Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ascendance: Stark's Vision-Makers, Part 2

Ascendance: Stark’s Vision-makers Collected, Part 2

By Tom Wachunas

The many shortcomings of the recently closed Annual Stark County Artists Exhibition at the Massillon Museum are yesterday’s news. For a far more balanced and, piece-for-piece, substantial show of Stark’s artistic diversity and excellence, try and get to the Stark Arthology artists show at the Canton Museum of Art before it closes on Sunday (November 28). The show is the real-life component of the new (and first) book published by Indigo Ink Press, “Stark Arthology” (see my post from November 13). While the book’s excellent photographs (by Tim Belden) of the artworks are as fine as they come, no photos can ever be expected to fully capture all the nuances of other mediums. Many thanks to the Canton Museum for slotting what time it could, and the beautiful job in mounting the show.

Before going much further, honesty compels me to remind you that as in any juried exhibition (and in essence, that’s what Stark Arthology is), some real clunkers got in (though thankfully not near to the extent we saw in Massillon), and there are some startling omissions. C’est la vie. In any case, blame and/or bless the jurors. Let’s hope for a second round some day. Overall, though, this collection is considerably more stunning than stultifying.

Among the works here that have previously made their way through the exhibition circuit, some still thrill me to the marrow, regardless of when they were made or how often I see them. Diane Belfiglio’s astonishingly crisp acrylic painting, “Ascent With Geraniums,” (1997, page 15 in the book) is a gorgeous jewel of sunlit, architectural lyricism. Christopher Triner’s oil, “Autumnal Sunrise,” (2005, page 69) continues to hypnotize with its pulsating color clouds. Like Rothko on steroids. I had forgotten how the lavish, Baroque-flavored frame around Erin Mulligan’s delightful oil “Firebreathing Rabbits” (2005, page 56) acts like a portal into her surrealistic fantasy. And by our local master-practitioner and teacher of the old masters’ Flemish technique (also seen in the Mulligan work), Frank Dale, “Leitzel” (2005, page 29) remains among the most haunting, subtle, and beautifully composed portraits I’ve ever seen. Anywhere, anytime.

And while we’re on the subject of that technique, “Guilt” (2009, page 33), by Steve Ehret, is marvelously haunting too, as in macabre. Call it a collision between Harry Potter and Hieronymus Bosch. Among other surprising works (which is also to say that if they’ve been in other local exhibits, I must not have been paying attention), there’s Joe Martino’s mixed media “Jungle Moon” (2009, page 48), a tantalizing, fluid abstraction of tactile mysteries in the nocturnal wild. Abstract, too, is “Symphony” by Tiffany Marsh (not pictured in the book, though her “Juvenile Bluebird” is on page 47). Extremely so. It’s an utterly visceral image that at first appears to be pure accident. Paint and plaster combine (conspire?) to suggest scarred and blistered earth mixed with desiccated organic matter. On a brighter landscape note there’s the acrylic “Peace On Earth” (2010, page 21) by Renie Britenbucher, with its impossibly luminous hills in rainbow colors under a deep blue night sky. The scene is lovingly aglow with child-like wonder.

Placed about midway through the exhibit is a tall pedestal topped by “Grey Owl,” a sculpture made from what seem to be hundreds of small reclaimed steel scraps by Patrick Buckohr (his “Rhino” is on page 22 of the book). It’s a thoroughly dramatic and awe-inspiring construction. With it wings spread wide and talons opened to literally grab our attention, the owl is frozen in its ascent (or is it landing?), and appears to survey the visions around it and all who might join its scrutiny. A trophy of sorts, and fitting evidence of a triumphal, albeit short-lived show. In lieu of seeing it, then, the book is surely the next best thing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Photo: “Grey Owl,” reclaimed steel, by Patrick Buckohr

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