By Tom Wachunas
“To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.” - Henri Matisse
EXHIBIT: FLOW – Abstracting Mundane Environments / recent oil paintings by Ariana Parry, at Gallery 121 / 121 Lincoln Way West, downtown Massillon / THROUGH SEPTEMBER 3, 2016 / Hours: Monday 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11a.m.-1 a.m.
One of the more edifying perks of being an adjunct faculty member in the Art History department at Kent Stark is to witness the progress of the studio arts students, particularly in painting, under the guidance of Professor Jack McWhorter, Coordinator of the Kent Stark Art Departmnet. For some years now, I’ve seen the best of those students, Ariana Parry among them, as they’ve been amply equipped with a deep understanding of pure painting to be a constantly evolving process and a distinct language – both visual and visceral.
Here are some of McWhorter’s thoughts on painting as he teaches it, excerpted here from an ARTWACH post on April 15 of this year:
“…students develop a body of work that explores issues of color theory, form through value and tone, and a better understanding of spatial relationships within the picture plane… students achieve a certain level of proficiency and explore their potential for personal expression in painting… Visual emphasis on physical qualities of paint and gesture can supersede recognizability of the still life source. I encourage the students to become sensitive to viscosity of paint and method of application; to be inventive, daring, innovative, and to experiment with mixing colors directly on the canvas as well as on the palette…”
“…To be inventive, daring, innovative…” In this, her first solo exhibit - her declaration of independence, as it were - Ariana Parry shows the ripened fruits of her undergraduate labors in grand style, with vibrant works that speak with notable confidence. The stentorian intensity of her colors can be quite impish and bold at times, yet effectively tempered with a lyric subtlety and spontaneous fluency of gesture amid the playful, sensual thrum of her pictorial structures. I think that in many of her canvases, you could liken the evident motions of the brush in her hand to the rhythmic constancy articulated by a facile, improvisatory jazz drummer.
These paintings are more than just deconstructed or abstracted “mundane environments”, or more than expressionistic “pictures” of specific or familiar locales. Mundane perhaps, but certainly not banal. Viewers could be well-served to think of the paintings’ titles - such as “Under the Bridge”, “The Studio”, or “The Woods” – not so much as final destinations, but more as the starting points of thrilling visual adventures. Parry’s canvases are indeed places unto themselves. Electrified places. Places where youthful painterly swag lives.
Be prepared to smile.
PHOTOS, from top: The Studio #2 / The Woods / Pathway / The Studio / Under the Bridge