Gold Self Portrait, by Heather Bullach In A World Gone Crazy..., by Judi Krew We're not in Kansas Anymore, Toto. by Sally Lytle Circle of Life, by Wanda Montgomery Boston Bricks I, by Diane Belfiglio Bourbon and Cigar, by Todd Bergert Boole, by Dave Kuntzman
By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: 78th Annual May Show, at The Little Art Gallery, located in North Canton Public Library, 185 N Main St, North Canton, Ohio, through May 29, 2021. Viewing hours: Monday – Friday: 10 a.m to 6 p.m. / Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Best in Show - Heather Bullach, Gold Self Portrait, Oil / Second Place - Sally Lytle, We’re not in Kansas Anymore, Toto, Oil /Third Place - Wanda Montgomery, Circle of Life, Mixed Media / Honorable Mention - Scott Coleman, Diamond Beach, Media: Photography / Honorable Mention - Nancy Darrah, Stepping Out, Watercolor /Honorable Mention - David L. Dingwell, Colfax Blues, Photography
This year’s competition was juried by Dennis Kleidon and Rose Kleidon. Here are their catalogued comments: “This year’s May Show is a dramatic, mood-setting experience. Many of the strongest pieces contain an atmosphere within their messages, expressing fear, anxiety, serenity, and contemplation. Almost all of the submissions were technically competent. We saw many beautiful examples in pencil, watercolor, oil, acrylic and mixed-medium, and we commend all participants for this. The submissions that stand out also had something more to say—a message, a mood or a story that the artist tried to bring to the surface. These pieces make a statement beyond technical competency. These underlying messages give the show its personality.”
There might be an implied promise in the juror’s comments, setting up an expectation of a satisfying, maybe great gallery experience. But in the end, we’re in largely subjective territory here. Expectations are fragile things; easily ballooned and easily deflated. In that regard, this exhibit is a little disappointing in its depth and variety of iconographic content.
For starters, in numbers alone, this year’s show, with just 28 works from 26 artists, is substantially smaller than any May Show I’ve seen in the past 12 years or so. The physical space of the gallery itself feels somewhat empty. Incomplete. Even the show’s one and only free-standing 3D piece has been pushed seemingly out of the way, placed too close to a brick wall, like some sort of unobtrusive sentinel. Still, it’s a marvelously crafted and intricate patchwork garment embroidered with many evocative words by Judi Krew, called “In A World Gone Crazy We Hide Behind Our Labels And Share Words Of ____!”
There’s an unfortunate scarcity of purely abstract works. In that category, Dave Kuntzman’s acrylic painting called “Boole” is a thoroughly captivating vision of precisely delineated, interlocking luminous grids. A wondrous feat of spatial playfulness.
Diane Belfiglio’s oil pastel “Boston Bricks” is a hypnotic blend of both representational (i.e., identifiable) and abstract elements. The illusory brick surface, itself a grid, bristles with chromatic textures bathed in sunlight and intersected by striking, translucent shadows shooting across the picture plane at contrasting angles.
Otherwise, the exhibit does indeed heavily favor conventionally framed 2D works of a representational or illusory nature (landscape, still life, floral, portraiture, figural, etc.). Most of these works, as the jurors noted, are “technically competent.” And nowhere in this exhibit is technical acuity more elegantly evident than in the oil painting by Heather Bullach, “Gold Self Portrait.” The piece should have been displayed on an actual gallery wall where it can more freely breathe its classical grace and dignity. Instead, it’s tucked away like a curio in one of the gallery’s glass showcases.
What most of the works in this exhibit share, to varying degrees, is a nostalgic preciousness and an intimacy that creates an aura of celebrating the familiar, the pretty and pristine. And though it’s true that I missed seeing the kind of art that doesn’t need to appropriate so much of literal reality to be beautiful, I do respect the stylistic finesse and sincerity present in the works of many of the artists here. To all of them I say thanks for the memories.