By Tom Wachunas
“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” –Julia Cameron
Exhibit: Surrenderings at Lynda Tuttle’s Art Center, THROUGH JULY 25, 209 6th Street NW, downtown Canton. Gallery hours: Wednesday and Thursday Noon to 5 p.m. / Friday Noon to 7 p.m. / Saturday 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Participating artists: Bill Bogdan, Karen Bogdan, Margene May, Sandy Paradis, Clare Sikora, Amy Tuttle, Lynda Tuttle, David Whiteman, Nicole Wong, Charlene Snyder, Lynda Rimke. www.lyndatuttle.com
Lynda Tuttle, owner and curator of Lynda Tuttle’s Art Center in downtown Canton, offers this definition of surrender for her latest group show of 11 local artists, titled Surrenderings: “The act of laying down an inner desire or will for the greater choice before us. Gut wrenching and painful, glorious and freeing…”
The operative theme here (and for that matter the look of the art) isn’t about illustrating disastrous outcomes or the frenzied waving of white flags amid abject defeat. The art, in a wide array of media, addresses something more subtle and deeply personal – maybe even noble. Call it a submission to, or acceptance of phenomena or circumstances beyond the artists’ personal control. These works, each accompanied by a statement from the artist, are essentially confessional in nature.
Among the more resonant works here are three self- portraits in pencil by Lynda Rimke. They’re simple yet disarmingly candid explorations of her medical condition called stereo-blindness. I get the sense that she’s not looking out at the viewer so much as carefully navigating the act of seeing. The mirror becomes her lens on an inward journey.
Clearly more outward-focused are the two sumptuous quilt works (collectively called Inception) by Karen Bogdan. Their surfaces shimmer with iridescent colors and metallic thread. Interlocking and overlapping organic shapes suggest waves of cosmic energy and clouds of light emanating from a central source – God in the act of creation. You might call them contemporary devotional icons, or close encounters of the divine kind.
The large, surreal black and white woodcut print called Shadows by Bill Bogdan (Karen’s husband) is at once earthbound and ethereal. The composition is an intriguing mix of symbols which seem to embrace the notion of existential impermanence – things, ideas, and people appearing and fading away with the passage of time. The persistence of change.
One fascinating twist here is Bogdan’s presentation of three smaller prints below the large main image. These smaller images are actually sections pulled from the original block. Two of those sections are upside down, so that what were images of “buried” forms in the large landscape above now appear to rise upward in perhaps a reference (taking a cue from the cross on the horizon in the large print) to the cycle of death and resurrection.
A consistent trait of Bogdan’s prints is their simplicity and rawness of drawing (cutting) along with the integration of visible grain patterns in the wood block. Another characteristic is the variability of saturation in his blacks. He hand-rubs his prints, which can result in a blotchiness that tends to give the imagery a diluted look - something I’ve regarded as mildly problematic in past pieces. Interestingly enough, though, these specific aspects work well together in Shadows, further imbuing the work with its strong sense of eerie transience.
When you visit this gallery, you’ll no doubt notice that Lynda Tuttle has assigned a significant portion of her wall space to ongoing exhibition of Margene May’s stunning, 2-D fiber portraits. But May offers another particularly compelling work in the Surrenderings show with her first venture into 3-D portraiture.
Her Surrender is a sculpture comprised of two pre-formed mannequin heads collaged with beautifully patterned pieces of black and white fabric. Prompted by the challenges faced, so to speak, by a single parent raising a child, the work depicts a mother and daughter. As in her wall pieces, May achieves a remarkable degree of subtle facial expressivity with her materials.
Notice, then, the faces. Mother is quietly somber, yet neither disconsolate nor hopeless. Her eyes are fixed in a gently contemplative, downward gaze, as if measuring her forward progress into uncertain territory. Daughter looks ahead with the slightest hint of a smile crossing her lips, secure and serene for the time being.
Sweet surrender indeed. It is a moment most exquisite.
PHOTOS (from top): Surrender by Margene May; Inception, quilt by Karen Bogdan; Shadows, three woodcut prints by Bill Bogdan