By Tom Wachunas
EXHIBIT: Vista Botanica, at Gallery 6000: works by Carolyn Jacob, Judi Krew, Eleanor Kuder, Margo Miller and Ron Watson THROUGH OCTOBER 30, 2015 / located in the CONFERENCE CENTER DINING ROOM at KENT STATE UNIVERSITY AT STARK, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio. OPENING RECEPTION on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 5:30-7:30 P.M.
PLEASE RSVP to Lori Caughey at 330-244-3518, or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.” -Paul Cezanne
“Paint the essential character of things.” -Camille Pissaro
At the risk of indulging overly much in shameless self-aggrandizement, I’m telling you right now that in the roughly seven years that I’ve been curating group exhibitions at Gallery 6000, I don’t believe I’ve hung a show that fills the space with more delicious snap, crackle, and pop than this one. The cereal…er, uhm, serial feel of these botanical or landscape-themed works from five artists sets up an exhilarating journey through dazzling colors, forms, and textures. Call it a paean to Nature’s exquisite material structures and ineffable spiritualities.
Toward that end, my inclusion of Ron Watson’s charcoal drawings may seem an improbable or counterintuitive one. But I think the idea he has rendered here speaks to subtler aspects of landscape art than do the visual components we typically encounter in the genre.
If ever there was a primordial drawing medium, it’s charcoal – carbonized remnants of trees, essentially. From that perspective, there’s an intrinsic hauntedness and timeless quietude about Watson’s drawings. I don’t see these as depictions of foreboding skies or fields so much as soulful tone poems about contrasts – organic natural architectures silhouetted in misty atmosphere. And even at their most opaque or saturated, the velvety blacks still seem to breathe.
Speaking of breathing in primordial Nature, while weeding through the loamy remnants of my summer garden recently, I was reminded of Eleanor Kuder’s arresting mixed media works on paper. Spatial depth in her pictures has for the most part been compressed into shallow planes dense with literal and abstracted references to floral life, such as in In The Garden. There’s a delightful, palpably spontaneous energy in the way Kuder incorporates linear contours that alternately define her forms and dissolve into animated clusters of radiant color.
Expressionistic linearity of a different sort energizes the luscious sylvan character of the large oil canvases by Margo Miller. Undulate, for example, effectively lives up to its name with its rhythmic intertwining of large leafy forms in analogous blues and greens, punctuated by smaller “undergrowth” markings in complementary hues. All four of Miller’s works here balance the micro with the macro to evoke a sense of mystical discovery. The flowing breadth of her tactile brush strokes exudes remarkable gestural confidence, giving the notion of “forest” a metaphysical dimensionality.
Judi Krew’s acrylic paintings sizzle with chromatic electricity. I’ve never seen ROY G. BIV so splendidly attired. Krew’s deft management of a hyperbolic palette, spread across a complex formal composition with spatial ambiguities, is particularly intriguing in her spectacular Shadow Play. Reversals of figure/ground, negative/positive shape dynamics make the shadows of buds and blossoms appear like so many spritely ghosts dancing amid the cactus forms.
Rounding out this gathering are the digital photographs by Carolyn Jacob. Her approach is richly varied, ranging from documentary, as in the beatific Floralique, to the abstract, almost painterly Impression of a Rose. For all their modesty of scale, Jabob’s images constitute a decidedly enlarged vision of botanical lyricism. As such, they’re a stunning contribution to an exhibit best seen as an encounter with pure enchantment.
PHOTOS, from top: In The Garden, by Eleanor Kuder; Floralique, by Carolyn Jacob; Undulate, by Margo Miller; Cattails, by Ron Watson; Shadow Play, by Judi Krew