Friday, January 7, 2011

Salon Superlative

Salon Superlative

By Tom Wachunas

In my last review of an exhibit by a group of artists under the collective name of “Art from the Salon” (at The Little Art Gallery, reviewed June 14, 2010), I ended on a note of assurance that whenever the group’s next show might be, it would be a thrilling one. I’m happy to report that it’s now (at Gallery 6000), and it most certainly is (thrilling).

But first, let’s recap a little history. This show consists of 12 artists working in a wide range of media. Several years ago, Nancy Stewart Matin was hosting regular work sessions, and exhibiting, with a group of fellow artists, and adopted the name “Watercolor Wizards.” That evolved into “Watermedia Wizards,” and then into their current and considerably more evolved incarnation. This “Salon” loosely conjures 15th - 19th century French “schools” (ateliers) that gathered in the private studios of accomplished master artists. There, teacher and students worked in an atmosphere of vigorous discipline and lively critique. This method of training artists would give rise to the 18th and 19th century Paris Salon exhibitions. While Matin doesn’t lord it over her group in the fashion of the atelier taskmasters of old, hers is nonetheless a facilitating presence meant to encourage, inspire, and otherwise prompt, even with suggested “assignments.” Make a work with colors you’ve never used before, for example.

Oh to be the proverbial fly on a wall in Matin’s home studio when she and her imaginative band of fecund spirits meet. What exactly transpires there that could make these artists turn out works as consistently engaging as these? Maybe something in their tea? Or is the wine particularly special? But seriously, this industrious collaborative has once again delivered a notably solid show. Matin is joined here by Cynthia Capestrain, Sharon Dulabaum, Russ Hench, Pam LaRocco, Ted Lawson, Judi Longacre, Nancy Michel, Sharon Noble, Lynn Weinstein, Gail Wetherell-Sack, and Kristine Wyler.

What’s most apparent among the watercolors and watercolor collages here – by Dulabaum, Lawson, Longacre, Matin, Michel, Noble, and Wyler - is alternately a bold experimentation with color, loose drawing, rich textures, and lavish brush energy. The same can be said of the acrylic paintings “Downeast” by Pam LaRocco and “Abstract Cityscape” by Lynn Weinstein. Their surfaces in particular have a marvelously visceral, sculpted quality. In the realm of more conventional representation, the masterful oil paintings by Dulabaum and Capestrain are nothing short of stunning - Capestrain’s “Lemons of Corsica” exquisitely succulent, Dulabaum’s portrait, “Beth,” wondrously sensitive and alive. The mixed media assemblages by Wetherell-Sack and Hench add another kind of resonance to the show with visions that vibrate somewhere between poetic whimsy and eloquent mystery. Wetherell- Sack’s “A Green Scene: Techno/Lime” is a surreal, electrifying digital-deco interior, and Hench’s “Untitled” is at once antique and thoroughly modern – a crystalline, coppery universe unto itself.

And so it is that while styles and content vary widely - from abstract to representational, from elegantly refined to spontaneous and raw - this is one show that exudes a warm, exciting joie d’vivre. It’s a fine start to the new year, and just the cure for those cold winter doldrums.

THE EXHIBIT OPENS WITH A RECEPTION ON WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.. PLEASE RSVP TO BECKY DEHART at (330) 244 – 3518, or The exhibit runs through March 21. Viewing hours past the opening reception are limited, so you may want to call in advance to confirm available times. Gallery 6000 is located in the University Center on the campus of Kent State University Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton.

Photo: Detail of “Untitled” mixed media assemblage by Russ Hench.

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