Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Gentle Fire: Stark's Vision-Makers Collected

A Gentle Fire: Stark’s Vision-Makers Collected

By Tom Wachunas

“The internet – the ubiquitous www - is a poor imitation of pulse, a digital cloud of cold cyber air. It doesn’t have an odor. It can’t be felt with flesh. Web pages don’t have a heft you can cradle close to your breast, cozy in bed or a favorite chair, soothed by the glow of a reading lamp. Give me my pictures and words in a book. Living things, I say. Books! Caress their pages as you turn them. They’ll return the favor. Go ahead, smell them. The aroma itself is an endangered species.”
- June Godwit -

Ahh, the sweet smell of success. I’ve been like the proverbial kid on Christmas Eve, breathless with anticipation, awaiting the release of “Stark Arthology.” The book is the inaugural publication from Canton’s non-profit publisher, Indigo Ink Press, and the first-ever anthology of Stark County artists - 69 of them to be exact. It’s due to hit many local stores on Saturday, November 20. So imagine my delight when Jessica Bennett – founder and executive director of Indigo Ink Press, and who also designed and edited the book – advanced me a copy hot off the presses (and oh yes, that smell!) with an invitation to review it. Yes, June Godwit, there is a Santa Claus.

Don’t write off the slender mass of this product as an indication that it is in any way inconsequential. As hard-bound paper products go, it’s as well-crafted and sparkling as any art anthology I’ve seen. Beyond that, the book is a seriously handsome, thoughtfully laid-out presentation of Stark County’ artistic energy. As a documentary of that energy, it is a sumptuous, revelatory homage to the diversity and depth - at times profound – of the creators in our midst. As such, this is a truly remarkable gift to both the artists and their devotees as well as an elegant invitation to the community at large to further embrace our burgeoning visual arts milieu.

Each artist page includes a photograph of a single work, artist’s statement and bio (of variable lengths and depths throughout), and a wondrously sensitive black-and-white head shot. Those subtle portraits are by Michael Barath and Thom Metz, while the excellent, true-to-the-original photographs of the artworks are (except where noted) by Tim Belden. The book, funded in part by a grant from ArtsinStark (with a portion of the book’s proceeds to benefit ArtsinStark’s SmArts initiative), also includes a foreword by David C. Kaminski, and introduction by publisher/editor Bennett.

In that astute introduction, Bennett notes that the artists’ words about their work are something they recognize as an expectation on the readers’ parts. Those words are nonetheless “…most often simple trappings – means to an end… But it’s the work that is the unexpected, the honest… The words are a well done fake, a counterfeit; the art is the genuine article.” I couldn’t agree more. This is after all not a literary anthology, but a testament to an entirely different language. Yet it is in its own right a “readable” language, beautifully visible here, describing a fire burning among us. Not a catastrophic blaze, to be sure, but certainly a figurative fire that burns consistently in the hearth of our local culture. It is a fire that casts a warming glow on what is both strange and familiar, ethereal and earthy, and on the guts and grace of living, fueled by the unique passions of these eminently gifted Stark County artists.

So here they are: Clare Murray Adams, Diann Adams, Sandy Adams, Kevin Anderson, Jeremy Aronhalt, Laura Barry, Tim Belden, Diane Belfiglio, Vicki Boatright (“BZTAT”), Craig “Uncle Dregg” Booth, Brandon Bowman, John M. Branham, Brittney Breckenridge, Renie Britenbucher, Patrick G. Buckohr, Jerry Adam Burris, Martin A. Chapman, Michele Cimprich, Joseph Carl Close, Carol R. DeGrange, Frank Dale, Lynn Digby, George DiSabato, Marti Jones Dixon, Steve Ehret, Donna Fuchs, Carolyn Jacob, Robert Joliet, Laura Kolinski-Schultz, Judi Krew, Bili Kribbs, David Kuntzman, Ted Lawson, Jeff Lowe, Billy Ludwig, Joanne Mariol, Brett Marriner, Megan Mars, Tiffany Marsh, Joe Martino, Nancy Stewart Matin, Bob Maurer, Sharon Frank Mazgaj, David McDowell, Stephen McNulty, Thom Metz, Wanda Montgomery, Erin T. Mulligan, Su Nimon, Scot Phillips, Tina Puckett, Mieze Riedel, Pat Ripple, Pricilla Roggenkamp, William Shearrow, Sarah Winther Shumaker, Hurshel Smith, Brittany Steigert, Judith Sterling, John Strauss, Christopher J. Triner, Angelina Verginis, Fredlee Votaw, Michele Waalkes, Michael Weiss, Keith Wilson, Shawn Wood, Isabel Zaldivar, Derek Zimmerman.

Indigo Ink Press and the Canton Museum of Art will be hosting an exhibit of StarkARThology artists at a ticketed launch party at the museum on the evening of Friday, November 19, where guests can get their hands on early copies of the book ($29.95). The exhibit will be on view through Sunday, November 28. Tickets for the launch party are $25 and are available at , by calling (330) 417 -7715, or at the door. ALSO, on November 20, Borders Books and Music at The Strip in North Canton will be hosting a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m.

Photo: “Fire-Breathing Rabbits,” oil, 2005, by Erin T. Mulligan, courtesy Indigo Ink Press.

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