Pop Goes the Easel
By Tom Wachunas
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
- Robin Williams
EXHIBIT: Before the Streetlights Come On – Work by Kat Francis and Steve Ehret, to July 27, 2018, Tuesday and Thursday 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The Hub Art Factory, 336 6th Street NW, downtown Canton / 330–451-6823 /
Once again, I apologize for this late entry, as this exhibit at The Hub Art Factory is quickly approaching the end of its run. But I’ve been, uhm… really busy of late.
Anyway, after reading Dan Kane’s July 5 Repository piece on artist couple Kat Francis and Steve Ehret (click on the link above), I thought for a while how it might be interesting to be a fly on a wall in their home after they’ve each been making something. Do they have regularly-scheduled joint critique sessions on their latest projects? Is their exchange thick with arcane artspeak or deep philosophizing about compositional dynamics and iconographic content?
Maybe, maybe not. In any case, this delightfully eye-popping exhibit offers plenty of evidence that they inspire and influence each other. The oeuvre of one comfortably complements the other while remaining individually true to a discrete graphic methodology, mode of presentation, and personal aesthetic identity. Here is a memorable gathering of distinct yet compatible signature styles.
Looking at the exhibit can be a little like eavesdropping on the couple’s observances of people and occurrences in their urban neighborhood. Imagine the titles of their pieces as being snippets of conversation, or shared remembrances, some fond, some edgy. “When Tony was four he got hit by a pigeon while his head was sticking out the passenger side window”; “Our neighbor Rick is a creep”; “Dancing in a rainy day parking lot”; “Earl loved Mr. Ed growing up so much he almost turned into him”; “My neighbor Jay”; “You know that one guy who’s always sitting in his driveway watching cars drive by?”; “Ill communication”; “The one green patch”.
The organically-shaped, low relief configurations by Kat Francis – acrylic and graphite on wood cut-outs – have an adventurous, storybook feel, often emanating a tender and thoughtful spirit. The acrylic paintings on panels by Steve Ehret, on the other hand, might be a storybook as well, though one of a relatively more bold if not lurid sort. His renderings of heads and faces can seem like caricatures of caricatures, as if picking up where funky underground counterculture comix from the late-1960s to mid-1970’s left off. His technique is deftly tight and fluid all at once. Call it a controlled abandon - freakishly colorful and, like this entire show, unabashedly fun.
PHOTOS, from top: 1. Night Crawlers by Steve Ehret / 2. Keep the bubbly coming, by Steve Ehret / 3. Baby Squirrel Brigade, by Kat and Steve / 4. Dancing in a rainy day parking lot, by Kat Francis / 5. Ill communication, by Kat Francis / 6. My neighbor Jay, by Kat Francis / 7. Photo of Kat and Steve by Karen Reynolds