Friday, May 10, 2013

Verdant Visions

Verdant Visions
By Tom Wachunas

    “It is Spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
    -Rainer Maria Rilke

    EXHIBIT: Verdant Visions at Gallery 6000, on view THROUGH JUNE 21, located in the University Center Dining Room on the Kent State University at Stark campus, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton. ARTISTS RECEPTION is on MONDAY EVENING, MAY 13, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Please RSVP to Becky DeHart at (330) 244-3518 or

    Lately I’ve been reminded that it’s possible to over- think and/or over-teach a subject – in my case, the course I teach at Kent Stark called “Art as a World Phenomenon.” Ooooh, such a serious (and somewhat unmemorable) name for what was formerly called “Art Survey” - essentially art appreciation. What, really, was so wrong with the old name of the course? Who comes up with this stuff anyway? But I digress.

    In my passion for communicating what visual artists do and how they do it, perhaps I give too much undeserved glory to the philosophical pretensions and contradictions of Postmodernist art. Such heady attention to contemporary art issues can come at the cost of downplaying the sheer pleasure that can be had in embracing conventional Representation and Naturalism on its own terms. Mea culpa.

     Recently I read a considerable number of papers by my students who apparently thought that every painting of things seen in nature must necessarily be symbolic in order to be valid or relevant, as in having “meaning” or an underlying “message” beyond the visual evidence at hand. But it seems to me that really seeing a masterfully painted flower, for example, can (or should be) an ennobling, joyous experience in itself. Encountering “traditional” art need not be a challenge to solve some presumed mystery.

    So for those bent on finding a message in the current show at Gallery 6000, try this one on for size, with apologies to Gertrude Stein: sunlight is sunlight, shadow is shadow, a rock is a rock, a flower is a flower, a cloud a cloud. Get the picture(s)?

    The exhibit features 18 vibrant works by five highly accomplished artists: Diane Belfiglio, Jim Grand, Irene Tobias Rodriguez, Kris Wyler and Isabel Zaldivar. Their excellent images in watercolor, oil, acrylic and pastel explore the sumptuous textures, light, and brilliant colors of spring through floral and landscape themes.
    Stop and smell the roses? Come to think of it, there’s nary a rose to be found in this spectacular celebration of the season. Still, the show is resplendent with a sublime aroma, as it were, of poetry that only Nature can inspire and skilled hands make palpable.

    PHOTOS: (from top) Azaleas’ Song of Spring by Irene Tobias Rodriguez; Passion in Pink II by Diane Belfiglio; North Light – View from my Studio by Jim Grand

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