Friday, December 26, 2014

Sometimes in rains...sometimes it freezes....

Sometimes what happens to us in real life is way too funny to have been made up. On that note, and by request, I shall now share the “story of Jesus” as it happened to me this past November.

It started with a phrase from the pulpit….”that I do not care if it rains or freezes”…. Spoken by the senior pastor of a prominent church that has graced its corner of a major city for 195 years….  Now if you are of an older generation, you very well may know the rest of the quotation. And if you do, then you know where this post is going and can opt to leave us now or continue on knowing that we are not going to be telling any biblical verse and may very well offend those who lack a sense of humor.  Make your choice now….

So the entire phrase from which came the quote is thus… “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, as long as I have my plastic Jesus, sitting on the dashboard of my car!”  Now I grew up hearing that from my Dad who in turn heard it from his Mom, so imagine the delight in hearing it spoken from the alter itself.  I was not present for this sermon but the reference was related to me as soon as the doors were open and phones turned back on.

The senior pastor and his wife, and others who attend this church were to be my guests at the upcoming Serpentine Table, a mere 5 days away. An idea was hatched. I had to get my hands on a plastic Jesus.

My best bet was to check the local Catholic store down the street. I am not Catholic but still a Christian so I figured I was allowed in. It is a big store. I wandered through items for the car, table ware, books, games, audio things, decorator items, toys and as I told my friends later, a lot of Pope. I was not sure what I was looking for until I found the boxed saints. Now I am sorry if I offend anybody with my next comment, but to me, since they were lined up three deep on metal hanger pegs, row upon row, my first thought was that they looked like action figures. The contents (the Saint) was visible in the plastic window of the packaging. The packaging had images related to the Saint, and a story/description was on the back. I figured I had to be in the right place.

The Saints were arranged in alphabetical order so I naturally looked under the J’s.  No luck. But maybe “last name” first was how I should approach my quest, but nothing under C either. Hmmmm… best to just start at one end and work my way across and down the three panel display rack. Not being Catholic I did not know of any other way to search.  Wearing a skirt, the process of nearing the bottom required me to kneel down on the floor. And there he was…..

At that moment, I kid you not, a very helpful sales lady came over to me and with her hands clasped together, leaned over and asked me “Have you found what you are looking for?”  In my hands is the boxed Jesus….I had just been given the most perfect opening line…. I so wanted to say it…my lips curled in tight and I stifled the urge to laugh out loud…..but I did not. I could not in all good faith reply that “Yes, I have found Jesus.”  A moment passed while I pulled the box off the hook and knowing I had to say something, asked her in the calmest voice I could muster…”Do you know what these are made of?” She replied that “yes, they were resin.”  I smiled and said thank you. In my hands was the coveted official plastic Jesus. So I bought two.

After dinner and before dessert, I made my presentation of the plastic Jesus to our senior pastor (and one for my Dad) who both erupted in fits of laughter as I reenacted my finding of Jesus. But once we all calmed down and the tears were dried, I had to remind him of the best part yet….Christ is resin.

It was a moment that shall live in infamy at all Serpentine Tables to come. God bless you all this coming year. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Translations Transitions…after the reunion is over.

Blennerhassett Island Trees (not in the show at Translations)
     No longer new or shocking news to those in the local art world, Translations Gallery is transitioning from “brick and mortar” to “bring and move”. Craig Joseph’s next reincarnation of his vision will bring the water to the horses and hope they are thirsty. And if they are not, at least the reluctant creatures might get their feet wet. The CAD is an ever evolving entity so it seems and may yet become more of a CED (E as in entertainment) than a CAD over time but we creative types seem to always find a way to cling like burrs on your socks after a walk in the woods….itcy, scratchy, a pain to remove and always one embedded someplace deep in the fibers that remains a constant reminder. I have no doubts that Craig Joseph and his fertile imagination will be leaving burrs all over Stark County…reminding folks that art and artists are out there…just waiting to snag you as you walk by!

     The last show in the current location, “All Good Things” is more of a reunion to pay our respects to yet another venue passing the torch than a curated exhibit. The only stipulation to be included was that you had been a participating artist at some point over the past five years and that the piece(s) exhibited had not been on view before. Keep’n it fresh and keeping it all inclusive.

     Both engaging and sad at the same time, one cannot help but walk past the pieces and read the names, wondering if we will ever all be together again. I don’t go to reunions (for a variety of reasons) but I imagine that classmates look over pictures and reminisce about various times and places and people. With almost 100% accuracy, the works included here are signature of the artists who made them. One who knows the local “scene” would recognize the creator and their creation….a fitting tribute. The space is a living breathing gathering of artists even if we are not physically present in the building because what we make is who we are….we are friends, we are classmates, we are one school. This analogy could really be taken a step further in that there are obvious “cliques” within our community. Not in a bad way, not like it was as kids, but in a way that has followed any creative field for decades if not centuries. The classical vs the cartoon, the traditional vs the tawdry, the abstract vs the realist… different than the jocks vs the geeks, the nerds vs the varsity…..

     I know many of you are tapped out this time of year buying presents and such at the mall, buying “things”, but considers stopping by one last time and giving the gift of art to someone, get that hard to buy for teenager a one of a kind piece by someone whose career they could follow….sort of like the stock market but more personal. A person’s investment in a work of art increases if they can get others interested in that artist’s work as well. With so many talented and ambitious artists in our area, who knows down the road whose work may be on the next national art mag cover or filling the halls of a NY gallery. It takes all of us to work together to make dreams come true so I look forward to supporting Craig’s next step and watching herds of horses suddenly come across water in ways they never encountered before! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

That Special Gift

One of our creative Stick Figure Challenge entries! "Stick Ohio"

Our December “Leave your Mark” question of the month proved to be a rather emotional one. I had not intended that to be the case but when people are faced with thinking back to childhood memories, sometimes the eyes get a bit misty. Our demographic last night was on the older side due to Light Up Night being a day before which drew away the younger folks.

I have compiled the answers which filled our main board and one extra side panel this time as people are now coming (after only three months) specifically to answer our question. It is going to be a challenge to come up with a new one each month that is not a “yes or no” answer or a tally of any kind. I want to draw out one’s thoughts and feelings with a question that requires some personal perspective or investment. If you think you have such a question, please pass it along. I want this monthly inquiry to be a regular First Friday feature along with our community participation project. The Stick Figure challenge was just that, a bit of a challenge to get people to even agree to do that basic of a pen on paper commitment, but I am not to be deterred. We shall preserver at asking viewers of art to become participants in the process, even just a little bit. We as artists and gallery folks and business owners are not here just for entertainment on a Friday night, we want you to be a part of what we do and who we are. Just as patrons eat the food of a chef, or tap their feet and hum along to our guest musicians, so too do we want you to connect with us. See you on January 2nd. Until then, the board and one panel of the challenge will remain up in Snarky Art so participation is still encouraged. The Sticks will be recorded and compiled for final presentation at our summer sidewalk art show.

I have organized the answers into categories so they do not appear below in the same order as written on the board.

The question: What was the most memorable, precious, wanted or special gift you received as a child?

Toys: Powderpuff Girls backpack, Stretch Armstrong, anything Barbie, a doll and crib, teddy bear, doll house, Lazy Dazy Doll, Barbie Playhouse, Rock’m Sock’m Robots, American Girl Doll (2 listings), Madam Alexander doll, Barbie Hair Salon, dump truck, Baby Alive doll, Brix Blocks (Lego knock off), Legos, a Barbie, Lite Brite, Laser Tag, hobby horse, doll house, High School Musical dance mat, easel and box of paints, Etch-a-Sketch, Easy Bake Oven, seat belt pet

Music related: tambourine, Chord organ, Magnus Chord organ, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water album, 40 records

Personal items: pair of shoes that fit, make-up, fuzzy sweater, a dog

Mechanical things: spring loaded rocket ship, Erector set, Radio Shack Electronic kit, cash register, Camera 1966, Mr. Machine, Robot, a microscope, a chemistry set, 22 cal rifle

Sports oriented: snowboard, Sears Victory bike, ice skates, Snow sled – white cloud, Schwinn bike (2 listings), my 1st bike, pogo stick, baseball bat, Honda 3 wheeler, Largent jersey

Books: The Secret Garden

Reading over this list makes one wonder what the answers will be in 20 to 30 years from now. How many of them will consist of name brands and numbers of electronic devices rather than toys or sports equipment. Not sports played on a hand held, but a real ball glove or a sled. Do our kids today even know what a sled does? How about a pogo stick….no wonder we have a problem with obesity. Many people really had to debate which one thing they wanted to include. I offered the option to list several, but no, they wanted to remember that ONE thing, and choices seemed very personal. A few people wanted to discuss with me which one to write and others wanted to justify their selection. What a wonderful and dynamic way to interact with strangers, many who are become friends… thank you.

Thank you to all who came through the doors of Snarky Art or Journey Art Gallery on a rainy evening. Special thanks to the Pal Mission for sharing their wonderful and moving exhibit by homeless young adults, many of our visitors came especially to see the photographic works and read the stories.

PS - Snarky Art now has note card packets available featuring images of some of my most popular paintings. I will be releasing sets of 4 images every few months. Find them on the rounder in my studio. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Selections from the Permanent Collection of the NCLAG: Portraits

Miss Understood in the Midwest    30 x 40    2003
The North Canton Little Art Gallery is showcasing 28 pieces from their collection of over 200, this time focusing on portraits as the theme. Full disclosure, my own painting “Miss Understood in the Midwest” is part of the show, added to their collection in 2003. Now I feel really old.

One must keep in mind that not all portraits are of peoples’ faces. A portrait can be about a place or a time and Elizabeth Blakemore took great care to exhibit works that reflect this concept. The range of years and styles and participants is truly remarkable to someone like myself who has been around this local scene for a couple of decades now. The show is part retrospective and part mystery. Ah yes, we have a mystery at the gallery! Details forthcoming but first we must visit the walls of fame.

This show is a treasure trove of information to those who follow the artists of our area. It also reinforces my argument that artists need to date their work! Several pieces could not be put into context because the works are undated….what a shame. When one can see a stylistic change in the art of Fredlee Votaw 1986 and Claire Murray (Adams) 2001 because of the dates on their pieces, it is such a disappointment to not know the year of a very delicate charcoal self-portrait by Bette Elliot. The piece is given a solo spot on the wall as the reigning queen emeritus of Canton art (now deceased), but how old was she at the time? Perhaps curators should reject any undated (and an even more cardinal sin, unsigned) pieces. I guess I would take an untitled over an undated if a choice had to be made.

Knowing when a piece was created allows us to see the foreshadowing of what an artist now creates. The original NCLAG was housed on the 2nd floor of the NC Public Library, then a frame house on the corner of Main Street where the NC YMCA now resides. Two Hoover employees, Ellsworth Smith and Esta Stoner were responsible for its birth in 1930. The permanent collection was started several years later. I chicken scratched the year 1938 on a margin but won’t trust I was referring to the start date.

Here is a list of some artists and the dates of their works, see how many you know: Roger Coast 1978 with an early version of the zentangle idea before it became a fad; Mark Moon ‘70s; Cleo Clark Williams ‘84ish; Ted Lawson 2005; Fred Goodnight 1994; Charles Zollars 1963; Clyde Singer; Pola Yochum 1994; Lisa Hertzi 1996 and the list continues……but we have a mystery to explore….

An illustration by Lois Lenski hangs on the back wall. A small rather unassuming drawing that is framed and donated in memory of Helen Hoover.  Lois Lenski was a famous children’s book author and illustrator of her day. Born in Springfield OH in 1893, she went on to graduate college (unusual for women in the early turn of the century) and worked extensively in the graphic arts during their infancy. This particular drawing is from her book “Skipping Village”, published by Stokes in 1927.

The mystery is…how did it get to the museum, are their more of her illustrations lost in the stacks someplace and is it really an original by the artist? Elizabeth and I went through the documentation file for the piece and were no closer to finding an answer and in fact, just raised more questions.

To keep a long story short, in 1945 a letter was received at the library telling them that some illustrations by the artist (plural) were being sent for their perusal and to keep what they wished but send the unwanted ones back. The artist wanted her pieces to be hung in children’s libraries. The library acknowledged the receipt of one piece (singular) shortly thereafter by letter back to the sender and expressing their desire to keep it.  There seems to be no further information as to how many were actually sent and how many actually arrived.  Jump ahead a few decades to 1994, when then curator of the NCLAG Judee DeBourdieu, requested an appraisal of the “original illustration” by Lois Lenski from “Skipping Village” dated 1927. The letter was sent to the Stone Gallery in Michigan who handled the works by Lenski. A letter of authenticity was received in July of 1994. Next year, in 1995 somebody was reading about the artist and found credible information that all but one of her books were illustrated by the artist, that one book being “Skipping Village” (and the lady published nearly a 100 so it seems). A letter of inquiry was sent to the Kerlan Collection in Minnesota, a children’s literature and research center, who confirmed it was the frontispiece from the 1927 book but did not answer the question about whether the artist had a hand in/on it. Evidently everybody just moved on. The illustration was later found in a stack of stuff, dusted off, framed and dedicated as stated before.  Elizabeth pointed out an ink pen “presented to” written in the lower left hand corner with word “town” written in pencil beside it. Further review however, with reading glasses on and a desire for a magnifying glass, revealed that a full sentence written in pencil lies underneath that ink which reads “I ----- for my little town!”  One important word can’t be made out. The illustration itself is typical of the era and a rather delightful piece of children’s illustration, but did Lois Lenski actually draw it? And so too, how many more are there hiding in the library? If multiples were sent, a single received, did someone deceive? An original copy of the book “Skipping Village” was purchased for the library…is it still upstairs someplace? Anyone who wants to investigate the mystery, add information or knows of anyone who might, please contact the NCLAG.

 If you want to see the show, you only have a couple of weeks at most before the Legacy of Ferdinand Brader opens December 11th.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Leave your Mark... round 2

Pastel drawing detail, 2010
“If you could have dinner with any person, living or not, from the past, present or future, real or imaginary, who would it be?”

The November First Friday participation rate on our question of the month doubled at the very least. I have tallied the responses and find that only two names, Gandhi and Jesus Christ got two votes. Everyone else seemed to read the answers of others and figured they better invite a different soul to share the evening with.  One person was going to pick Gandhi a third time but decided that the meal would be a bit on the meager side so another option was written on the board. I am hoping that more and more people come by to see what we are asking each month and record their answer. Next month we are adding an actual participation project to the offering as part of the Community Art Projects Exhibition to be staged this summer. I just made that title up but the idea is in place for works to be made at every First Friday from December to May…or June…or July….. none being time or labor intensive, just something requiring a few moments of your time to “leave your mark”. Okay, enough PR on future projects…on to the answers of the month.

Musicians were very popular: Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Dan Fogelburg, Marky Mark, Jim Morrison, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, Michael Jackson, Weird Al, Robert Nesta Marley,

Historical figures per say: Socrates, Einstein, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nicola Tesla, CS Lewis, Martin Luther King, Michelle Obama, Prez Obama,

Entertainment types: Bill Murray, Fred Sanford, the 4th Doctor, Seth McFarlane, Honey Badger (?), Robin Williams,

Imaginary: Peter Pan, Mickey Mouse, Venus

Relatives not named: My dad, my mom, my MOM!, my four dead great grandparents, my Granddaddy, my great grand kids, my Gram,

Assorted names that I don’t know who you are and I apologize in advance for the wrong category:  Harry, Ron and Herman; Conor Oberst; Betsy; Mr. DeWitt; Leo Valdez; James; Ty Palmer; Ali Evans; Jason Brill; Jurgen Maltmann; Berry and Ralph B----; Autum Berry; Cleo, Ruth, Ellen, Irene and Liz; Friends

Really?: Jeffery Dahmer

Of course!: God  (hmmm…would one not hope that they would be spending eternity dining with God?)

Who is not on the list is interesting… no great classical composers, no influential or historical artists!, no chefs, no dictators, no superheros…..   The challenge is on to come up with next month’s question. I am always open to suggestions as this is for you all!

A few additional words about people and their behavior because observing our fellow man (woman, child, creature whatever….don’t get all PC on me), is a favorite pastime and a source for much of what I create. A piece I made recently for the coffee sack recreation show (sorry, I can’t say the real name because I have Victorian blood) that included a plastic up with tips for people to read and share. I would like to add a couple more to that collection.  Tip #1 – Don’t lean against artwork with a beer in your hand or stand in a doorway that is only wide enough for 1.5 people because that .5 person is not going to push you out of their way (because they have manners.)   Tip #2 – When holding a beer in your hand, or any adult beverage for that matter, do not go through a doorway to the outside. If you notice an extreme temperature difference all of a sudden… are not in the same place anymore. When trying to come back through the door, do so in an upright position.   Tip #3 – Saying thank you by offering a really pretty leftover cupcake is a nice gesture...or it would have been.  Always offer a cupcake if you have extra. People like cupcakes. I like cupcakes. I would have shared the cupcake. Sorry that I may have accidently smushed the bag with the cupcakes. Tip #4 – Always say you are sorry. Out loud because under the breath does not count as a real apology.

No, the question next month will not be what is your favorite flavor of cupcake.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Not all "art" is art.

Photo from the internet, general web source, depicting one of the faces.

What is art? Sorry, not even going to attempt to tackle that one in a few paragraphs, but I can tell you one thing I feel it is not….vandalism performed under the blanket heading of “art” made by a self-proclaimed “artist”.  Yes, one of the major foundations of art is to evoke a response from those who encounter it. Social media has reared its head again in helping to promote the work of a vandal, identity yet unknown,** thereby giving more attention and validation to her act of crime, as people express their outrage over her actions. But hey, she is making “art” right?, so we have to leave it alone and accept it….right?  Sometimes, even though it may not be PC, we have to take a stand and say no, you are just a jerk, and a criminal one at that….at least in my opinion.

This “art” was brought to my attention by a small article in a local paper last Friday. It was from the AP about a situation in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am going to quote the article here so all you legal eagles out there, no author is listed…

“A series of colorful, eerie faces painted on rocks in some of the West’s most famously picturesque landscapes has sparked an investigation by the National Park Service and a furor online.     Agents so far have confirmed the images in Yosemite and four other national parks in California, Utah and Oregon. Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the vandalism could lead to felony charges for the person responsible. [I hope so, tax dollars well spent!]     The images appear to come from a New York state woman traveling across the West this summer and documenting her work [her work???] on Instagram and Tumblr, said Casey Schreiner of, whose blog post tipped off authorities. [Find it hard to believe nobody saw this person painting on the rocks, or were too timid to say something which I can understand in this day and age…but nobody took her picture…even in the background of a family photo?]      The investigation is the subject of well-trafficked threads on the website Reddit, where people railed against the drawings [does that description throw the blanket of art over her rights?] as the defacing of the irreplaceable natural landscapes.     ‘You’re seeing this emotional response of people who feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut,’ Schreiner said.”     End of published story.

At least 10 images have been found in Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands national parks and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Okay lady who did this….what the hell? What was your point? Frankly, I would consider you so untalented that you had to draw on the rocks rather than paint a picture (or photograph them) and then put your drawings on your own creation. Leave God’s creations alone! Who gives you the right to infringe on my right to enjoy the wonders of nature without your handiwork attached? In this crazy mixed up litigious world of ours, if you had fallen off the rocks and died while performing your little art act of vandalism, I bet your family would sue the US park service because no sign was posted that said “thou shalt not paint colorful faces on natural (and national) treasures.”  Can the rocks be cleaned and returned to their natural beauty? Who knows….God will decide what to do when the time comes.

**Latest updates to the story are that the 21 year old woman has been located and gone into hiding for her own protection. She feels “remorseful” for what she has done. Hmmm…no longer calling it “art” when the tide is against you? Yes there are those defenders posting out there that say it is art and she has rights blah blah blah , but we have rights too and I hope for once the majority actually wins. If you wish to read more or stay up to date on the story, just google “national park vandalism” and multiple sites will appear.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spreading the Word…”Out of Print” by Pam Neff


The Little Art Gallery in North Canton is currently showcasing the creative genius of artist Pam Neff. “Out of Print” : An Upcycled Exploration of Books and Text into Configurations of Fine Art is the full title of this solo show that fills the gallery side to side, top to bottom and right down the middle with one of a kind pieces that will entertain and enlighten the viewer on multiple levels.

62 individual pieces are on exhibit with several of them arranged in groups that seem natural to have to purchase all of them, and the red dots were numerous. Some works are made of multiple units that are all one work, therefore one must take the time to read the titles and tags to fully appreciate each piece as it is meant to be seen. And to NOT take the time to read the titles (in a show based on books and texts) would be a shame. So much intellectual creativity is hidden within them…..which is just one more layer of this show. It is well documented that to really appreciate subtle humor, one must be fairly intelligent. So goes our first layer….society associates “smarts” with books…bookworms and nerdy types are depicted with their noses in scholarly documents, always reading… Neff has played upon this stereotype through her use of titles, imagery and materials…and sometimes even form, to relay her message. A viewer can look at the creations as simply artwork on a wall or they can truly read into each one the volume of information found within their reconfiguration. She challenges us to think.

Overall, the gallery is a visual collage of creams, blacks, and beiges, awash in double entendre and no matter what direction one turns, assaulted by parody, satire and textural text.  Some works such as “Tom Swift and his House on Wheels” (which is a book), is mounted on wheels, the concept is simple, the presentation straight forward, and funny.  So too are “Facebook”, “Rock Paper Scissors” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Other works require some effort to truly appreciate their meanings such as “Weapons of Mass Creation”.  Featured on the cover of the gallery program, this piece is one of her most compelling. With the title in mind, view the piece overall, it is a fish, a Christian symbol, but stand back a bit and one can see an angel as well. Above her head or its tail, is the word “prologue” meaning before or in the beginning….. do I really need to visually spell this out for you? (Yes, that was intentional).

Before I forget, the reason I chose “Spreading the Word” as my title is not so you all go out and tell others to see this show, but it would be the title I would have given her “Push Broom” piece propped in the corner. The handle of a broom has been inserted into a converted dictionary whose pages have been cut and fluffed into bristles. As soon as I saw it, my title clicked and that was all she wrote, I was out the door. Only three works are untitled, all the same type of folded paper manipulation but in three different sizes, hung together, and sold separately. I am calling them the “Mums” because the intricate curvilinear folds look like the petals of a mum plant and also because…..Ha!! “Mums the word” as the saying goes….  I just can’t allow any untitled pieces, especially in a show based on books….ever see an untitled book?

The dictionary pages were quite popular and selling fast. I bought one too after debating and changing my mind several times over which one. The pages are A through F of a dictionary with an image on each one that is of that letter…case in point, I bought “Art” whose pictorial image is of a painter’s pallet. Originally I was set on “Brushes” until I viewed the works from across the room….how could I have missed it the first time? I had to buy “Art” because it is a work of art, about “art”…and I know it is art because it says so right on the picture…so it must really be ‘art” right? This way nobody can ever accuse me of not buying art…because I bought “Art”.   See what I mean about Neff’s depth of though? Other dictionary pages feature collage images for letters R, T and P.

If you have been to her gallery space at 2nd April Galerie in the arts district, you would have seen her pieces featuring the small scale wooden artist’s manikins. The titles are witty such as “In the Middle of a Good Book” and “A Real Page Turner” but so too is there an underlying innuendo…books are made of paper, paper comes from wood, wood comes from trees and the little guys interacting with these books are made of wood….you do the mental gymnastics on that one.

A few pieces to mention for their obvious attention grabbing structure are “Out of Circulation”, a wheel of old paperback books large enough for a person to pass through and “Statue”, an absolutely gorgeous dress-like (hmmmm…..) creation that plays upon the idea of memories and dreams (and play). The exhibition as a whole must have been a challenge to install so that each piece could be featured in the best possible light (because there are actual lights [lamps] in this show too).

Neff has even made a series of bookmarks, free (one each please) for the taking. I can only imagine what else her right side would have envisioned if she knew I have several old typesetter drawers sitting in storage….I wonder what type of work she could make with them.

Time to put this chapter to bed and end the story here…..   Rarely do I end a blog with a recommendation of a show being a “must see” but this is one of those times….and it is a “must read” as well. Take the time to appreciate her genius, and I don’t use that word lightly either. Skimming through to the end or just looking over the cliff notes of the program will short change you on an enriching engagement with the written word.

October 16 – November 9, 2014
North Canton Little Art Gallery in the North Canton Library
10am – 8pm Mon - Thursday
9am – 5pm Saturday

1pm – 5pm Sunday

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stark County Artists Exhibition 2014

Mother and Child: Forgotten
Housekeeping first, full disclosure, I have a piece in the show. It is a photograph. I have lamented in the past that this show should consider separating photo and digital works from other media to create two shows. If anyone had listened to me, I would not be in the show. Crow is so delicious this time of year.

Second bit of housekeeping, a reminder that this blog is my opinion and in no way a formal or solicited review of the show, or any show, I happen to write about. Considering my low number of blog views, I needn't worry that anyone will really find this essay anyway.

Third bit of housekeeping, I have to mention the renovations done at the MassMu. The place looks fresh and modern and more fitting for a museum of their caliber! Nice job whoever worked on that project.  Painting the walls a dark grey in the main exhibition space was a great choice though I wonder if it was done specifically for the works in this show or just by luck of the cycle of exhibitions. Why? Because the overall selected works, the show as a whole, appears at first impression to be chosen to enhance the walls so the space is cohesive and mellow. Thank goodness there is no papier mache or bubble wrap this time! But so too is there no “wow” in the room. No one seemed drawn to any particular work or corner or space on opening night.  It was all just “there”.

If I were new to the area and walked into the Museum, glancing into the main gallery, I would think I am seeing a permanent collection room. This year’s show is….let me read my notes….bland, overly cohesive, flat and repetitive. And I have not even walked very far into the room. I see lots of red-orange, teal, cream and black and white art on the walls. Let me repeat…on the walls.  Besides one free standing table on the upper level with some small figurative pieces, the space is empty. The one and only in –the-round sculpture is tucked into a corner along with a dimensional paper installation. Perhaps that is how the artist wanted it seen. As viewers, we are not given that information. Only one other piece (hung on a wall) besides these two offers any interesting shadow play. The majority of the work is approximately the same size with the largest in the room being the best in show. The show feels sparse due the 20 or so less works accepted in this year. I miss the use of middle space.  I miss color! No greens, hot pinks, purples, metallics…..just very (dare I say…matchy matchy?). Even the ceramics are for the most part hung on the wall. Margene May has the one and only entry in the fibers arena.

In recent shows around the area, I have noticed a trend in how pieces are being submitted for jury. When only one work is allowed to be entered, some artists are grouping their works into “one” unit and classifying them as a diptych or a triptych or something even greater than that-tych, hung as a group of separate (and even separately signed---dead giveaway)  pieces to be judged as one work. This allows the artist to get more work in front of the public and perhaps more weight to the jury. (Not done in this show.) The second trend I see is the exact opposite, to separate pieces which should really be considered as one unit. The weight of the individual creations as a statement is far greater when seen as “one” work then as several solitary ones. By submitting all of them as singles, the number of pieces that may get accepted is far greater and weights heavier on the CV of the artist. Which leads to a third and perhaps a rhetorical or ethical or just plain confusing question. I will try and ask it as simply as possible….but it does come across as one of those dreaded story problems of our youth so please bear with me….

Artist A has three pieces in the show. Artist B has two in the show. Artists C – Z have only one each. Logic would dictate that works A1, A2 and A3 are equally as excellent with each other and superior to a C2 or a C3 and so forth for C – Z.  So too would logic then be that A2 and A3 as well as B2 should all win an award because none would be worse than C1, D1, E1 and down the line. Yet….C1 and D1 also win an award. Therefore, C1 and D1 are better (by the juror’s own opinion) than A2 and A3. So why add them to the show when they are not really “as good”? Any number of reasons could be provided…I will let you come up with them. I am just asking the question for consideration. I am not saying I agree or disagree with any choices, just wondering as to why fill the room with pieces by the same artist rather than works by others. All the award winners this year have multiple works accepted, four of the six having all three entries juried in. Interpret that as you wish. One cannot tell me that some very talented and gifted artists were not included because they had not one thing to submit. (I know, I hear the whispers.) Why the overall cohesion of visual and physical aspects of the show? Yes, we are dealing with a group jury situation so each one gets to weigh in and outweigh as they desire, which allows for the inevitable clunker or two to slip past, and there are a few this time around….again.  At least a clunker can be differentiated. Some of the pieces look so much alike from the doorway that one cannot tell they are by different people. Why is that?  Is originality and creativity starting to wane as more and more access to the imagery of others dilutes the process? Was it this elusive specter of visual unity dominating the selection process? Again, I don’t have answers. I don’t offer any either, although I have theories and opinions (as do some of you who stage whisper).  Perhaps Herr Professor, modern art really does suck.

I do want to mention a few pieces in particular. “Waves” by Lindsey Bryan, a paper work constructed into a corner, is a contemporary twist on a classic Japanese woodblock print. I found it clever and creative. The scotch tape however did detract from the overall piece and I was not sure why it was used. The spotlights bounced off of the tape and called my attention away from the intricate cuts of the paper. Michael Barath’s “Phoenix”, a digital double exposure of visual mastery was overlooked yet again. His was the only piece that really reached out from across room, requiring a closer look at the complex edges and forms contained within the format.  

But yes, my photograph is included, thank you for that. I can see why my other two entries would not have made it past a first round. I was pleased to see new works and styles by unfamiliar names (to me anyway), good to keep the talent pool fresh and growing. (Bullach, Bryan, Wadsworth, Stoddard) I was pleased to see familiar names with something new to show, good to keep the talent pool stocked and reproducing.  (Kribbs, Wachunas, Waalkes, Bogdan) The smaller number of pieces included did make for a less crowded exhibition space and perhaps a bit more “professional” in appearance, but this is Ohio. This is Stark County. This is one of only a few shows in the area where we compete against each other exclusively. It forces us to keep working, to try new things, to see what each other is doing and who is “better” this time. This is football country with a sports crazy mentality that lives and breathes competition. This is “our” big game.  This is where we see what each other has done in the off season.  Some major shows will accept only one piece by any artist no matter how many are submitted. It will be your best of those entries. Not filler, not matchy-matchy, not whatever, which leads to a level playing field of choices as to who makes the playoffs and who goes back on the bench until next year. If none of them make the cut, then we work harder. We try again year after year after year to be on the field. Sometimes we get picked for the game and sometimes we just go home, but nobody in the neighborhood is happy when one kid’s siblings all get to play and they can’t even catch the ball.

Congratulations to the winners for sure. A polar bear is kicking butt in tiger town in this dog eat dog business we are in. Hmmm….that sentence had three “in”s in it…I bet that violates some grammatical rule somewhere.

So overall, it is a “nice” show. Not a “wow” though. It feels serene rather than energizing.  not one to cause pause and wonder how something was done. Are there some standout pieces in my opinion, absolutely, but a really great show is downstairs in Studio M.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

And the answer is....

Last night was the official opening of Snarky Art…the studio and I wanted to try an experiment. Posted outside my door was a 4 x 4 foot chalkboard on an easel. A question was written at the top and lots of lines drawn on it for people to add their answers. Granted, being a “new”, and to some, intimidating, request to participate, the answers were good ones. I hope to expand on this concept to “leave your mark” as I grow into this new adventure and space or my own. Yes folks, the brain is firing on all cylinders and that can be a scary thing at times.

A slight digression (what would a snarky blog be without one?), I eventually want to respond to the Artwach observations about the state of the arts as we share many of the same questions. I saw a different side of the demographic last night and witnessed a flow of traffic directed by orange cones of our own humanity. Interesting. And it was raining which added even another layer to the cake walk.

Okay, back to the board. The question was…”I think art should be…….”  Besides the variety of handwriting (someone even asked if it was okay to use cursive) we had one clear winner in the concept category. Written in the blank spot without lines (I got tired of drawing lines) was the answer “not confined to lines “, well played my anonymous friend, you win. The other 24 responses we did get are as follows below. The fact that people were asked to write something on chalk on an old school green chalkboard surface was the first obstacle to overcome. There was a hesitancy to participate as if the leaving of one’s own mark in an art setting was not to be done unless one is an artist. I have ideas to change that point of view in the coming months. One must conspire with their partners in creative crime before committing any acts of personal space invasion however. Some people would write and then erase their answer. I don’t know why. Nothing inappropriate was left on it, and would have been removed as free expression does not including offending me since it is my board. I should mention that I went to 5 (yes FIVE) stores that sell office and or art supplies and not one had an actual chalkboard eraser. They sell chalk….but no erasers. Those are to be found over in the white board section located elsewhere.  I think I have discovered the buggy whip of my generation….I guess when throwing them at students became a no-no then there was no reason to make them anymore.

Thank you to all who came out last night and took the time to read all my statements, old followers and newbies alike. Lots of laughter which is always my goal (served with a side of snark of course).  So, I think art should be….

Fun – everywhere – art – inspiring – purchased! – well funded – treasured – expressive – interpersonal – an action – from the heart – relaxing – recognized – unlimited – engaging – mind easing – lived – the wine of life – in schools – in the details of life – appreciated – communication – musically inspired – undefined and of course not confined to lines.

Good answers, good start. Look for a new question every month and even more ways to get involved!

Upcoming blogs (yeah, it feels good to write again) will include a review of the Stark County Show at MassMu and an essay about being on the opposite side of the desk again.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Someday is Here

A long ago canvas from my childhood.

We all say it. We all think it…”someday I will….”  And sometimes we just have to open our eyes to the reality that “someday” is staring us in the face. 

I suppose the grapevine had taken most of the “what?” factor out of this announcement, especially if you have been by 2nd April in the last couple of weeks. Yes, I am moving. Not far, but we all outgrow our dreams at some point in time and just have to close our eyes and leap.  So I am leaping down the block and around the corner.

Snarky Art is moving to 410 McKinley, the former habitat of Feather your Nest, around the corner from Journey. Imagine the look on my husband’s face when I came home one day and said guess what honey…I’m moving out! Context was needed to bring down his pulse rate and then all else was groovy.

If you want a great venue with wonderful people, please visit with Brennis and Todd to take over the loft gallery space asap. The plan is to open my new doors on the next First Friday, Oct 3, whether the lights come on or not. Could be rough, could be raw, could be wonderful….we will wait and see.
So what exactly are my “someday I want to _______” fill in the blank answers? First I must say that the new Snarky Art will be a working studio with my easel right by the window. I love the outdoors and watching the world go by while I create, so people will be able to watch the trained monkey (oops, I mean me) work on projects without feeling like they are imposing on my space. 

I will be able to feature all the types of work I make and arrange for commissions by showing examples on site, pastels and hoard couture to name two. People probably don’t know that I also build props and do merchandising displays. 

Already on my calendar (and soon to be sent out to appropriate parties) are classes to complete the Art Merit Badge for the BSA. My counselor team is ready to go on this and I only told them last week.

The bins and bins and bins of classroom supplies I have hoarded at home will finally find a new shelf to occupy.

The lighting stands and studio backdrop that occupy another corner of my house will be relocated to allow for easier photography of artwork and projects.

The big idea….still in the thought process but gaining momentum is really at the front of my plans right now and contributing to insomnia. I mentioned it to some fellow artists last night and the idea is taking flight. Thank goodness the bees nest attack has given way to another source for lack of sleep. (note to self, bees don’t like lawn movers and people allergic to bees should not run them over). Good thing those little buggers didn’t make it as far as my face or my poor husband would be sitting in jail on suspected spousal abuse considering how my leg looked.

Anyway, I just felt it was time to let the news be official. We all need a kick in the rear now and then to take those ideas, dreams, plans, etc out of our cerebellum and make them concrete. To just do it as the shoe people say. Past the midlife point of my career and missing the interaction with young people and young adults (my target teaching demographic), my time is now…..because I don’t want to look back someday and ask whatever happened to “someday?”. I don’t want to say “I wish I had…”    I would rather say “what the hell was I thinking?” and then deal with it. 

So spread the word, drop by next month and see my progress. I am so happy to be by my new neighbors at Journey, I missed Su when she left and Jeff has always been such a great pilot.  Snarky Art….the studio, will become just that… a studio….and I no longer have to say…”yeah, I have this dream….”