Saturday, December 14, 2019

Unwrapping the Christmas Presence


Unwrapping the Christmas Presence

"Amended Big Bang Theory" - acrylic, fabric, paper, found object






By Tom Wachunas

   …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…  John 1:14

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…   Hebrews 11:1  

   Did the practice of giving and getting gifts (i.e., “presents”) at Christmastime begin with the simple notion that it was the wise thing to do, as in a grand identification with those three “wise men” traveling from afar to worship a new king? They were probably astrologers – readers of tiny, distant cosmic lights.  So when did remembering the “magic of Christmas” morph into the ritualized retail mania, the elaborate ceremonies of rabid consumerism which so much of our society engages today? 

   What light are we following? Have we become so enamored of Christmas presents that we’ve become insensitive to the Christmas presence? Immanuel, God incarnate, with us, here and now.

   It wasn’t until around 2001 that my artwork developed into a materiality of a Christocentric nature - a codified language of the heart. Back in 2008 I made a piece I called “A Brief History of Everything.”  Stark and simple, the work was comprised of nine crumpled index cards, painted in blotches of black and white, and mounted horizontally on a narrow board in a sequential row to suggest stages of opening up into an all-white field. It was inspired by the Big Bang Theory, science’s best explanation of how the universe came to be.

   I recently made a variation on the same theme, this one called “Amended Big Bang Theory,” measuring 48” tall, 10” wide, 4” deep, pictured above. The theory states that the cosmos began as an unimaginably small singularity, a less-than-microscopic mass of immeasurable density, which exploded some 14 million years ago into all manner of cosmic pieces still speeding away from us. Of course there’s no definitive scientific accounting for the origins of that singularity. No explanation of how, why, or for that matter…who. We simply assume that “it” was always…there.

    Faith is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Just like the physical universe described by Big Bang theorists, real faith is an actuality in a perpetual state of expanding, or unwrapping, as it were. By extension, growing from the tiniest intuition - a singularity in its own right – or the smallest seed of willingness to seek and believe what science alone can never apprehend, I have found that in matters of spirit, faith is indeed a great and constant outward reaching of the soul which can indeed give rise to empirical certainty.

   “Amended Big Bang Theory” is a vertical sentence, or if you will, a prayer and a Christmas greeting. The white expanse at the bottom is not so much a period or an end to the sentence, but a beginning. It’s not a tiny, distant cosmic speck, but a large, tangible presence of light. It’s an echo of John the Baptist’s welcoming Jesus into the world we know, on to the ground where we stand, forever into our midst. Behold, the Lamb of God…

   My prayer for all you readers – both now at Christmas, and every day - is that you nurture the seeds of your willingness to let faith grow and bear fruit.

 Happy Holydays.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Cryptic Kisses and Other Tangible Tensions


Cryptic Kisses and Other Tangible Tensions


Lock Born

Kissing Stones

Void in Echo

Site of a Scene: in RED

Site of a Scene: in a Blue Tint


EXHIBIT: Distance Loop, a solo exhibition featuring works by Melissa Vogley Woods / ending on December 5, 2019 / at The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building on the Kent State University at Stark campus / 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio

 / Gallery Hours for the remaining duration of the exhibit: Tuesday- Wednesday, December 3d and 4th, 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m., AND Artist’s RECEPTION / Gallery Talk: Thursday, December 5, 12:30pm


    Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Canton anymore.

    What makes the Lemmon Gallery a vital and truly inspiring venue for viewing contemporary art is its singular purity of design and potent agency of purpose. Here’s a place apart - a gorgeous retreat from the commercially familiar, a challenging alternative to the locally safe and insular, a venturing away from the comfortable and provincial. The art shown here springs from a serious curatorial commitment (thanks for this installation to Andrea Meyers) to presenting fresh, provocative aesthetic visions and practices from beyond our immediate region.

   The announcement for this installation described the work of Melissa Vogley Woods - a multidisciplinary artist from Columbus, Ohio -  as focusing “…on the nature of internal and external conflict and resolution with additional interests in erasure under patriarchy and homespun methodologies against it.”  Heady stuff, to be sure.

   A recurring motif in Woods’ sculptural assemblages is the human mouth, in the form of thick, curvaceous lips made from scagliola. Scagliola is a mixture of pigments and plaster that can be fashioned to look like marble. In “Lock Born,” an oblong rod of thin steel loops out from the wall, holding up a row of 12 marbleized orifices that hang in midair like so many pendants on jewelry chains. Depending upon your viewing position, the lips appear to come at you from a distance, starting with smaller, closed mouths at the far end that progressively get larger as they open wider. There’s an eerie, indeed primal sensuality about this work (a quality apparent in other pieces here as well) which suggests something slowly emerging from tight-lipped silence into an utterance – a single word, a phrase, maybe a shout. Or is it simply an exhaled breath? 

   The four very large canvas paintings included in the installation, collectively under the theme of “Site of a Scene,” are lavish, glimmering abstractions in acrylic, marble dust, various grounds, and water-based mediums. These are magnificently complex and ambiguous panoramas wherein measured, regular patterns and structures collide with, or melt into organic pools and atmospheric pockets of rich color. Rigidity and fluidity in dramatic moments of equipoise. A visual theatre of integration and disintegration all at once.

   Other sculptural pieces here confound easy definition or categorization. They can seem alternately like garden totems, strange gravestones, or perhaps distant cousins to cairns – forms, dating to ancient times, made from stones piled up as memorials or landmarks. Memorials of what? Mended or broken relationships? Loves lost and found? All of the above?

   So I’m left in a state of inquiry, of continued looking, wondering, even guessing. But with art, it’s always the lingering questions, not the instantaneous or obvious answers, which I’ve found to be the most compelling affirmation of being alive. And besides, in the end, who doesn’t savor a really good mystery?