Monday, August 12, 2019

Let's Mock-n-Roll


Let’s Mock-n-Roll


(l. to r.) Sean Fleming, Todd Cooper, Allen Cruz

Carly Ameling, Sean Fleming

Sean Fleming


By Tom Wachunas

   I don’t know where I’m going / But I sure know where I’ve been / Hanging on the promises / in songs of yesterday …”  lyrics from “Here I Go Again,” By David Coverdale and Bernie Marsden, of Whitesnake  

   Here they go again. They’ve been waiting for a show like this – to hit us with their best shot and fire away. They just couldn’t fight the feeling to feel the noize. Workin’ hard to get their fill, they all want a thrill and they don’t stop believin’. The final countdown to nothin’ but a good time and high energy is on. They wanna rock. They’re the ones who want to be with you with too much time on their hands, to kiss you deadly, and to melt your face in the heat of the moment with more than words. Yikes.

   The ‘they’ is Players Guild Theatre’s Jonathan Tisevich, directing Rock of Ages, with a scalding-hot cast of 14 performers, and an equally sizzling onstage six-piece band conducted by keyboardist Steve Parsons. The show is a jukebox musical, written by Chris D'Arienzo with music arrangements and orchestrations by Ethan Popp, constructed around famous “glam metal” hits of the 1980s, with snippets of more than 30 power ballads and gushy love songs woven into the action. The original Broadway production opened in 2009 and ran for 2,328 performances before closing in 2015.

  An insanely twisted tale set in 1987, Rock of Ages is about life and love in and around The Bourbon Room, a Sunset Strip rock club on the verge of being torn down to make room for retail stores. We hear from screeching, big-haired, crotch-grinding men and watch slinky parades of pole-dancing, derriere-wagging waitresses clad in neon-colored lingerie (costumes by Suwatana Rockland). If you look closely enough behind this elaborately constructed bar room façade (scenic design by Joshua Erichsen), however, you’re sure to find that much of the show is a deeply probing metaphor for… screeching, big-haired, crotch-grinding men and pole-dancing, derriere-wagging waitresses clad in neon-colored lingerie.

   The story is narrated by the infectiously goofy and mischievous Allen Cruz. He plays Lonny, the Bourdon Room house manager and sound man who has a noisy habit of disrupting the small number of genuinely tender moments the show has to offer. Most of those moments center on Carly Ameling - instantly charismatic and shining in her portrayal of Sherrie, the proverbial small-town girl who comes to L.A. to be an actress but reluctantly settles for doing lap dances – and Sean Fleming in his role of Drew, an aspiring rock singer whose high-range vocals could peel paint. Their could-be romance is sidetracked when Sherrie succumbs to the sexual prowess of the hopelessly self-absorbed, swaggering bad- boy megastar Stacee Jaxx, played with lascivious ferocity by Brandon Michael. Talk about breaching the fourth wall - as very much of the action does in this sprawling production - at one point he slingshots a pair of panties into the audience.

   There’s something of the mellowed hippie peeking through Todd Cooper’s portrayal of Dennis, the Bourbon Room owner who decides to mentor Drew in his efforts to be a successful rocker. Paralleling Cooper’s magnetism is that of Leiah Lewis in her role of Justice, owner of the strip joint that hires Sherrie.  And then there’s Morgan Brown as Regina (pronounced RegEYEna, she’s oh so careful to point out), an impish gadfly protesting the impending destruction of the Bourbon Room by greedy German mother and son developers, Hertz und Franz, played with chillingly cartoonish intensity by Hannah Kyriakides and Dylan Berkshire.

  Through it all is the titillating choreography by Brandon Leffler – a raucous mash-up of apparent spontaneity and studied stereotypes that leave few visual clichés unexplored, including some absolutely hilarious scenes that imitate classic cinematic slow-motion effects to exaggerate if not dismiss the kitschy sentimentality of the moment.

   So the show is a lurid yet not overly- loud caricature. On one level it’s a silly burlesque, an unapologetic parody, and an otherwise self-mocking Declaration of Dependence on Dopamine. Interestingly enough, the cast members seem to have made a serious business out of not taking this business of sex and drugs and rock-n-roll too seriously. Maybe you could think of them as Journey’s streetlights people, aboard a midnight train, this one headed to where the laughs go on and on and on…

PHOTOS by Dominic Iudiciani

Rock of Ages / Through Sept. 1, 2019,  at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday / no show on Aug. 10, and shows at 7 and 11 p.m. on Aug. 31 / at Players Guild Theatre Downstage, Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Ave. N, Canton, Ohio / TICKETS: $34 ($31 for seniors 65 and older), may be ordered at www.PlayersGuildTheatre.com  and 330-453-7619.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Remembering the Glory of Living


Remembering the Glory of Living

Kelly Strand, Andrew Gorell

Andrew Gorell, Bob McCoy

Aaron Brown (l), Andrew Gorell

(l.. to r.) Kelly Strand, Andrew Gorell, Heidi Swinford, Bob McCoy, Aaron Brown


BY Tom Wachunas

Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past.
 - T.S Eliot, from “BURNT NORTON” (No. 1 of ‘Four Quartets’)

Isn’t it rich? / Are we a pair? / Me here at last on the ground /You in mid-air/Send in the clowns  -  Stephen Sondheim

   There is certainly a conceptual kinship between Noah Haidle’s Smokefall and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Both plays are piquant narratives that explore, in varying degrees, the bittersweet dynamics of the ties that bind us to each other, and to simply being alive. But Haidle’s narrative -  chronicling four generations of a quirky family in Grand Rapids, Michigan – is a much more layered and complex journey through time. The play is mounted here by Seat of the Pants Productions and directed by Craig Joseph, who’s always on the look-out for powerful, challenging stage literature. He’s found it again. And again, he has assembled a superbly accomplished ensemble to articulate it. The play is an unflinching conflation of the mundane and the metaphysical, and profoundly rich in the way it melds together preposterous whimsicality, dark hilarity, and soulful tenderness.

   Throughout Act 1, the character named Footnote (Andrew Gorell) walks about the stage like a veteran tour guide. He addresses the audience in a finessed attitude of serious authority peppered with curiosity and surprise as he voices enumerated annotations on the actions and thoughts of all the other characters.

    We meet the sweet and sensitive Violet (Heidi Swinford), pregnant with twin boys (“mistakes,” Footnote observes). As she contentedly goes about her daily tasks, she sings gentle songs to them, inviting her family to speak to her unborn “citizens of the heart.”   But the pregnancy has only added to the fragile psychological state of her husband, Daniel (Aaron Brown). He’s depressed, disillusioned, apparently feeling burdened by the ho-hum of everyday routines. At one point we see Violet setting the breakfast table, putting down the cups one by one in a loud rhythm, as if marching, while upstairs at the bathroom sink the dour-looking Daniel - who has no intention of ever returning home once he leaves for work on this day- slaps his razor on the sharpening strap in an equally march-like rhythm. Is this the relentless striding of cruel time? There are other similarly nuanced details in the play, wherein an otherwise ordinary sight or action acquires a deeper symbolism. Footnote tells us what Daniel whispers to the twins: “Help me remember the glory of living.”  We find out later that the twins hear every word spoken in this troubled household.

   Meanwhile, Bob McCoy delivers a genuinely affectionate portrait of The Colonel, a widowed career army man still very much in love with his departed wife even as he wanders in the mists of dementia. He tells the twins, “God exists. Remember I said that…and that the greatest possible act of courage is to love.” And then there’s Beauty, 16-year-old daughter of Violet and Daniel, played by Kelly Strand. She’s heard the marital arguments, along with her father’s constant lamenting the incessant cost and noise of life in their house. In a very odd act of love and self-sacrifice, she hasn’t uttered a word for the last three years, and subsists on a diet of dirt, twigs, and paint. It’s a thoroughly endearing eccentricity that Strand conveys. In her speechlessness, she lets her precise body language do the talking, her face a veritable enchanted landscape of emotional expressivity.

   The play’s most fantastical scene transpires at the end of Act 1, with Aaron Brown as Fetus One, and our narrator, Andrew Gorell, as Fetus Two. Dressed in garish red plaid suits like a Vaudeville comic duo, they kick, curl, push, and shove their way (oh, the labor pains!) through ridiculous (or is it miraculous?) in-utero philosophizing about their impending entry to humanity. In this manic mash-up of Shakespeare, Sondheim, Sartre, and Samuel Beckett, one twin (Brown) is fatalistic and fearful, while the other is all giddy optimism and courage as the two finally agree to take the plunge, as it were. The scene ends on an unexpectedly shocking note.

   When Act 2 begins, a whole generation has passed. In another of those aforementioned symbolic moments, we notice that through one of the floated window panes in the elegantly simple set designed by Kevin Anderson and Micah Harvey, the branches of an apple tree have grown into the family house. It’s a new tree, planted to replace the diseased one that once stood in the same spot in Act 1. The past grown into the present.  Bob McCoy has returned in the role of Johnny, that optimistic twin, now living alone in the family house and seemingly haunted - or obsessed – by ideas about genetic determinism he acquired in the womb. His kitchen floor is strewn with fallen, partially eaten apples; he prunes the invasive branches. He has an estranged son, Samuel (Gorell / Fetus Two), who has visited to reconcile with his father, saying at one point, “You’re alone because you drove everyone who cared for you away!” Johnny retorts “You can’t outrun a lineage.”

   Beauty also returns, effusively talking about her 40 years of searching for her father. She’s 95 by now, but still looks 16. Another symbol, or another miracle – to remain young by refusing to abandon familial love?

   Smokefall is an aptly intriguing title for this extraordinary drama. T.S. Eliot used the term in writing about the movement of time in his great poetic swansong, “Four Quartets.” It’s that fog that can rise in the fading light at close of day, before the dark sets in. Alluring, mysterious, and obscuring all at once, it can be nevertheless a cathartic, even sacred time, when past, present, and future join to become a singular, revelatory force.

    Just like being alive, experiencing Smokefall, the story, requires of us a vigilant attention to the idea of pursuing the redemptive power of love and its potential to reconcile broken, disconnected hearts. The effort can be exhausting, but also exhilarating. “The attempt is how we live,” as the title of the second act reminds us. Putting aside all its strange magic and brooding humor for a moment, here’s theatre that is ultimately, lovingly...real.

PHOTOS by Aimee Lambes

SMOKEFALL / shows on August 9, 10, 11, 2019 /
Friday and Saturday at 8 PM / Sunday at 2 PM /
At The Playground at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Boulevard, Cleveland Heights 44118 / Tickets $20 at:


Friday, July 26, 2019

What I Did on a Summer Afternoon


What I Did on a Summer Afternoon

 Vaughan Williams

By Tom Wachunas

   “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” 
- Philippians 4: 8

   And now for something completely different. I suppose it would be noble and right and praiseworthy to be outdoors on this, one of the most perfectest summer days to come along in quite a while, tending and trimming any number of terribly neglected garden spots on my sprawling Perry Township estate.

   Instead, I’ve been busy at my desk, fulfilling my commitment to the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO), researching and writing program notes for the upcoming 2019-2020 season. My deadline is looming, and I’ve hundreds of words to write before I sleep.

    But something unprecedented has transpired today. It’s something that has left me in a kind of ecstasy – staggered, slack-jawed, stunned, and still marveling at a light far warmer and more bright than the shining sun itself on this gorgeous afternoon. So there’s no garden dirt on my sleeve today. Just my heart.

   As part of my research on a piece that the CSO will be performing on March 21, 2020, I watched and listened to a YouTube video of Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in an absolutely transcendent performance of a 1910 work by English composer Vaughan Williams, called Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. I offer this link for you to click in the hope that you can, regardless of your musical tastes, take the time to pause, breathe deeply, and hear with all your soul. Let your gardens and errands and chores wait. Relax, and be willing to be illuminated:


   Also, if you’re interested in the history of this work, here’s a link to a superb overview by Chris Myers:


   I simply can’t contain my awe of this glorious work. To keep it, I have to give it away. So call me giddy with gratitude – gratitude for the CSO, Thomas Tallis,  Vaughan Williams, the opportunity to share with my readers, and most of all, God. Amen.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Spoken from the Inside


Spoken from the Inside


"When You Wake You Will Have Cake" / 2019, cast paper

"Im Reading Them Again, the Ones You Didn't Burn" / cast paper

"Born in a Diaspora" / 2018, cast paper

"Beast of Burden" / 2018, bronze

"We Would Have Listened If We Had Known" / 2019, bronze and cast paper


By Tom Wachunas

   “…The birds are infused with my experience of prison, but not in the sense that birds are free. Flight for birds is not freedom; they fly to avoid death…” - Treacy Ziegler

   EXHIBIT: States of Waiting - work by Treacy Ziegler / at Massillon Museum Studio M, THROUGH AUGUST 11, 2019 / The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way, East (Ohio 172) in downtown Massillon. A visit to the Massillon Museum is always free.  Call the Massillon Museum at 330-833-4061 or visit  www.massillonmuseum.org  for more information.

   Ziegler writes the online art journal, "Broad Street Review," which can be read at:  


 Her website is  www.treacyzieglerfineart.com

 and the website for the prison work is   https://prisonerexpress.org 

   I viewed this sculpture exhibit weeks ago. It’s been haunting me ever since. Like a persistent sort of psychospiritual stalker. Many times I’ve asked my relentless pursuer, “what is it you want of me?”  Each time the answer is the same: “Your wonderment.” And so here I succumb.

   Treacy Ziegler describes an intriguing progression in her statement for this show: from seeing a science display of birds mounted in glass cases, to making drawings of those birds, and then on to bronze sculptures of the birds. “…I wanted to hold this round form in my hands,” she has written, and further on, “…I did not know why, but shortly after seeing the birds, I felt compelled to go into prisons…”

   That would lead to her teaching art in prisons, and establishing Prisoner Express, a through-the-mail entity affiliated with Cornell University which has enabled her to create projects for prisoners throughout the U.S. She receives approximately 20,000 letters from prisoners annually. This in turn led Ziegler to make additional sculptures in paper, cast from those letters. Rather than throwing the prisoners’ missives away, incorporating them into her sculptures of animals is, as she states, “…more respectful to the loneliness, hope, despair, and gratitude often reflected in the letters.”

   Yes, there’s much to wonder about here, much beyond the pale of comfortable certainty. What are we to make of those big sheep forms made from the paper of prisoners’ letters? Sheep. Docile, dominated, destined to be shorn. Or slaughtered? In “When You Wake You Will Have Cake,” 24 sheep heads are lined up on long shelves along two walls of the gallery. This stark procession of creatures with mouths clenched shut and eyes like unfathomable caverns might well be a metaphor for the societally-sanctioned subculture of institutionalized apartheid and diaspora that we call prisons.

   And what of those birds? Guardians, or hunters? Overseers of dreams and messengers of freedom, or harbingers of despair and futility? There’s a riveting conflation of opposing forces, of conflicted states of living, resonant in Zeigler’s pieces. They exude a kind of timeless, primal rawness and spirituality that reminds me of ancient totems, effigies, or idols.

   ‘States of Waiting,” Ziegler has titled this arrested (and arresting) body of work. Yet again I wonder: waiting for what, or whom, exactly?  And who’s doing the waiting? The artist? The prisoners she encounters? The artworks themselves, seeking our gaze? Can ‘waiting’ be more than merely serving time, and instead become a creative act - a potentially fruitful prelude to catharsis, to transformation?

   Or maybe it’s us, the viewers, who are ultimately the ones waiting. In all of its metaphorical symbolism, in all the questions or enigmas it may raise in our minds and hearts, this is truly compelling art. Looking at it is indeed to enter a state of waiting.

   So we wait. We wait and watch. And we watch until our surrender to the simple act of willful seeing becomes a state of…wonderment.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Expanding the Parameters of an Ancient Medium


Expanding the Parameters of an Ancient Medium 

"Something Stinks" by Lesley Baker

(l. to r.) "Sand", "Stash", "Headlights", by Lesley Baker

"Royal Pain" by Lesley Baker

Installation (detail), by Future Retrieval

Mallets 1, 2, 6, & 7, by Future Retrieval

"Beon Cloud Scoop" by Malcolm Mobuto Smith

"Hetet Cloud Scoop" by Malcolm Mobuto Smith


By Tom Wachunas


      EXHIBIT: DRAFTING Dimensions – Contemporary Midwest Ceramics / On view through July 21, 2019 at The Canton Museum of Art (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio / 330.453.7666 / Viewing hours: Monday – Closed; Tuesday - Thursday - 10am-8pm; Friday - Saturday - 10am-5pm; Sunday - 1pm-5pm /



   “…Artists who make work with ceramics often find themselves pigeonholed by the material. Pre-conceived notions of what the purpose or use of what an object is or might be abound. The motivation behind this exhibit is to push beyond the traditional thought process for clay and to embrace a more modern approach of using the material as a way to communicate a message or form more than any purpose or use….”  - Anderson Turner, curator of the Drafting Dimensions exhibit at the Canton Museum of Art

   An especially edifying aspect of this exhibit is that it’s not an ordinary display of ceramic statuary or utilitarian vessels set on pedestals or tables. The context here is much more engaging and complex than you’d encounter at a typical crafts show or art fair featuring works in clay.

   One way to think of the exhibition is as a visual essay on the artists’ respective processes of arriving at the particular objects we see. Those processes embrace a wide spectrum of ideas, decisions, and influences – both historical and contemporary – all nurtured by varying studio disciplines (drawing, painting, and other methods of design and manufacture). So if the exhibit as a whole is an intriguing essay on modern ceramic practices, then the actual clay objects you see (porcelain, stoneware, etc.) could on one level be considered as comprehensive, summary paragraphs.

   Lesley Baker’s ornate pieces recall an old tradition in the world of ceramics manufacturing – the mass production of decorative souvenir plates or figurines to recall a place or a time. Her objects are intricately detailed with sumptuous textures, vivid color glazes, and printed images (digital decals). But these exquisitely crafted pieces aren’t merely trite mementos of idealized flora and fauna. Threaded through them is a distinct sense of social commentary, such as in her porcelain plate, “Something Stinks.” Is that skunk poised to flee from, or spray on, the towering construction crane invading an otherwise idyllic landscape? Nature disturbed.

   “Patterns on wares sometimes tell a story,” Baker tells us in her statement. Referencing a recurring visual motif in several of her pieces here, she continues, “One recognizable image pattern is called ‘Willow,’ a Chinese export created for the European market. I see this pattern, a made-up love story, as a symbol for world trade, sometimes to the potential detriment of the fragile environment.”

   Future Retrieval is the name of the studio collaboration of Guy Michael Davis and Katie Parker. Here’s what they tell us of their work on their web site (hyperlink posted above): “The pieces created utilize three-dimensional scanning and digital manufacturing of found forms that are molded and constructed in porcelain, mimicking the history of decorative arts and design. Our process addresses the conceptualization, discovery, and acquisition of form, to make content-loaded sculptures that reference design and are held together by craft. We incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to our work, striving to make influential historic objects relevant to today.”

   The magnificent centerpiece of their contribution to this exhibit is like a panoramic period room. In this immersive tableau, an impressively rendered porcelain Rhesus monkey is perched atop an antique wood table, flanked by three ancient-looking vessels. Behind is a wide, curved wall depicting a lush, sprawling landscape. It’s a kind of technicolor paradise, meticulously constructed entirely from hand-cut painted paper. Future retrieval indeed, the monkey is posed like a serene king, surveying a world where nature has finally won out.

   Writing about his stoneware “Cloud Scoop” pieces, Malcolm Mobuto Smith explains, “My work is guided by improvisations that merge volumetric form with graphic flatness.” His playful and somewhat enigmatic configurations are in turn sparked by his interests in graffiti art and comic book graphics, along with his passion for Jazz and Hip Hop. The clay forms - which suggest amorphous teapots – are placed on small shelves against flat, brightly colored cloud-like shapes. Those fluid, organic shapes look as if they could have been ladled out on to the wall from the clay “scoops.”  

  Smith’s combinations of 2D shapes and 3D forms make a fascinating harmony. It’s a harmony which effectively echoes the overarching spirit of this exhibit - pushing traditional parameters of the ceramic medium beyond everyday functionality and into more purely contemplative realms.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Re-visited Reflections from a Discombobulated Patriot


 Re-visited Reflections from a Discombobulated Patriot

The United State of McMerica (2010)

Broken English Readymade (2016)

The Untied State of America (2017)


By Tom Wachunas

“Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see…So the fantasy corners of America…you’ve pieced them together from scenes in movies and music and lines from books. And you live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.”
― Andy Warhol

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”  ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

   Ah, Independence Day. Celebration. But these days, more intensely than ever before, I feel bothered, bewildered, befuddled by the spiritual malaise that has settled across our land - a viral cloud of discontent, disagreement, even despair. Discombobulation. My country, ‘tis to thee we bring our proud plethora of time-worn logos, promos, memes, and mottos. Yet despite the sheer weight of corrupted values and confused, conflicting voices that threaten to crush us once and for all, we’re still standing. Terribly wounded and divided, yes; morally destitute, starved for solutions, hungry for purpose and meaning, yes. Utterly splintered, yes.

   But amazingly, still standing. What could account for this? To whom do we owe our thanks for continuing to somehow survive our myriad self-made disasters and depravities? If this isn’t evidence of God’s merciful patience with his disconnected creation, I don’t know what is. Frankly, I’m mildly surprised we haven’t yet altered those promising and profound words on our coins and currency – “In God We Trust” – to read “In Us We Trust.” Would that be independence, or simply arrogance?

   Still standing. And here in 2019, I’m still standing by what I shared here back in October of 2017. You regular readers have seen this art of mine before.


   So I repeat what I wrote then, with this added thought: Nothing changes if nothing changes.

   …“Political” art? That’s too easy and convenient a descriptor. Try ‘spiritual exercises,’ or ‘meditations,’ or even prayers.  The pleas, the please, of a hurt heart. An S.O.S. – Save Our Soul. …One nation, under God?

   The American flag, abstracted on grocery bags. Grocery bags – containers of consumables, sustenance, nutrients, sanitation necessities. Grocery bags – containers for disposables, things unwanted, trash. White stripes scratched with letters. Detached syllables. Words and phrases once familiar, now fragmented, foreign, fraught.

   What do we stand for, and when? In whose presence? Untied, we kneel. The American Scream. Forgive us, Father, for we know not what we do.

   Not yet, anyway.

Monday, June 24, 2019

At the Crossroads of Built and Breaking


At the Crossroads of Built and Breaking

"The Life You Save Might Be Your Own"

"The Habit of Being"

"Everything That Rises Must Converge"

"The Violent Bear It Away"

"The Enduring Chill"



By Tom Wachunas

   “No structure, even an artificial one, enjoys the process of entropy. It is the ultimate fate of everything, and everything resists it.”
― Philip K. Dick, from Galactic Pot-Healer

   “Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy.”    - Václav Havel

      EXHIBIT: DRAFTING Dimensions – Contemporary Midwest Ceramics / On view through July 21, 2019 at The Canton Museum of Art (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio / 330.453.7666 / Viewing hours: Monday – Closed; Tuesday - Thursday - 10am-8pm; Friday - Saturday - 10am-5pm; Sunday - 1pm-5pm /


   In his eloquent website statement (click on the link above), Peter Christian Johnson has written that his sculptures are “…a meditation on entropy that uses architecture as a foil to examine the dichotomy of beauty and loss. I am interested in transformation, which is expressed in both destruction and growth…”

   In its broadest meaning and applications, ‘entropy’ is a measure of randomness or disorder. It’s generally recognized as a “law” or a given condition of any closed system, including the universe. In layman’s terms, things put together fall apart.

   You can get a good idea of Johnson’s working procedures by looking at the  two large wallboard panels covered with with his initial rough sketches, with some of them further refined through computer designs, and photos of various structures and sites that inspire his clay forms. His finalized ceramic objects can suggest any number of architectural forms - from elaborate urban towers, trellises, or bridges, to cathedral apses and naves. Made with delicate sticks of white porcelain, they appear to be bent by a confluence of heat and gravity. Are these intricately regulated configurations in the process of being covered by those irregular globs of colored glaze that look like a skin forming? Or are these meticulously constructed, pristine frameworks breaking free from such constraints?

   A particularly interesting aspect here is the way in which the objects are presented.  They’re not sitting on solid vertical pedestals. Each of the free-standing titled works is actually a tripartite entity occupying different planes in space via open-sided poplar stands supporting separate surfaces. It’s an elegant decision, imparting the sense that the object on the topmost “shelf” is the final step in a process – the result of evolving, associated thoughts or stages implied by the forms located below.

   If you think of the inherent tensions between our consciously organized physical and ideological systems and their gradual trending toward  morphing or collapse, then it’s possible to consider Johnson’s forms as metaphors for, or inquiries about, the very nature of our existence. The parameters of being alive place us always somewhere between our purposeful, intentional designs and the potential anarchy of uncertainty and decline.

    Between control and chaos, between building and brokenness, Johnson’s art is an intriguing crossroads where determinate solids meet unpredictable liquids. It’s a place where fragile permanence and inevitable mutability converge. Much like life.