Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Up Close and Public
Up Close and Public
By Tom Wachunas
Look! Up in the sky! It’s…another piece of public art in downtown Canton! According to ArtsinStark, it’s public art work number 41. By now, those of you who have followed my musings about Canton’s public art installations know that a good portion of them have brought out the curmudgeonly gadfly in me. The works that I once complained about still set my teeth on edge. Those are simply bad art, and otherwise the lowest common denominators of artistic quality. It’s not reasonable to think they’ll improve with age. ‘Nuff said.
So relax. This entry isn’t a slam against the latest unveiled project, Joseph Close’s “The Sky Is The Limit.” Located on the Timken Campus Skywalk at the corner of McKinley and West Tuscarawas Street, the 12’ x 40’ “mural” is another slam-dunk for Close, and a welcome one for Canton’s public art profile. Coordinated by ArtsinStark, the project was originally the brain-child of attorney Allen Schulman, and sponsored by Aultman Health Foundation, Coon Restoration and Sealants, and Hilscher-Clarke. The theme of the work embraces the broad range of educational experiences available to students at Timken High School.
One of my earliest encounters with the work of Joseph Close was his enthralling “Gaia’s Hope,” another public artwork from 2007, located on the side of the parking garage at 3d Street NW and Court Avenue. Since then he has consistently produced works that have set him significantly apart from the Canton art pack. That’s certainly not to disparage the pack. Rather, it is to say that his work confounds easy definition or labeling. Frankly, I think he’s a tool-belted sorcerer, or a shaman-transformer with a brush in one hand, a blow torch in the other. With a palette more solemn than somber, he wrests dignity from industrial detritus, grace from garbage, poetry from the mundane.
While the symbolism in “Gaia’s Hope” seems somewhat arcane (yet utterly fascinating), “The Sky Is The Limit” is more viewer-friendly, with its painterly montage of images depicting pursuits of science, engineering, sports, and the arts. It’s imprecise to call it simply a mural. Yes, the pictorial configuration is “two dimensional.” But like “Gaia’s Hope,” the work is not so much a painting on the building wall surface as it is a tactile vision-cloud emerging from it – a relief sculpture of sorts.
And speaking of relief, it’s gratifying to know that that the planners and supporters of this marvelous addition to the local public art inventory got it right this time. Joseph Close has provided us with a work we can literally look up to, and savor for both its artistic integrity and its message: Canton’s hope.
Photo, courtesy ArtsinStark: “The Sky Is The Limit,” by Joseph Close.