Monday, May 18, 2015

Amazing Grace


Amazing Grace

By Tom Wachunas


   “… a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God…” –Victor Hugo, from Les Misérables

    Considered among the greatest literary works of the 19th century, Victor Hugo’s 1862 historical novel, Les Misérables, is a philosophically and spiritually rigorous examination of a society caught in the throes of revolution that culminates in the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris. The beloved musical adaptation is a monumentally dramatic landscape of poverty and despair, of wrecked hearts and shattered dreams, of moral turpitude and the transformative power of forgiveness, compassion, and love.
    This towering sung-through narrative presented by Canton’s Players Guild Theatre was directed by Jonathan Tisevich, who has also taken on the daunting role of the central character, Jean Valjean. The production features a remarkably skilled cast and ensemble. In conjunction with the polished musicality of the live orchestra directed by Steve Parsons, the expressive lighting and sound design by Scott Sutton, and robust scenic and costume design by Joshua Erichsen, the entire evening crackles with all the panache of a Broadway encounter.
      Tisevich delivers a riveting portrait of a man at first rancorous and destitute after 19 years of unjust imprisonment, but who ultimately finds purpose and redemption even as he must face the ceaseless pursuit of police inspector Javert. In that role, Matthew Horning is a scary and rigid presence, effectively conveying a vengeful self-righteousness and annoyance at Valjean’s goodness.
    The caliber of vocal prowess demonstrated by the cast members is remarkably high - at times operatically nuanced - including commanding  performances from  Jimmy Ferko as the young revolutionary, Marius, who is in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette (Carly Ameling); Daryl Robinson as Enjolras, the people’s leader; and young Zachary Charlick as Gavroche, a delightfully scrappy boy-provocateur. Miah Bickley plays the hapless Eponine. Her powerful rendering of the wrenching ballad, “On My Own,” is a compelling embodiment of sadness over her unrequited love for Marius.
    In a particularly endearing interlude during Act I, eight year-old Corrin Smith as Little Cosette sings “Castle on a Cloud.” As she imagines a happier life and a loving mother, there seems to be an old, hurting soul resonant in her plaintive, crystalline voice. Earlier on, an even more gnawing hurt and vulnerability comes through with heart-piercing impact when Keitha Brown, as Cosette’s mother, Fantine, condemned to a cruel (and fatal) life on the streets, sings “I Dreamed a Dream.”
   Fear not, there is some comic relief from all this woe. Micah Harvey and Maureen Thomas are deliciously crude, rude and conniving as the Thenardiers, thieving innkeepers from whom Valjean must purchase the abused Little Cosette. “Master of the House” is a show-stopping emsemble romp around the tavern executed with rabid glee. Who knew that such insouciant criminality could be so hilarious?     
     That said, the most emotionally and spiritually potent passage of the evening transpires nearly midway through the second act when Valjean sings “Bring Him Home,” a soul-searing prayer for the life of Marius. Mr. Tisevich doesn’t just rise to the occasion. He defines it. Throughout this gripping anthem that declares all of Valjean’s hope and faith and pain, his voice progressively soars as if driven by a preternatural force. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.
    And how could it be otherwise? For it was in that mesmerizing moment of bittersweet supplication that I appreciated Tisevich not only as the astonishingly gifted actor and singer that he is, but also for his indisputable strengths as a director. Clearly he’s been blessed with the ineffable capacity to channel his impassioned reading of the story into his ardent cast and ensemble. They in their turn return the favor and pour it generously into us, the audience.
   Their cup runneth over, as it were. And we’re all the better for it.

        Les Misérables, Players Guild Theatre (Mainstage), 1001 Market Ave. N, Canton, Ohio / Performances THROUGH MAY 31, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM / Single Tickets $25; 17 and younger $19; Seniors $23 / BOX OFFICE - 330.453.7617 or  www.playersguildtheatre.com

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Come What MAY, Remember the Rest of the Best






 Come What MAY, Remember the Rest of the Best

By Tom Wachunas
 

EXHIBIT: 73rd Annual May Show, at the Little Art Gallery THROUGH MAY 30, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton / Gallery Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 1 to 5 p.m.

    I love the idea of juried art exhibitions. I hate the idea of juried art exhibitions. That’s the long and short of it. A love-hate affair.
    This is not to say that I love the idea only when my work is accepted for exhibition (as indeed it was for this particular show), and hate the idea when my work is rejected. Generally, I’m not strictly opposed to the notion of being “validated” or “accepted” by “art professionals” (jurors) even if they’re not practicing artists themselves. After all, there are still remnant criteria used today in assessing artistic excellence which were established centuries ago by “academicians” who never made a drawing, painting, print, or sculpture –  philosophers, historians, curators, and later, pesky critics.
    Like many artists, I can identify with those in the film industry who, standing in the shadows of the big winners at Oscar time, sincerely cite what an honor it was just to be nominated. Yes, it is an honor when qualified authorities and/or an artist’s accomplished peers deem his or her work worthy of public viewing.
    But designating prizes, especially the “Best in Show,” can be particularly problematic if not plain silly. Art exhibit as dog show. Last year the Beagle got top honors. I hope the Poodle gets it this year. Sheesh.
    It’s not as if there exists a magic formula or universally accepted canon of standards for determining the last word on aesthetic superiority. Such awards are necessarily declarations of opinions (albeit educated ones, one would hope) – a decidedly subjective exercise – on the part of the jurors. That said, I heartily congratulate all this year’s awardees.
    Relative to other May Shows of the past several years, this one, with works by 47 Stark County artists, is largely a bit on the tepid side. Most of the pieces that garnered prizes seem to exemplify the jurors’ conservative leanings toward traditional subjects. Case in point: Best In Show honors went to Lee Ann Novotny for her pristinely rendered colored pencil still-life, Nice Jugs. Verynice” indeed, but…
    There are other more electrifying entries, highly commendable in their respective media. Ted Lawson’s 30 Rock II (First Place in Watercolor) is among the finest I’ve seen in his series of New York Cityscapes. It’s a glowing, spectacularly fluid night scene and, whether intentionally or not, a vaguely topical reminder of the urban confrontations between police and public so prevalent these days.
     There’s a palpable charm and intimacy about Bruce Humbert’s oil, Joy in the Garden, bathed in diffuse light. And it’s a light dramatically sharpened in the bold watercolor just above it on the wall, Spring Light by Jerry Zelinskas.   
   Eleanor Kuder’s mixed media Butterfly Jar is at once an elegant and frenetic abstraction. Its intricate, meandering organic markings are a compelling counterbalance to the simpler, more muscular and tactile lyricism of Tina Meyers’ Bonsai (Second Place in Acrylic). The appearance of these works adjacent to each other, as with the aforementioned Humbert-Zelinskas combination, points to curator Elizabeth Blakemore’s astute placements of diverse content throughout the exhibit. Look carefully and you’ll sense unity – sometimes subtle, sometimes clearly defined. It might be from piece to piece, or one grouping of works to another, sharing subject matter, or palette, or concept, or combinations thereof. 
    Whatever you do when viewing the exhibit, please DON’T be like the four individuals who entered the gallery during my recent visit. I love watching people watch art. This particular group was on a mission, with a rigid agenda to spot only those pieces that had the colored tags of award winners next to them - the “bests.”  Ignoring all the other works, they were gone in 15 minutes.
   I’m sure I speak for all of the exhibitors here when I say…I hate it when that happens.

    PHOTOS (from top): Welcome to Dementia, acrylic on clear acrylic, by John B. Alexander; Joy in the Garden, oil, by Bruce Humbert; Butterfly Jar, mixed media, by Eleanor Kuder; 30 Rock II, watercolor, by Ted Lawson; Nice Jugs, colored pencil, by Lee Ann Novotny          

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Painted Prestidigitations






Painted Prestidigitations

By Tom Wachunas
 

    EXHIBIT: The Mystery and Magic: The Trompe L’Oeil Vision of Gary T. Erbe, at the Canton Museum of Art, THROUGH JULY 19, 2015 / 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio  www.cantonart.org     /  www.garyerbe.com


    “While there are elements of trompe l’oeil in my work, I have less of an interest in fooling the eye in favor of stimulating the mind.” -Gary T. Erbe

    “…As with any superior work of art, the viewer of an Erbe painting will be rewarded by a prolonged analysis – first of all the immediate overall visual impact of the piece, next a survey of its content, and finally the elusive search for meaning…the subliminal link between spectator and artist.”  -M.J. Albacete


    Like many of us, I’m always interested in hearing how painters articulate, in words, what they think they’re up to. Some explanations can be woefully verbose and arcane, or just the opposite - condescending, terse reminders that the work speaks for itself.
    Gary T. Erbe’s own term for his approach to painted verisimilitude (often called trompe l’oeil, i.e., “trick of the eye”) is particularly informative and inventive - “Levitational Realism.” His oil canvases depict carefully designed assemblages of various real objects that he layered and suspended on his studio wall. The painted shadows cast from side-lighting intensify the sensation of multiple picture planes hovering in a color field or over a flat, often decorative backdrop (such as wallpaper).
    Erbe’s stunning technical skill yields a marvelous color presence and dynamic, which he employs to great effect in unifying all manner of shapes in his compositions. Additionally, their spectacular hyperclarity of surface details can include the startlingly real appearances of glassy, metallic, wooden, or fibrous textures. Even as you get closer and closer, their tactile illusionism generally holds up so well you’d think you’re looking at found object sculptures. Such wow factors aside, more astonishing is the fact that Mr. Erbe is a self-taught painter.
    While many of the works here could be fairly considered in the context of the traditional still-life (including a subcategory called vanitas, a type of still-life with symbolic references to mortality and impermanence), there’s always more than meets (or fools) the eye in Erbe’s meticulous orderings of inanimate ephemera. Call them allegories of remembered lives, indeed eras – his own and others’. Some are tender and perhaps highly personal reminiscences, such as boyhood fascination with magic in Slight of Hand from 2009 (a clever play on ‘sleight-of-hand’?), or maybe friendship with a neighbor in Just Across the Street (2013), or enthrallment with 1950s TV culture in The Big Splash (2001).
    Others are decidedly more brooding or cautionary in nature. Among them, Arrangement in Brown and White (1997) is anything but a pleasant orchestration of earth hues. With the yellow words “That’s The Good Old Sunny South” emblazoned on a green banner in the background, the picture is a stark and sardonic emblem of a horrific chapter in American history. In the huge canvas (60”x70”), Frenzy (2007), four sharks, teeth bared in monstrous grins, rip through an American flag.  In the similarly scaled, surreal Double Jeopardy, is the hare in the foreground running from the four ghostly wolves dashing across the pale, wintry plain, or are all the creatures fleeing an encroaching disaster (manmade?) in the distance, possibly implied by the intense, eerie red glow in the sky? 
    M.J. Albacete, Director Emeritus of the Canton Museum of Art (quoted above), begins his delightful essay on the exhibit by recalling a legend about the ancient Greek painter, Zeuxis. He painted a bunch of grapes so convincingly that birds attempted to eat them. But with all due respect, that’s not the whole story. According to the Roman author Pliny the Elder, Zeuxis was competing against another Greek painter, Parrhasius, to see who could make the most realistic image. When Zeuxis tried to remove the disheveled curtain he thought was covering his rival’s work, he discovered that the curtain was the painting, thus assuring Parrhasius the victory. Were Parrhasius alive today, looking at a painting by Gary T. Erbe, I would remind him to move over, and tell Zeuxis the news.  


    PHOTOS, courtesy www.garyerbe.com (from top): Slight of Hand; The Big Splash; Arrangement in Brown and White; Frenzy; Double Jeopardy

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Cathartic Close to Canton Symphony Beethoven Festival


A Cathartic Close to Canton Symphony’s Beethoven Festival

By Tom Wachunas
 

    “It’s not just a question of conquering a summit previously unknown, but of tracing, step by step, a new path to it.”  -Gustav Mahler


   First-time listeners to Music Einem Ritterballet (Music for a Knight’s Ballet) might understandably hear more of Mozart or Haydn than Beethoven in the work. Still, the choice of this early composition (1791) for the opening selection the third concert of the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Beethoven Festival (on April 25 at Umstattd Hall), jaunty and charming as it is, ultimately served to  illuminate Beethoven’s separation from his classical predecessors in a steady and bold ascent to the pinnacle of his ninth symphony.
    Once again the journey continued with pianist André Watts performing Piano Concerto No. 4 and, after the intermission, No. 5 (“Emperor”). In these, all of the aspects that comprise Watts’ consummate artistic integrity – his breathtaking embrace of lyrical nuance, his keen attentions to intimate dialogue with the orchestra, and the sheer force of his technical virtuosity – were wholly evident. During the intermission, I heard one audience member, wide-eyed and nodding his head emphatically, declare to his companion, “That piano player is a poet.”  Indeed.
   Particularly astonishing was the lengthy (the longest I’ve ever heard) cadenza in the first movement of the No. 4 concerto, replete with sustained trills, lavish scales and chording, and crisp arpeggios that travelled up and down the keyboard like so many cascading waves. That monumental interlude seemed to foreshadow the even more electrifying piano dynamics, as well as the sumptuous orchestral textures of the fifth concerto – all of it performed with riveting panache.
   A similar presaging unfolded in the final concert of the festival (April 26), beginning with Fantasia in C Minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, generally known as Choral Fantasy, composed in 1808. Structurally unique in Beethoven’s oeuvre, the work augured many of the ideas and innovations that would come to full fruition in his ninth symphony, completed 15 years later. Both works have a choral finale, and the main theme threaded through the eight sections of Choral Fantasy greatly resembles that of the ninth symphony’s glorious last movement, which is something of a symphony in itself.
   Mr. Watts’ piano work was especially enchanting as he finessed the successively more elaborate variations on the main theme, all impeccably balanced with the captivating sonority of the orchestra. The choral finale was initiated by the wondrously ethereal voices of sopranos Rachel Hall and Maribeth Crawford, along with mezzo-soprano Kathryn Findlen, tenor Timothy Culver, baritone Britt Cooper, and bass Nathan Stark (the quartet of Hall, Findlen, Culver, and Stark would return for the fourth movement of Symphony No. 9). Joining them were the Canton Symphony Chorus, the University of Mount Union Concert Choir, and the Walsh University Chamber Singers. This marvelous gathering of blissful, inspired voices paved the way to the evening’s most lofty summit.     
    In introducing Symphony No. 9, I’ve never heard Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann be more articulate, poignant, or sincere. He rightly referred to the work not so much as an earthly accomplishment, but an unparalleled, life-changing phenomenon - a “…miracle in music history,” and a profoundly cathartic message for all humanity.
    And so I found the performance to be just that – cathartic -  from the primordial quiet, chaos and struggle of the first movement, the startlingly brisk, pounding pace of the second movement (what Zimmermann called “a maniacal dance”), the ineffable serenity and majesty of the third movement, and through to the unearthly choral power of the finale. Still and ironically, I remain confounded by the inadequacy of words to describe what transpired. Then again, it is in the nature of the greatest music, greatly rendered, to leave one in speechless awe.
    As if driven by the same forces that compelled Beethoven to find his perfected expression of the mysteries and grandeur of life, the orchestra and chorus were caught up in a benevolent conspiracy of excellence. All of the elements that have made the CSO so remarkable in the past were here elevated to an unprecedented zenith.
    Cosmic silence to creation. Angst and suffering to the blessing of brotherhood and joy. Divine destiny. Here was Beethoven’s rapturous “kiss for all the world,” his urgent and sacred embrace of the universe, delivered by a magnificently impassioned conductor, ensemble, and chorus.
    At the final, triumphant burst from cymbals, bass drum and timpani, we in the audience immediately stood as one, lifted by our own rapturous noise of gratitude and approval. FREUDE!         

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Kingdom of Precipitous Peaks





A Kingdom of Precipitous Peaks

By Tom Wachunas
 

    EXHIBIT: Unorganized Territories – Sculpture by Mark Schatz, at Main Hall Gallery, Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, OH, THROUGH MAY 4 / Viewing hours Mon.-Fri. 11 AM to 5 PM, Sat. 10 AM-Noon

   “…I try to evoke something deeply familiar in surprising ways.  I acknowledge and even relish the fragmentation, distortion, and reinvention of our remembered places.” – Mark Schatz

    Some materials and methods of assembly do indeed have an innate capacity to awaken memories or invite storytelling. The several untitled sculptures that comprise this airy installation by Mark Schatz (Assistant Professor and Foundation Program Coordinator for the School of Art at Kent State University, Main Campus) instantly transported me to my childhood train set. At its most “magnificent,” it sprawled across a few crude, rickety tables in the basement, piled high with hand-painted papier-maché mountains, popsicle stick buildings and erector set bridges. Architecturally unsophisticated and unreasonable to be sure, it was still my world, manifesting an exuberant desire (or maybe compulsion?) to construct a fantasy kingdom.
    Likewise, you might call Mr. Schatz’s installation a corrugated kingdom, conjuring unusual living habitats along Lilliputian longitudes. His meticulously laminated and cut cardboard forms evoke the eerie columns of eroded rock strata called earth pyramids, fairy chimneys, or hoodoos, carved through eons of geologic change, located in various arid terrains around our planet.
    On the face of it, the thought of building a home atop such formations is purely unreasonable. An absurd foundation for a place to live. Seeing the idea as a symbol, however, is an entirely different exercise. By crowning the pinnacles of his isolated tapered towers – some of them leaning precariously - with little models of unfinished wood frame houses, like so many hermitages, Schatz invests his forms with a surreal whimsicality that nonetheless leaves generous room for building a personal narrative.
    You could begin by considering the idea of corrugated cardboard itself – its physical design and functions -  and the associations that come with it, such as storage, stacking, mobility, unpacking, impermanence. Look closely at the nature of the material and the variations that happen between all those layers of tiny, alternating curved ridges and grooves – the irregular gaps that can suggest tunnels or caves, or corridors to the other side of the mountain, as it were.
    Further, there’s the idea of some sort of pre-set plan or control for the laborious cutting and accumulating of individual planes that progressively lessen in area as the towers ascend to their narrow peaks. Accidents and/or mistaken calculations come with the territory.
    So maybe it’s not so unreasonable to regard these forms as representing adaptation to unpredictability, or as allegories of a process for embracing change. Both dangerous and thrilling, here’s a delightfully entertaining kingdom symbolizing all those places and times where serendipity might rule.      

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Like a box of chocolates?






Like a box of chocolates?

By Tom Wachunas
 

    EXHIBIT: April Assemblage, biennial show from the Canton Artists League, THROUGH MAY 10 at the Canton Museum of Art, 1001 Market Avenue N., Canton, Ohio  330.453.7666  www.cantonart.org   www.cal.cannet.com

    How many different ways are there, really, to say “mixed bag”? Hodgepodge? Gumbo? Mélange?  A box of chocolates?
   Unlike Forrest Gump’s glib acceptance of life’s unpredictability, I usually seem to know in advance exactly what I’m going to get from the biennial exhibit of the Canton Artists League (CAL). Weighing in on this latest incarnation is déjà vu all over again.
    The show is stylistically diverse in CAL’s ever-dominant, conventional 2D genres of painted landscape, floral, portrait, and still-life imagery. Not surprisingly, the levels of technical finesse and conceptual depth in these works ranges from genuinely marvelous to mediocre with, sad to say, nearly half leaning (some more so than others) toward the latter. The judges’ awards notwithstanding, what follows is a consideration of what I found to be especially savory, in no particular hierarchy of merit.
    In the tradition of the Old Masters oil technique, local mentor Frank Dale (his portrait, Coquette, stunningly lives up to its name) and some of his beneficiaries are well represented. Those include Kristine Wyler and her diminutive, haunting portrait, The Dancer, and Michele Tokos’ poetic A Foggy Day. So much powerful lyricism on such tiny picture planes!
   There are occasional forays into varying degrees of 2D abstraction, though none as wholly nonobjective or challenging as Joan Willms’ small acrylic Mood Indigo. There’s a strange tension between its tentative, enigmatic waves of patterned, scratchy linearity and its slick silver (though arguably too bulky) frame.
   Among a total of 69 wall pieces, there are a few mixed media works, including a delightful assemblage by Cheryl Eul, Camofish, reminiscent of ritualistic tribal art.  It’s disappointing that there are only two printmaking entries in the mix, both of them intriguing metal plate works by Anna Rather. Her Crushing and Receding is a fantastical rendering of what might be a nature sprite caught up in a swirl of watery creatures and organic textures. Also disappointing is the relative scarcity of sculpture.
    For sheer mastery of craft, there are several exquisitely finessed entries. They include a colored pencil work by Sharon Frank Mazgaj, Shiny Things (First Place in “Other Media”); Emma, a quilt by Irene Tobias Rodriguez (Second Place); The Road Home, an oil landscape by Pat Ripple; Waiting For Incoming Tide, a watercolor by Wanda Frease (First Place in Water Media); and a small stoneware sculpture that looks remarkably like cast bronze, Balancing Snow Boy by Laura Donnelly.
    Equally exquisite are Girl From Ipanema, a figural watercolor by Nancy Stewart-Matin, and an acrylic botanical painting by Judi Krew, King of the Hill. Both employ a robust color and compositional dynamic. Stewart-Matin’s mark making is at once delicate and sure in its clarity and fluidity, with some passages recalling the contemplative elegance of Asian brush painting. Krew achieves an almost crystalline effect with her vibrant planes and wedges of color, suggestive of a stained glass window.
    So, without belaboring too mush much the negative, and to continue the Gump (grump?) analogy, while many confections can be, say, too sweet, sour, hard, or soft, the aforementioned delicacies are…just right.

    PHOTOS, from top: King of the Hill by Judi Krew; Shiny Things by Sharon Frank Mazgaj; The Road Home by Pat Ripple; Camofish by Cheryl Eul; Girl From Ipanema by Nancy Stewart-Matin

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jonah Jacobs' Tactile Microcosms





Jonah Jacobs’ Tactile Microcosms

By Tom Wachunas


    EXHIBIT: Post Human Biomes, work by Jonah Jacobs, THROUGH MAY 13 at Journey Art Gallery, 431 4th Street NW, downtown Canton / Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday Noon to 6 PM / or by appointment  330.546.7061  www.journeyartgallery.com  

    biome: a major ecological community type, e.g. a tropical rain forest, grassland, or desert  (Merriam-Webster)


    At first blush, the title of the Jonah Jacobs exhibit at Journey Art Gallery bodes vaguely apocalyptic. While “Post Human Biomes” might initially smack of scarred environs or ecosystems surviving some sort of Malthusian catastrophe, this is decidedly not the message conveyed by Mr. Jacobs’ intriguing visual explorations.
   These are tactile clusters of upcycled materials that are, in a way, three-dimensional documents of the artist’s intensely meticulous manual labors. In a larger sense, those repetitive labors have yielded mesmerizing forms that hover invitingly somewhere between familiar surfaces and mysterious, inflated 3D molecular maps. You might call these structures, at once simple and complex, discrete metaphorical ecologies wherein the changeable climate is color itself – vibrant, even joyous.
    The substances that comprise these mixed media sculptural works are common if not somewhat unconventional. A good example is the large wall piece, a half-dome configuration called Peridium I (referring to the outer, spore-bearing coat of fungi such as mushrooms): egg cartons, oatmeal, salt, sand, plaster and model railroad gravel. Materials in other works include cotton swabs and finely shredded fabrics and papers. Don’t be denied a surprise by looking too quickly at the modestly-scaled The Living Word. The uniformly miniscule pieces of green-dyed paper (hint: it’s newsprint) make it appear to be a simple swatch of artificial turf. But as is the case with all the pieces here, really close scrutiny is its own reward.
    Another admirable enticement here is the inclusion of many smaller-scaled (roughly hand-sized), affordably priced modules. Each is an elegant unit in itself, yet made so that buyers could design and assemble multi-part, in-home pieces of their own.
   There is a sensual, spectacular density in Jacobs’ motifs of repeated small forms congealing to make larger systems or symbiotic “communities.” Often seething with opulent, bristling textures, they can alternately suggest animal, foliate, or mineral microcosms, not unlike coral reefs, lush gardens, or exotic geodes. These constructions are wholly beguiling transformations of ordinary ingredients into extraordinary evocations of nature’s intricate and fecund architectures.

    PHOTOS, from top (first three courtesy Judi Krew/ SnarkyArt Studio, bottom photo from Jonah Jacobs Facebook page): Installation view, Acretion (36” diameter) in foreground; Blue and Violet Polyp I; The Lines Begin to Blur; Peridium I (28” diameter)