Friday, June 19, 2020

These Days: Signs and Wonderings

These Days: Signs and Wonderings 

#signsandwonderings, mixed media, 22 1/2" (w) x 24" (h)

By Tom Wachunas

   “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”  - Thomas Merton

   “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”  - Henry James

   “The practice of any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”  - Kurt Vonnegut

   “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom…” –  James 3:13

   These days, none of us need to settle for just imagining the ethos of human society confused and conflicted, fraught and frustrated. Writhing in our cultural wrecking and reckoning has been our actuality for a very long time.

   These days, Charles Dickens’ anaphoric “it was…” in the classic opening of his A Tale of Two Cities surely lives on as a haunting, potent anthem of our NOW. It IS the best of times, it IS the worst of times, it IS the age of wisdom, it IS the age of foolishness, it IS the epoch of belief, it IS the epoch of incredulity, it IS the season of Light, it IS the season of Darkness, it IS the spring of hope, it IS the winter of despair…

   These days, my artwork continues to trudge along in the mode of painterly assemblage/collage. The initial idea for my recently completed mixed-media piece, #signsandwonderings, was born while I was working in my backyard vegetable garden several weeks ago. Gardening has always been for me a prayerful time of reflection and meditation. My gloved and fisted hand pushes a trowel, pounding it deep into the heart of hardened earth. Call it a labor of love, this act of loosening and extracting, of preparing and sowing. Head, heart, and hand joined together, desiring a blessed harvest.

   These days, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of wondering about what we will reap after this season of sowing such an abundance of viral words  across social media – the codification of our human condition. Or on another level, we can regard the Internet as the digitalization of our tongues in their  uttering words of angst and anger, fear and loathing, as well as, thankfully, words of hope, love, and healing.

   This recent work of mine is visually structured to be a somewhat sculptural hashtag (a.k.a. pound sign). The hashtag is that ubiquitous web symbol - a slanted grid comprised of nine planes - used to identify an idea of importance. Think of it as planting seeds, or “pounding home” a message. The meandering scrawl of my handwritten text (in English and Greek) is drawn from the New Testament Book of James (James 3:3-18), wherein the brother of Jesus offers his counsel, cautionary and wise, on the power of the tongue.

   Don’t own a Bible? No problem. These days, you can always #lookitupoonline. Be blessed.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Massillon Museum Reopening

Massillon Museum Reopening

"What Optimism Looks Like," by Paul Flippin

  More encouraging news. Here’s information (excerpted from Massillon Museum’s website and Facebook page) regarding reopening on Friday, June 26. The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. For more information, call the Museum at 330-833-4061 or visit

   As the Massillon Museum anticipates its reopening day, June 26, the staff is onsite and working diligently to create a comfortable and safe venue for visitors.

  New exhibitions await guests. Cut Up/Cut Out in the Aultman Health Foundation Gallery - a contemporary view of an ancient art practice that has evolved over thousands of years. This exhibition, which includes national and international artists, honors both tradition and innovation with a selection of over one hundred artworks by 51 artists representing diverse techniques and approaches to making art. And Paul Flippen: 36days, in Studio M, through July 26, featuring 36 pen and ink drawings by Paul Flippen that examine the emotions and ethics of the end of life, through drawings and text describing the narrative of one family’s experience:

  The all-new permanent collection galleries fill the entire second floor of the original part of the building, and the Immel Circus and the Paul Brown Museum complete the second floor of the new part of the building.

  “We want our visitors to be prepared for new guidelines in place to allow for social distancing throughout the Museum, reduced occupancy in galleries, and rigorous, visible cleaning routines to maintain a safe environment for everyone.  The Museum will continue to facilitate inspiring and innovative programming and to engage its community, but with safety first and foremost in mind, and in practice,” said Executive Director Alexandra Nicholis Coon.

Visitors, who will be strongly encouraged to wear masks, will encounter a hand-sanitizer stand immediately inside the main door.  Behind the new acrylic shield at the reception desk, a staff member, wearing a mask and gloves, will be ready to greet guests, offer directions, answer questions, and accept class registrations.

The reception staff will monitor the occupancy of spaces within the Museum and will assist with shop purchases. Sample copies of exhibition catalogs, on a table outside the shop, will be sanitized after each shopper. Staff will retrieve items guests wish to buy from inside the shop.

Anderson’s in the City, the former lobby café, is closed and the exterior door to that area will remain locked. Most of the lobby seating will be removed to assure social distancing.

Signage will be prominently displayed throughout the building to direct visitors and remind them of safety precautions. The floor will be marked to assist with social distancing. Sanitizing stations will be located throughout the building.
The elevator will be limited to two people, with the exception of families with small children. The main stairwell will be accessible.  Elevator buttons and stairway doors and handrails will be sanitized regularly throughout the day.
Interactive components, with the exception of braille labels, have been removed from exhibitions, and gallery doors and railings will be sanitized throughout the day.

Restrooms will be cleaned on a regular schedule, which will be posted prominently. The outer door will be propped open to alleviate touching, and sanitizer will be available.

“We’re anxious to see our regular visitors as they return, and we look forward to welcoming new friends to our safe surroundings and introducing them to the wonderful new exhibitions we have to offer,” said Guest Operations Manager Brandon Rohrer.

Hours of operation starting Friday, June 26: Monday – Closed / Tuesday - Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm / Sunday - 2:00pm - 5:00pm

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

CMA Plans for Reopening

CMA Plans for Reopening

The Bath, watercolor by Merv Corning

The Future is Bright, porcelain by Taylor Robenalt

Harmony Church, watercolor by J.D. Titzel

I Love Liberty, lithograph by Roy Lichtenstein

   Here’s a big THANK YOU to the Canton Museum of Art (CMA) for all its ongoing virtual offerings and activities throughout this season of local cultural institution closures. To my readers, what follows is good news, with lots of details. Here are excerpts from the CMA Press Release. The full release is posted on the CMA Facebook site - 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Canton, OH): June 10, 2020 – The Canton Museum of Art (CMA) plans to reopen to the public in a limited capacity on Tuesday, June 30. CMA's first phase hours will be Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-July. This allows time for proper cleaning of gallery and lobby areas before, during, and after opening. The Museum’s hours and days will likely expand later in July, including weekends, and at this time we anticipate being back to regular days and hours, still with limited capacity, when a new round of exhibitions open later in August.  

Timed Ticketing

From June 30 through July, admission will be free, courtesy of PNC Foundation. There will be limited capacity for the first month, approximately 25 percent of regular capacity in the galleries at any given time, translating to roughly 200 free timed entry throughout the day. Timed entry tickets for 6 slots (10 – 11 a.m., 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., 12 – 1 p.m., 1 – 2 p.m., 2 – 3 p.m., and 3 – 4 p.m.) will be available at the museum website at 

 The first hour, the 10 – 11 a.m. time slot, is reserved for seniors and other high-risk visitors. Tickets will be available in 15 minute intervals, and the last tickets for the day will be at 3 p.m. Tickets are on a first come, first-served basis, and visitors are strongly encouraged to reserve online. Watch for details of when the ticket link goes active later this month.

Health and Safety Guidelines

Upon entry, visitors will notice signage designed to keep them informed about CMA’s health and safety protocols and processes, including health screening questions. There is one entrance/exit to the Museum, through the Cultural Center doors off Market Avenue North, and then the main Museum doors inside. These are separated and will be designated for entrance and exit.
All CMA staff members are required to wear masks, and we ask that all visitors wear masks at all times inside the Museum to protect each other and Museum staff. Single-use masks will be available for $1.00 upon entry…

CMA’s Patron Services staff will assist with verifying tickets and answering any other questions about your visit. Visitors to the Boutique are limited to three at a time, and will be required to use hand sanitizer upon entry. Surfaces will be sanitized immediately after visits.

Sanitizing stations are being installed throughout the Museum, including on entry. Floor markings, stanchions, and signage will facilitate 6 feet social distancing. Galleries will have one-way traffic flow, and Patron Services staff will monitor and assist in maintaining gallery capacity levels and flow. We ask that all visitors help facilitate social distancing and be aware of your surroundings at all times. 

Facilities staff will be sanitizing surfaces throughout the Museum during open hours, including door handles, door frames, and bench seats in the lobby (limited seating is available).

All visits to the galleries will be self-guided, as tours are unavailable. The high-touch Education Station activities in the Museum lobby are not available at this time.

Large bags are prohibited, as well as outside food and beverage. Water fountains and vending machines will initially remain closed. Small bags and childcare items are allowed. 

Current Exhibitions 

Current exhibitions that opened virtually in May are on view through July 19. However, we anticipate extending these exhibitions through early August. Watch for details later this month as our schedule adjusts. Exhibitions include: Reflections: The Artistic Spirit of Merv Corning,/  Patient Work: Watercolors by J.D. Titzel,/ Symbolic Narrative: Ceramics by Taylor Robenalt, and A Portrait of Americana: American Life from the CMA Collection. The Museum will continue to offer virtual art experiences online, with our CMA From Home and social media sites. Virtual tours for each exhibition remain available on the CMA website under the link for each

CMA’s “Canton Museum of Art Magazine” is not available in printed form at this time, but is available digitally on the CMA website at

Friday, June 5, 2020

Writes of Passage

 Writes of Passage

By Tom Wachunas

   “…All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  - 2 Timothy 3:16

   Once again, these words (among others) from John 1:1 have found their way into my most recent work (tentatively titled Writes of Passage), in both English and Greek (the language of the New Testament): In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God / ν ρχ ν λόγος, κα λόγος ν πρς τν θεόν, κα θες ν λόγος.

   In these troubling weeks of late, I’m feeling increasingly battered by media images of urban crowds on the march, waving their makeshift signs, many written on chunks of corrugated cardboard. These are indeed armies, brandishing their words like so many swords raised high. Torrid words, urgent words, pleading words.

   In seeking refuge from this societal tsunami, I continue to savor reading. I’m not talking about numbly scrolling through the digital treatises, the diatribes and tantrums and acrimonious memes that saturate social media these days. I’m talking about the transfixing experience of actually reading words, line after line of text, in real books. More specifically, the Bible, a.k.a. The Word of God.

   Books. Tactile accumulations of 2D planes imprinted with symbolic marks -  codified histories, or analogs, of the writer’s intentions, perceptions, discoveries, memories, life experiences past and/or present. Rites of passage through time.

   Writes of Passage is a mixed-media collage on wood panel, measuring 27”(h) x 18” (w). It’s an episodic, meditative flow of consciousness that evolved over about three weeks, comprised of several drawing sessions that were for me…prayers. Early in the composing process, for reasons I can’t fully explain (other than a divine prompting?), I felt compelled to look into a book I hadn’t examined in many years - the Time-Life Library of Art boxed volume on Michelangelo.

   The book was a Christmas gift from 1966, some 15 years before the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes began. Interestingly, the three- page centerfold photograph of the entire ceiling shows the monumental masterpiece in a very murky condition. All of what we now accept as the bright truth of Michelangelo’s spectacular colors had by that time faded into a remarkably muted state after being obscured by centuries of built-up candle smoke, bacterial growths, and botched cosmetic attempts at preservation. Suddenly my treasured old book, ironically enough a “Time-Life” document, now seemed itself to be a metaphor - an artifact showing the corruptibility of even the greatest of human creative endeavors.

   My appropriation of four of Michelangelo’s Sibyls – female prophets from the Classical world who were thought to prophesy the coming of Christ – presents the figures in varying, layered states of clarity. Ultimately, the incorporation of Biblical texts is intended as a meditation on the persistence and immutability of Scripture - God’s Word – and also a prayerful consideration of these words spoken by Jesus Christ, written in in the book of Matthew 24:35: Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Bittersweet 16: A Renaissance Diminished

 Bittersweet 16: A Renaissance Diminished

   Announcement  from ArtsinStark  -  Immediate Release: The Closure of Avenue Arts Marketplace

   It is with heavy heart that ArtsinStark announces the closure of the gallery of Avenue Arts Marketplace. For 16 years Second April Galerie and then Avenue Arts were the heart of the Canton Arts District. Through the tireless efforts of countless artists who have shown their work and been in residence, the space at 324 Cleveland was a living arts center. The ArtsinStark staff has worked very hard to keep the flame burning, but with reduced sales and the latest wave of closures due to Covid19, the space is no longer financially viable.

   With the closure of the gallery space, the theatre will live on housed at the Education Center at the Cultural Center for the Arts opening tentatively with “Spring Awakening” in September. While we will miss our visual artists in residence at the 324 Cleveland space, we look forward to the new opportunity to grow the theatre program and the continued excellence of Avenue Arts Theatre.

   The community will get one last chance to visit and shop with us on Friday, June 5 from 4-9pm during Canton First Friday. You can also shop online now through June 5 on the website at

   Between 2006 and 2008, I reported on the arts in Stark County for a short-lived weekly newspaper called The Observer-Reporter, published out of Jackson Township. On April 12, 2007, the paper published my article titled A renaissance in downtown Canton. It was an enthusiastic look at the early stages of what came to be called The Canton Arts District.

   The article ended with the words of Robb Hankins, president and CEO of ArtsinStark: “The people and companies who want to move here or stay here want to know that when they go to our downtown, there’s some vibrancy and a place to hang out. So there’s this whole arts and entertainment image and feeling, and things feed off one another if you’ve got enough critical mass. In my mind, that’s economic development. I have a feeling that this summer in downtown Canton, it won’t all be in place yet, but it will be the beginning of enough critical mass.”

   As summer 2020 approaches, I’m thinking that what comes around…goes away. Critical mass diminished. Heavy heart indeed, thanks for the memories.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day, 2020- O'er the Land of the Free

Memorial Day, 2020: O’er the Land of the Free

   Recalling my small painting, The Untied State of America, from October, 2017. At that time, I wrote very briefly about the work here, referring to it not as “political art,” but simply as a prayer. I asked then: What do we stand for, when, and in whose presence?

   The question still burns, as it always will - a torch that won’t be extinguished. So on this day, in circumstances here and now most vexing, I offer you just a few additional, though urgent thoughts. United, we stand. In praise and loving remembrance, in gratitude and grace. Untied, we kneel in the mind of God, and in the eternal, infinite light of his promise to those who love him.

   “…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,”… (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

   And, …Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020



By Tom Wachunas

   “…Drug names often contain subtle linguistic cues that are the product of a high-stakes creative exercise that marries the magic of marketing with consumer psychology and scientific testing….”
- Amy Nordrum, from her article in International Business Times (6/24/15)

Here’s a link to the article:

portmanteau - noun

port·man·teau | \ pȯrt-ˈman-(ˌ)tō  

plural portmanteaus or portmanteaux\ pȯrt-​ˈman-(ˌ)tōz  \

1: a large suitcase

2: a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog)

   One of the many reasons offered by big pharmaceutical companies for the staggering retail prices of prescription medications has to do with recouping (or anticipating) the high cost of continuing research, development, and of course, marketing. Somebody has to pay for all those riveting, state-of-the-art television commercials about drugs with funny names, usually accompanied by innocuous music, and gently narrated with cautionary litanies of side effects, including a reminder to tell your doctor about any other medications you’re currently taking (just in case he or she has forgotten), even though you (and maybe your doctor?) can’t remember how to pronounce, much less spell them.

   Who comes up with this stuff anyway? Professionals. And we pill-poppers contribute to their paychecks. If you’re of a mind to click on the link above, you’ll read that yes, there is supposedly a scientific protocol, an officially sanctioned rationale and procedure, for naming medications. It’s all a bit complicated, certainly. 

That said, I’ve often imagined drug companies having a designated office area with big fancy letters emblazoned on the entry door: Arcane Nomenclature Development, or Whacky Word Research, or Lunatic Locution Laboratory. How about Daffy Diction Department? Better yet, Pharma-Portmanteaux Administration.

   A fantasy. Let’s say I’m interviewing for a job in one of those imagined departments at, say, Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer. To test my biomedical acumen, I’ve been asked to name some of their newest medicines. Here are some of my  answers:

    Guys, try AKTLYKAMAN for an energy supplement; for curing acne, ZAPAZIT; for eliminating those pesky aromas after an intestinal explosion, NEUTRAPHART; for obesity, LOOZALDAFLAB; for chronic clumsiness, ANTIKLUTZINOL; for sleep apnea, DOZALNITE; for foot fungus, TOZARCLENE. And so forth.

   “Thanks, but much too silly,” said the interviewer as he showed me the door, adding, “We’re very serious about our work here.” In my defense, I explained to him that the test had triggered another of my many HWS episodes – Hyperactive Wordplay Syndrome. I’m actually quite fond of the condition, though, and relieved to know there’s no pill for it.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Magical Emanations

Magical Emanations

Afternoon Landscape (04.27.20) Akron, Ohio

Afternoon Landscape, Long Lake Channel (05.20.19), Portage Lakes, Ohio

Afternoon Landscape, White Pond Crossing (05.03.20), Akron, Ohio

Afternoon Auto-Landscape, Club 611 (04.27.20), Akron

Afternoon Clouds over Club 611 (07.23.12), Akron

Afternoon Landscape, Copley Community Park (07.27.19), Copley, Ohio

By Tom Wachunas

   “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” ― Susan Sontag

   “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

   “I can look at a fine art photograph and sometimes I can hear music.” – Ansel Adams

- all the images here are digital infrared photographs -  © Stephen Paternite

   More Spring gleaning, more virtual curating, in the spirit of my post here from May 7. During my Facebook browsing excursions of late, I’ve been admiring a significant number of black-and-white digital photographs by Stephen Paternite. He’s a prolific Akron artist who has been working in infrared photography since 1978. As an evolved photography technique, digital infrared is empowered with a particular sensitivity to light radiations beyond the visible color spectrum. A marvelous tool for seeing the otherwise unseeable.

   Amid the incessant showers of photographs saturating social media, the ubiquity of bright, clamorous color can sometimes feel numbing. In that context, it’s only at first glance that Paternites’s digital infrared black-and-white images might seem like curious incongruities – throwbacks to another era. Yet they’re actually a calming respite from the deafening polychromatic noise of the Internet.

   Look closely. Not at them so much as inside them. You might even hear them - veritable symphonies of dramatic tonal contrasts and exquisite textures. These impeccably composed pictures are spectral landscapes, or dreamscapes, if you will, emanating an immersive, crystalline light that transforms the familiar into something wholly enchanting and otherworldly.

   And it seems to me that beyond being a maker of beautiful photographs, Stephen Paternite is also a poet. Think of his work as optical writing - a wordless, arresting poetry - articulating the luminous persistence of nature’s quiet magic.