with some dignity, to be “parental”, to set the boundaries of acceptable behavior, not contribute to the lowering of the bar.  Before I go into a rant of the use of FB, let’s flip this perspective.

I want to ask myself as often as possible, “did I treat this person with dignity?” Guilty as charged that many times in the past I have not. But that is what new years are for, note I did not say a New Year resolution, just a new year and new way of looking at things.  Using the list of synonyms, I need to consider if I honored someone, did I treat them with respect; did I elevate their day by my encounter with them? Forget it being about how others should treat me, that Holy Grail of self esteem which society thinks is so important, should be about what type of esteem did I leave with you, not how I feel about myself.

I miss the quiet world in which I grew up. Sorting through photos that captured a moment in time that lead to a conversation are few and far between anymore. I feel a bit of sorrow for those who will someday scroll down a screen and see pictures of grandma in a goofy hat, drinks all around and some guy’s hand where it does not belong by the guidelines of antiquated public decency. When we as a culture decided to “let it all hang out”, we let go of our dignity…which I equate with self respect, not self esteem. I think respect builds esteem, but not by the way our culture has come to expect that to happen. Society seems to think that if one has an elevated self esteem, then one will get respect. Nope, not going happen and we keep seeing the results of this convoluted thinking everyday…I don’t need to tell you where.  If one has a healthy sense of self respect, then maybe, just maybe, second thoughts will take priority over first impressions and impulsive action.

When we depart, and we all will someday, nothing is going with us but a reputation and our dignity. Those go hand in hand…and as this new year comes upon us, my personal priority will be to be more dignified in what I do and how I act. I can hope to expect the same from others, but realistically, no movement, no postings, no signs, no protests, no slogans etc…will make one bit of difference. I can only hope for my behavior to be given back to me, and to be passed along one person at a time, one situation at a time. Ironically, the 2002 Webster’s abridged edition dictionary issued to students does not list the word dignity at all and the accompanying Roget’s thesaurus has as synonyms: haughtiness, vainglory, and lofty with humble being considered an antonym. I ask you…does this say something about where we went off course?

Dignity…keep it, share it, expect it, use it…and if you are offended by this expectation, use the word in the following sentence: I shall not dignify this essay with a response.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blog Clog

A Rick Huggett original!

So I take some time off because I had nothing to say that would not get me run out of town, and now there is so much out there to see and write about that my brain hurts. Of course that could be caused by my fez begin too tight or the monkey grinder tether being too short. Watch for that reference in an upcoming painting.

First I must clarify a recent Facebook post that announced the change in my off site work space, Snarky Art. No I am not closing….at least for now. So many changes are happening in our little corner of downtown, some good, some questionable, and a decision will need to be made as to whether a satellite nest is still a necessity.  Having a reason to get out of one’s PJ’s before setting the oven temp for dinner is one thing to consider however. 

When I said a “new look” that did not refer to my cutting off of hair or any personal changes other than perhaps a change of wrinkle creams (from regular to extra strength). A new look meant a different way of doing business and existing within the physical space, my work will go back to what made me very successful for so many years. Because of the economy, the exhibition business has had to change and I need to focus on changing with it. That means reestablishing a body of work relevant to today’s social issues or……just finding reasons to make people laugh and smile again despite those issues. 

Re-dedication to……………..well, that list is growing by the day!  

New solo show for January…….when the postcards arrive, I will post the details. 

What is in my space now downtown has got to go…………perhaps in a bonfire of my own vanity? Okay, not the signature pieces, but all that small stuff and prints and things which fall into the well of retail, that path has hit a fork in the road, which I shall take at the end of the month.

Now that that is cleared up for some of you it is time to look at some art. Coming up will be a review of the new show at the Canton Museum featuring the Cleveland School of watercolorists and local ceramicists (that is a little used word). Perhaps a visit to Studio M and maybe I will even comment about my show with Cindy Nichols at the WE Gallery in Akron. I miss the writing process but so many people are on the blog train that trying to find a seat with a view is getting harder and harder. However, I shall drink a little drano and squeeze on board to see where the 2013 train is headed….assuming the Mayans just broke for a three martini lunch and forgot to finish the calendar.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Canton Artists’ League Fall Show : Stark State College 2nd Floor Main Building

Had Their Tubes Tied    40 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Currently on view is a collection of pieces by members of the Canton Artists’ League who provided one or two pieces to be displayed during the next several weeks at Stark State College in Jackson. No jury was in place to accept or edit works, but 2 local non-affiliated artists served as jurors and awarded ribbons.  Yes I am a member, yes I put two pieces in the show, no I did not get a ribbon, and no that has nothing to do with what is written here just for the sake of full disclosure. I went early because the official opening conflicts with other events going on right now so I will not be a spoiler of any surprises. 

                There are some spectacular pieces in the show, a term I do not use lightly, and there are some clunkers….there are pieces by people I have never heard of and pieces by old timers (as in having been a member for awhile) that surprised me in pleasant ways.  There are some tired looking works in that process and outcome have become formulaic, and there are some old fashioned methods that still produce some incredible results. I was a bit confused by the hanging or display choices but considering how little space there is to work with, the number of pieces included and some unavoidable obstacles called plaques and signage, to even mount a show of this variety can be daunting without thousands of people walking by, or tables and trashcans to deal with. Suffice to say, consider how much more powerful the red of Carolyn Jacob’s photo “Longing for the Old Country” would have looked placed next to Liz Scarps “Felines” or Carol Mendenhall’s “Magic Carpet”, the red would have popped right out rather than get lost down the hallway, overwhelmed by its neighbors. But I am not being critical because I sure as heck don’t want to come down there and hang it. Yes, I have a few more observations along these lines, but shall keep them to myself.  One really good pairing however is Gail Wetherall-Sack’s “Under the Yum-Yum Tree” placed next to Carolyn Jacob’s “Impressions of a Rose” as the pieces seem to reach out to each other and compliment the colors and movement within each respectively.

                Because many of those reading this may have yet to see the show or plan to attend on Wednesday’s opening from 6-8pm, I will use my remaining word count to call attention to some must-see pieces!! Let us start with the Yum-Yum Tree mentioned above. Gail’s piece expands upon her collage and mixed media works to become less about what “is” and more about what “is not” as in allowing the negative places and spaces to become as much a part of the imagery as the elements of a tangible nature. Everything is in harmony with this work, from the frame to the lacy organic shapes within a rectilinear format. I see less of Russ Hench, but he is still lurking about her world just a bit.

                Another stunner for sure is Claudia Stimer Mullane’s “Poppies Popping”, a larger piece identified as a watercolor but which appears to be more of an ink on perhaps a vellum paper. The manipulation of the surface with creasing, scratching, pooling, blotting and some gauche (just guessing here because I don’t really know for sure) makes for a lush surface that has depth created by light, not by manipulations or formulas or even happenstance. She has designed her work with intent and executed it with both aggression and restraint.  That is why I found it so….as my notes say…gorgeous, not something seen that often.

                Nancy Michel’s “Standing Proud and Tall”, another floral watercolor, would have stood out more (taller and prouder?) over next to Jim Grand’s “White Iris” as I almost missed her piece. His is crisp and clean as well and nice to see him display in this show. 

                Don’t miss Liz Hertzi’s “Ember Hynm Nipper” of which I have no idea what that means, but I sure did like the work! I guess it is a mixed media doll, which is what some passing kid called it, but I think “totem” is a better fit. She (the figure, not Liz) hangs like an offering to lost childhood, perhaps one signifying past abuse and survival…the brass crown and missing foot, wild yarn hair and glassy eyes are captivating to not just me, but whoever has already purchased it from the show.

                Be sure to check out the small works in the display case. Yih Yee Wonz submitted a bead and shell necklace called “The Fibonacci” and Michelle Mulligan has a small work called “Hot Pepper, Hot Dance” that would have made my ribbon list. Again, the framing is all part of the presentation in a way that works rather than overwhelms. As I tried to figure the best way to describe why this little gem is successful, the style of another local artist who shall remain nameless but whom we see only twice a year at the same shows each time with work that never changes came to mind, Judi L knows who I am talking about. Michelle’s piece is like a punch line to those other larger images, all the best and needed parts without the clutter of the set up, delivered in a straightforward manner and to the point. 

                Others may find the need to point out the weaknesses of a group like ours, but no such words shall pass here. This group struggles to remain viable and active and relevant in an art scene that is becoming increasingly about cartoons and monsters, computer manipulation and digital creation. The skills of drawing and painting and an appreciation for beauty and technique seem to be fading with the passage of time from one generation of artists to the next. Yes there are exceptions where subject matter may be “different’ but the methods of rendering remain faithful to the masters.  This trend is not just in art, new movies cannot compete with the actors and storylines of the silver screen from  the late 1930’s to the early 1960’s when actors did not have to be good looking, they had to know how to truly act without a bunch of action masking a lack of skills. But that is a topic for another day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Margo Miller Sabbatical Exhibit at the Crandall Gallery of Mt. Union University

Margo Miller with one of her pieces dated April 1990.

     Now on view through December 9th is a wonderful exhibition of good old fashioned “art”. And what does that mean you ask? Well, in our local art scene (which encompasses Stark, Summit and bits and pieces of other counties), there are currently 4 shows, if not more, featuring works made from stuff. Assemblages, sculptures, collages, even crafty things currenty occupy many of our exhibition spaces. In stark contrast, Marge Miller has mounted an exhibition that shows only paintings and drawings in their truest form. Personally, I can relate to this type of thing because I know where she is coming from so to speak, literally as well as figuratively, as Margo and I were painting and drawing majors together back in late 70’s and early 80’s at the University of Akron, long before the fancy-schmancy buildings that house the current art department.

     Sabbatical exhibitions are mounted after a professor takes a leave of absence to reconnect with their own inner muse as well as allowing them to reach out and explore what is going on elsewhere in the art world. Free from the pressures of teaching and administrating, the artist within is allowed to roam free once again. What made this show so fascinating to me was to explore it with knowledge of what her earlier works were like. But since only I know that, you get to walk through it with fresh eyes so come along….. oh wait, I should point out that she and I were out of touch for about 20 years so how her work evolved from point A (as in U of A) to point B (as in bifocals territory) is unknown to me. 

     The space itself is a wonderfully lit and a well laid out traditional exhibition space. Long white walls and a decent width allow pieces to be hung with plenty of breathing room.  Upon entering the exhibit from the correct side, the lobby of the building itself, one will find a timeline of her process undertaken during the sabbatical semester. Where she worked, what she saw, what influenced different images and pursuits, and so forth, enhances the understanding of the different pieces and media found here. I learned a new word too, “trony” which is Dutch for an anonymous subject. As working professional artists, we are often faulted by those in the gallery biz if we have more than one media of focus, or a divergence of  subjects, media, and or techniques, because supposedly that shows we are not “serious” artists… which I say, balderdash (because my other two words are not blog appropriate).  Margo has tossed that notion out the window as well with her exhibit of oil landscapes, charcoal portraits, and oil portraits as well as a couple of other subjects included too. The “style” varies as much as anything but what “they” tend to forget is that underlying a true artist’s hand is a structure of technique, mark making and even pallet which cannot be avoided, disregarded or denied. This is the intangible “gift” of visual creators as well as athletes, musicians, actors and so forth, one either has “it” or they don’t. 

     Okay, enough philosophy, let’s look at some art! 16 canvases are in the main room along with a continuous loop video of her sketchbook, a must see for anyone who does not understand how ideas get to canvas.  The nine 24 x 24 inch portraits show that much planning went into them before the brush hit the canvas and then “wham!”, she applies the paint in bold, direct, confident markings of color that are both logical and then completely unexpected. Square formats present a unique set of circumstances to a painter as far as composition and refinement of the markings in order to deal with the edges of the space allowed for the image. Traditional 1/3 placement goes out the window and the image becomes less about the portrait and more about the “picture” plane.  These faces contain much more then the eye sees on a first viewing however. Though some stare directly at you, others bend away, necks stretched at equine angles….and here is where the early Margo meets the modern Margo….the signature pieces of her early career focused on horses rendered in aggressive strokes and swirls, whose markings are now echoed in the hair, bone structure and poses of these Tronies. Those which look back at us do so with eyes raised on the canvas and noses featured prominently, much the same as when one looks at the head of a horse from a normal human height. The ease at which she can paint a nostril is worth some study by every art student. The most difficult of the facial structures to depict with convincing reality, in this case, a few simple brush marks and careful color choices create the necessary depth, especially in “Scent”.  Notice too how green is used throughout the series as highlights and shadow, as a substitute for white (“Great Teeth”) or to define a lip line (“Shades”) and to set off eyes as a contrast to reds  (“Blue Eyes” and “Baby Face”) creating an almost uncanny glow to the paintings.  Lips also play a prominent role in these images which may harken back to the days when her personal signature look was to wear bright hot pink lipstick. 

     In the larger oil landscapes, one will also find instinctive and characteristic markings that undeniably connect to her equine past as well. At trails end in several of the pieces, one can find negative spaces with horse-like shapes, seemingly ghosts from her own subconscious. In “River Road #2”, a face appears on a rock formation created from sunlight filtering through the trees and clearly by happenstance as I had to show the image to Margo so she would believe me. The abstract and aggressive “Sprawl” also contains such things which I will leave for the viewer to find.

     Not to be overlooked in the front part of the gallery are 15 drawings beautifully mounted as simple sketchbook studies.  These facial portrait sketches, some identified and some purely from within, are rendered in different charcoal techniques. From a light handed directional drawing to a more loose and humorous rendering, these studies are not to be passed by as mere appetizers for they are every bit as refined in concept as the more bold oil portraits mounted in the next room. 

Margo Miller is the Director of the Crandall Art Gallery as well as an Associate Professor of Art at Mt. Union. for hours and directions