Downtown Dumping Ground
By Tom Wachunas
Recently I drove by another public art piece by Canton artist Patrick Buckohr. It’s located outside the Center Ice Sports Complex in North Canton. At least I think it’s his. If it’s not, then someone out there has appropriated his style perfectly. Anyway, it’s another of his whimsical painted metal ring animals, done in the same mode as those that were commissioned by ArtsinStark (working in conjunction with other supporters) to adorn various street corners in downtown Canton. This one is a big, family-friendly penguin, which is appropriate enough for the location, as is, for that matter, his camel outside the Desert Inn Restaurant on 12th Street.
On close examination, these examples of “junk art” (as in pieces made from trash or recycled industrial bric-a-brac) are somewhat generic renderings, and not very exemplary of the elegance and depth I know Buckohr is capable of displaying. These are simplistic and cartoony – in short, lackluster drawings in 3-dimensional space. But if I’m picking a battle here, it’s not with Mr. Buckohr.
Encountering this style of public art to the extent that it’s currently present in downtown Canton borders on kitschy overkill. My problem isn’t so much with the art itself, as long as it’s sensibly placed in some sort of dynamic relationship to its surrounds. The problem arises when the placement of such pieces appears to be so arbitrary and disconnected, and their content so vapid. The problem is, just who is making these decisions? If the decision makers genuinely believe that Canton is in the glorious throes of a serious arts renaissance, why is so much of the public art they commission so downright amateurish?
When such art is foisted into the public arena, I wonder about the qualifications of those who do the foisting. I wonder if they have the sensibilities required to weigh real esthetic issues in supporting worthwhile public art. And I wonder how many more ill-placed monuments to mediocrity will appear before someone qualified says… enough already.