Visiting Our Back Pages
By Tom Wachunas
“It takes a very long time to become young.” -Pablo Picasso-
“Ah, but I was so much older then/ I’m younger than that now.” - lyrics from “My Back Pages” by Bob Dylan-
EXHIBITION: Then and Now, at Translations Gallery THROUGH OCTOBER 27, 331 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton. ONLY 4 DAYS REMAIN - Gallery viewing hours are Wed. – Sat. Noon to 5 p.m. www.translationsart.com
Translation staffer Heather Bullach curated this invitational group show with a refreshingly clever challenge to the participants – to take an artwork made during their youth (pre-school through high school) and recreate in the present. The new work could be a replication of content, idea, method or a combination thereof.
The participating artists are: Kevin Anderson, Grainne Bird, William Bogdan, Gabriella Boros, Tim Carmany, Staci Leech-Corwell, Michelle DeBellis, Libby Bracy Doss, Steve Ehret, Judi Longacre, Megan Mars, Emily Mills, Brittany Steigert, Carly Swenson, Fredlee Votaw, and yours truly. [Thank you very muchly, Heather, for the opportunity.]
As group shows go in these parts, it’s an expectedly mixed bag of styles, content and quality – not wholly spectacular, but certainly far from forgettable. Not surprisingly, the ‘Then’ aspect of the exhibit is unencumbered by any truly astonishing techniques or mind-boggling concepts. As for the ‘Now’ element, there seems to be an overall spirit among the artists of genuinely and skillfully savoring a memory from years ago.
Even as their new works here generally retain an aura of child-like directness - the hand-colored woodcut (like crayon in a coloring book) by William Bogdan, or the collaged, Disneyesque water world by Judi Longacre, for example - some are relatively more developed in their interpretation of the ‘Then’ original, such as Fredlee Votaw’s painterly, muscular homage to his older brother. And for the sheer joy of fantasy mechanics, there’s Kevin Anderson’s delightfully kinetic close encounter with Old McDonald’s farm – a combination lamp/flying saucer that perpetually beams up and drops down a miniature cow.
But in the end, the show makes me feel prompted to take off my critic hat altogether and simply reflect on a larger, more personal idea it brings to mind. Revisiting my youthful creative effort included in this show, and re-presenting it in my current methodology, has been an invigorating reminder. I suspect I’m not alone in observing that making art can be as much very serious fun as it is a seriously joyous, real labor. I would never have it otherwise. Still deeply rooted in childhood’s curiosity and wonderment at being alive, grasping with equal fervor at life’s perplexities and revelations, making art continues to be a necessary, beautiful compulsion.
PHOTOS, top to bottom : William Bogdan ‘Then’/ William Bogdan ‘Now’ / Fredlee Votaw ‘Then’ / Fredlee Votaw ‘Now’