Friday, October 12, 2012

Not the Usual Crowd

Not the Usual Crowd

By Tom Wachunas 

        EXHIBITION: Stark County Artists Exhibition 2012, at The Massillon Museum THROUGH OCTOBER 31, 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon / (330) 833 – 4061 /

    Since its opening on September 15, I looked long and hard at this juried show of 53 works by 36 artists – twice.  Both times I came away a little edified and yet underwhelmed. The expected incidence of bland, silly or problematic entries seems unusually extensive this time around, and it’s difficult to get really excited about the show as a whole.

    On the one hand, it may well be the most tepid incarnation of this annual event in several years. On the other, while somewhat short on works that are outright breathtaking, the show is replete with cerebral curiosities.

    In this heady realm, there are indeed many entries off the beaten path. Lauren Elaine Baker’s Brain Candy is a humorously minimalist/conceptual stack of phosphorescent pink and yellow squares of bubble wrap stacked on a pedestal. While arguably intriguing at first taste, its sassy appeal is short-lived, not unlike the come-down after a sugar buzz.

     Also waxing strange are entries by Annette Yoho Feltes, Elizabeth Dallas, and Erin Meyer. Feltes’ mixed media sculpture, Two Mouths to Feed, is a tantalizing rendering of otherworldly if not vaguely erotic-looking quadrupeds. Dallas’ gak-pak, which garnered an Honorable Mention, is a stark, two-toned woodcut that reads like a visual haiku to grain patterns. Equally stark is Meyer’s Scars – an amorphous homage, maybe, to chance encounters with gel medium accidents. Her oil painting, Schwester (German for Sister), however (Honorable Mention), is more substantial and engaging. For all its visceral paint treatment and abstracted figurations, it’s nonetheless tender in a mysterious sort of way. {Note to Erin Myer: might Ich Liebe Meine Schwester be an appropriate thought here?} 

    One factor that may be contributing to the ‘alternative’ flavor of this exhibit is the increased presence of unfamiliar artists than in the past. I’m guessing that some of these are perhaps newer and/or younger arrivals on the Stark County exhibition scene. It’s worth noting that within Stark County there is a “core element” of artists who have for years on end consistently “made it” into juried shows such as this one. Relatively few from that element are visible here. Consequently, the usual percentage of painting and drawing in the traditional Representation as well as Abstraction genres is noticeably small.

    Particularly remarkable in this area are: two exquisite oil pastel entries by Diane Belfiglio (Digression into Detail I and II); the marvelously gestural landscape drawings by Lawrence Baker (A Beginning and Cape of Catena); the whimsical, photorealistic acrylic painting by Dirk Rozich (Love Sick – Honorable Mention); and the genuinely intriguing abstract paintings from Jack McWhorter (Dismal Swamp and Living Out of Water) and Sherri Hornbrook (Shift). Maggie Duff was awarded Best In Show for her oil, Twin Bed Painting. Best? Arguable, though certainly the biggest. Both raw and refined, the unmade mattress exudes an uncanny poeticism.

    This year, the straight photography entries are for the most part uninspiring, though Jody Hawk’s Third Place-winning 3’d St. Bridge is a formally elegant, even haunting composition. In the digital realm, there’s a stressed, archival sensibility about Free Home, a delightfully surreal fantasy by Michael Weiss. And the slick, vividly hued abstract Spring Bloom by Jerry Domokur has the softened look, ironically enough, of an airbrush painting.

    I wonder anymore if it’s possible or reasonable to think that a single exhibit could point to such a thing as a Stark County aesthetic gestalt. Let’s for the moment suppose there is. Based on this show, a first-time visitor to our region might understandably come away with the idea that, with some notable exceptions, our richly varied iconography is more grounded in conceptual subtlety and esoteric understatement than in compelling spectacle.

    PHOTOS (top to bottom): Twin Bed Painting by Maggie Duff; Schwester by Erin Meyer; Two Mouths to Feed, by Annette Yoho Feltes  


Cristina C said...


Interesting blog. Welcome to

:) Take care!

ERIN said...

Hello! Erin Meyer here... I appreciate the feedback greatly. I just now came across your blog....(we may have met at the opening but I am uncertain????) If you are interested in talking about art, art history, the "artist" or contemporary painting, I am very interested in that subject matter. I have new-ish website: .......if you would like to share some insight about my recent work or talk about art, there is contact information on my website! or we could talk/ meet at the next opening for the stark county artist exhibition?