Thursday, May 25, 2017

Location is Everything

Now that the Arts in Stark goal has been reached and the campaign is over, now that the next football mural is underway and now that I have a few moments to write, it is time to say something because I saw something.

Yesterday I attended a meeting for a community event in the Pegasus Courtyard of the Cultural Center for the Arts. I parked in the lot out front and entered the building via the main entrance. The latest mural is underway. It made me sad. No, not because it wasn’t mine, that is business. The artist chosen is extremely talented and for sitting on a scissor truck way up on that wall, deserving of every penny so he can buy good life insurance. What made me sad was the location upon which all this time and money is begin spent.

That location is “our” wall. The Arts Wall…..the greatest location ever to hang banners (remember the beautiful Kimono one?) to advertise and promote the Arts which occur within those walls. In case you are not familiar, housed within those ochre colored bricks are dancers, singers, actors, painters….the Ballet, the Theater, the Art Museum, the VOCI and at one time the symphony offices. Now to be honest, not many “art types” are big time sports people as well.  Sports folks have their arenas and stadiums and fields. We have or stages, microphones and gallery walls.

So the location of this latest Eleven made me very sad. I would say angry but what is done is done and I’m too old to waste time on anger. Road construction makes me angry too, but so what, my emotions won’t change anything. No hard hat is going to pack up his cones and go home because I am getting wrinkles between the brows. Yes, I get the purpose of The Eleven project (read about it on the AiS site if you are not familiar with the details).  But why that spot? The location of a 40 foot tall football mural on our Arts complex just seems incongruous with our purpose of supporting the arts. There are a many, many brick walls which could have hosted this latest piece. It does no justice to the Peart Sculpture “Morning Breeze” sitting now in the shadow of Super Joe. I would certainly hope a future football sculpture does not land nearby.

Yes we are a football town. But by meeting the AiS fund drive goal, does that not also say we are an arts town too? Could we have not kept a few acres (or vertical square feet for that matter) as a clean slate for the promotion of the interests of those who do not punt, pass or kick? As I walked into the lobby of our arts complex, for a meeting related to a non-football community event, I felt as if we had been tattooed once again by the Titans of Turf. They have Mount Olympus going up just north of this area with tentacles spreading over schools and symphony halls and homesteads. I feel sad that we (the art types) have been branded with a permanent image on the skin of something whose soul has nothing in common with it.

The completed mural will be great. Who doesn’t love Big Joe, with or without his panty hose? I just wish it had not been located “right there” outside the main entrance….where tourists may not understand that the building is not part of the Village even though it has a big logo on it.  But fear not, we art types will tighten up our tutus, put on the pancake, and engage our easels despite how many times we get shoved aside.  

I know that someone is thinking yeah, jk, but what if it was your work going up on that wall? Excellent question and I am not sure I would feel much differently about the location. But like I said, the choice was not an option presented to anyone, it was just declared. Business is business. As an artist, if someone is willing to pay us for what we do, most likely we will chug the kool-aid and deposit the check whether we like the taste of it or not.  

PS – Congrats to the community for meeting the Arts in Stark goal and supporting those who live creative. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Mom Likes It!" at Gallery 6000

"Carousel" by Joe Mayes

"8mm"  by Kendall Roudebush

"Traveling Memories" by Carol Blundell
Gallery 6000 has returned! A new and improved space welcomes it first show “Moms Like It!”  I have quoted the show announcement from the site to save time. Tom Wachunas curated the show so he says it best.

(Quote) Located in the Conference Center Dining Room on the Kent State University at Stark campus (6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton), Gallery 6000 is pleased to announce “Mom Likes It!” This exhibit, on view through Friday, June 9, 2017, features an eclectic gathering of new works by seven Kent Stark Fine Arts students working in Painting III and Painting IV. These artists have been developing their aesthetic concepts and techniques under the steady guidance of Associate Professor of Painting, Jack McWhorter, who writes:

  “Building on the technical, formal, and conceptual abilities students have accumulated in previous classes, Painting III & IV aims to assist students in developing strategies required to begin making work independently. Students are expected to participate in an extremely ambitious and self-directed manner, working on projects outside of class more than they do during scheduled class times. Painting concepts are developed through the practice of consistently gathering source materials and recording personal observations.  This includes literal collection through sketchbooks, photographs, journals, and found objects in addition to less tangible resources such as dreams and memories.  Students are required to work longer on each project, allowing their ideas and interests to fully develop through the process of painting.”

The participating artists are: Carol Blundell, Mitch Bonifay, Noah DiRuzza, Samuel Dorando, Joe Mayes, Kendall Roudebush, and Robert Shultz. (End Quote)

Okay, my turn. The show has 22 pieces overall and the first impression is big, bright and beautiful as the space is well suited to showcasing larger, bold pieces. Since there are 7 artists with anywhere from 1 to 8 entries each, I chose one from each person about which to say a few words. I must admit I am not sure why the show has the title it does, but fortunately it dovetails with a Mother’s Day posting!

8mm by Kendall Roudebush greets you first if one walks the perimeter of the room. This acrylic on canvas work is comprised of layers of marks in blues, grays and black that overlap and overlay each other creating a surprising depth of field not appreciated with a quick look. You need to consider the marks (probably doodles to some folks) and the order in which they appear. They do not necessarily connect but rather build up a surface, one that would make a dynamic fabric print.

Carousel by Joe Mayes is an oil of bright colored shapes that do connect and entwine and merge from one to another. Don’t look for horses or other animals per the title however. Think movement, mechanics and perhaps a bird’s eye view of the energy produced by a carousel. Yellow halos and actions marks aid the visual vibration. The more I looked at this piece, a feeling of carousel music also emanated from the canvas.

Traveling Memories by Carol Blundell is reminiscent of surrealism in that seemingly unrelated images work together as a dreamlike landscape. Within this piece I found the corners of papers tacked to the surface, stacks of boxes that hold mementoes, items collected as souvenirs, parts of landscape photographs and a complex but well balanced composition. She could have lost control of this image if not for the smart placement of shapes and colors held together by the use of proper scale.

Mitch Bonifay has 4 pieces in the show. Not traditional paint on stretched canvas per say, but canvas fabric stretched within frames by use of cording. The technique is well suited to his imagery, which is somewhat “dark”, upon closer inspection. This method of presentation could veer towards Pinterest if not for what he depicts and the rather haphazard (but obviously thought out) use of the cording to weave the frame and content together both literally and figuratively.  Crystalline Serpent was my pick because of how the sinuous serpent echoes the cording and his use of light, shadow and semi translucent painting technique make this a very powerful image.

Robert Shultz has 8 works on the walls showing a wide range of techniques exploring the placement of shapes in space. Precipice is a study in blacks, whites and grays, incorporating volume studies, cut and layered areas and the juxtaposition of curves to angles. It becomes more complex the longer one studies the piece. I viewed all of his works carefully before selecting this one because it had the greatest contrast but also there was something…….which I only realized now when reviewing the image on my phone. Turn it 90 degrees to the left and the whole piece suddenly becomes figurative.

Black X Confronts Freak Show by Samuel Dorando is one of two he has in the show. Being on the older side, I had difficulty relating to the imagery, but artistically, he works well with the elements of composition. Repetition of shape, use of scale, eye direction, depiction of volume and form, are all found in this work. The more he works in this genre the more comfortable he will become with the placement of figures to tell the story as shown by the comparison of his two pieces already.  

Noah DiRuzza has the most developed voice of the group. His vision and style is well formed and all 5 of his entries are sophisticated indicators of where is his work will go as he continues on with this series. I chose Acid Precipitation to highlight because it just yells out from across the room. All the pieces are both atmospheric and liquid at the same time allowing the viewer to ignore the title and decide where to go and what to see. To me, Acid Precipitation felt like the view from our explorer satellite as it plunged between the rings of Saturn. I am sure we will see more of his pieces in upcoming shows around our area.

Gallery hours vary but best to avoid the lunch times. Mornings and afternoons are usually fine, just stop at the desk and let them know you are there to see the Gallery 6000 show.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

75th Annual May Show

"Sign Wave Swan Song"  by John Bruce Alexander
Yesterday was not Groundhog Day but it rather felt like it when I stopped in at the North Canton Little Art Gallery May Show. Full disclosure first, I missed the opening because we were traveling and I also did not get accepted this year (no surprise why not).  Rather than commenting about what is in the show, I think I would rather spend my words on the show itself. Perhaps it is time to rethink the May Show as it currently exists. Curator Elizabeth Blakemore and I had a long chat about this and I did warn her I would be speaking a bit honestly about my point of view.  Something I have not done in a long time (hence my blogging silence) because it seems that in today’s climate, the right to do that is becoming almost dangerous. So here are my observations broken down into topics…

Number of accepted entries: There are way too many. When a show has to be hung salon style on every wall, individual pieces become affected by their neighbors. Some artists feel “short changed” by their location, others have their works overlooked. The overall show would do better with fewer final works so each piece can have its own breathing room on the wall.

Too many categories: Eliminate categories all together. No more classifying works by media which leads to an issue in the next paragraph. The artist should be required to list ALL media used in a piece, not just one primary media in order to manipulate two pieces for awards in different categories even though both works are practically identical. The only classifications should be 2D and 3D, and even then, a 3D work MUST be viewable and complete on every side except the one it sits on. If one side has a hanging device for a wall, it is 2D.

Too many awards: I know we all want a trophy but the number of awards is getting out of hand. When a category only has perhaps 3 accepted entries and there are two awards in that category, a “good” piece is just as “good” as a great one that had to compete against perhaps 25 pieces from which to choose in another more popular category. Artwork should be able to be judged on its own merits, not by what it is made of. My suggestion would be offer a Best in Show, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place only, chosen from all the entries. Each juror then gets a Jurors Choice Honorable Mention (1 each) to honor that piece that they felt was deserving without compromise or input of the other juror. Fewer pieces and fewer awards would elevate the show in my opinion as it feels a bit like the county fair right now.  Everywhere I looked, somebody got a prize.

To D or not to D: I refer to digital entry submissions for jury. Don’t do it. One of the best aspects of jurying a show from actual entries is that we can’t “tweak” our pieces to get an edge. No boosting color, no misunderstandings on size, no missing out on textural details that the camera can’t capture and so forth. A good juror judges each entry on its own, not influenced by the location in the room, works located above, below or beside…. a good work of art will hold its own regardless of the neighborhood. Speaking of neighborhoods….

Presentation: Would you go to a job interview with stains on your shirt? Would you show up on a blind date at a 5 star restaurant wearing ratty jeans? NO! So do not submit work that has scratched frames, dust or dirt on the mats or work, fingerprints inside the glass, dirt across the top of your frame, layers of old entry tags on the back, loose framing materials, scratches across the surface….shame on us. This is your job interview, your blind date, your level of pride and professionalism to the juror…speak well of our area, don’t send shabby work as a representation of you as an artist. The curator is not the cleaning crew, take pride in ownership of what you created.

Who are the judges?: We don’t need to know ahead of time. Why? Because face it, when we do, we like to submit something that we think they will like to enhance our chances of getting accepted. It is just another ploy we use to game the system. A truly level playing field is one whose judgement is blind. Enter your best work and let it be judged on the merits under which it was created and presented. The resulting show will be reflection of the voices of the jury, not a yellow hued buffet where everyone submitted cheesy pieces because the judges love mac and cheese.

Framing: Yes I know we have one of the world’s best, most talented, framers in our corner of the world but there is a difference between exhibition framing and display framing. Some great pieces in the show are way “over framed”, more hotel lobby or high end foyer, than gallery show. Yes, they are beautiful but the artwork, though enhanced for display, were over shadowed as art. In cases where were the art is one with the frame, this does not apply of course. Are you selling the art or the frame? Having to get back your investment sometimes puts prices out of reach for the interested buyer. Many folks reframe our stuff anyway once they buy it.

I’ll stop for now….enough venting. I do want to point out some gems and I only have a few words left --- Pat Mother Waltz with “Herman Shepard”, a ceramic and suede sculpture in the showcase (best use of title and materials); Anna Rather’s “Spot Fish” (spot on framing for exhibition, great print too); Michael Nutter’s “The Man with the Pipe” (a beautifully rendered and sensitive drawing, bad location for appreciating the details, victim of too many entries); Tina Myers’ both “Forest” and “Grief” (perfect blend of format, materials and message in both cases); Russ Hench’s “Shoodle #4” (don’t know what a shoodle is, but I like it, best use of new methods to echo former methods, captivating); Tom Migge “Vase #L-105” (I am a girl of the woods so when one creates stunning work with my trees, ya got me.)

My personal best in show is John Bruce Alexanders’ “Sign Wave Swan Song”.  Wrongly over looked by the judges (when 9 of 12 awards in 2D categories are realism based, I understand).  Hard to describe and not to be missed. I think he left off a 1 in front or a 0 in back of his price. The work and creativity and time that went into this conceptual masterpiece is amazing.  You can’t just look at it, you have to “read” it, study the layout, absorb the color shift, and find the surprises…. He puts the “work” into the term “work of art”.

The gallery is looking great, hardwood floor, white walls, good lighting, security cameras, clean lines….very professional and rivals galleries in NYC that are the same size.  We are truly blessed to have this little gem in our own backyard.   

PS - There was not ONE untitled piece in the show...Snarky is a happy happy camper!!