Saturday, April 3, 2021

Bounteous Bowie

 

Bounteous Bowie

By Tom Wachunas

 

“…I watch the ripples change their size

But never leave the stream

Of warm impermanence

And so the days float through my eyes

But still the days seem the same

And these children that you spit on

As they try to change their worlds 

Are immune to your consultations

They're quite aware of what they're goin' through…”  - some lyrics from the song “Changes” by David Bowie


Turn and Face the Strange, paper mosaic by Tim Carmany

Eyes of Blue, oil,  by Todd Bergert

Ziggy Stardust, oil and pyrograph, by Erin Mulligan

Electric Bowie, polymer, epoxy resin, by Erika Katherine

Teeth of Grass, acrylic on wood, by Alex Strader

TMWFTE - 76, by Billy Ludwig

Smoke and Mirrors, acrylic, by Dan Kane

I'm Not Going to Talk About Judy, acrylic on wood, by Scot Phillips

The Life and Times of David Robert Jones, Hoard Couture jacket, by Judi Krew

 

Exhibit: Turn and Face the Strange – A Visual Celebration of David Bowie / at The Hub Art Factory / 336 6th St NW, downtown Canton, Ohio / curated by Dan Kane /

https://www.facebook.com/TheHubArtFactory/

Exhibiting artists: Steve Ehret, Kat Francis, Erin Mulligan, Tim Carmany, Heather Bullach, Marti Jones Dixon, David Sherrill, Judi Krew, Billy Ludwig, Tim Eakin, Erika Katherine, Jessica Bennett, Todd Bergert, Jake Mensinger, Rochelle Edwards Haas, Holly Buffy Atkinson, Scot Phillips, Alex Minturn, Alex Strader, Cody J. Martin, Dan Kane

 

    I offer my sincerest THANKS to Dan Kane for his passion and dedication in selecting the 21 area artists for this superb exhibit; to The Hub Art Factory for presenting it; and of course to the participating artists themselves. Collectively, they have succeeded in providing an adventurous remembrance of a profoundly important, complex and influential artist – David Bowie (b. Jan 8,1947 – d. Jan. 10, 2016).

   For those of you who missed the exciting opening on Friday night, April 3, there’ s another opportunity to see the show on Tuesday evening (April 6) from 7p.m. to 9p.m. (face coverings required). Or you can inquire about arranging another time to view the exhibit by e-mailing the gallery: thehubcanton@gmail.com

   Through a marvelous diversity of media, the artists in this show  transported me in an uncanny way, letting me feel again the electrifying pulse of Bowie’s artistry that shaped an era.

   Additionally, I leave you with the powerful words of New York Times music critic, Jon Pareles, excerpted here from his memorial article published the day after Bowie’s death. What an articulate assessment of a musical force!!!

“David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas…”

“…Mr. Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His music was always a mutable blend — rock, cabaret, jazz and what he called “plastic soul” — but it was suffused with genuine soul...”

“…Angst and apocalypse, media and paranoia, distance and yearning were among Mr. Bowie’s lifelong themes. So was a penchant for transgression coupled with a determination to push cult tastes toward the mainstream…”

“…Mr. Bowie was his generation’s standard-bearer for rock as theater: something constructed and inflated yet sincere in its artifice, saying more than naturalism could. With a voice that dipped down to baritone and leapt into falsetto, he was complexly androgynous, an explorer of human impulses that could not be quantified.”

   Here’s a link to the entire article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/arts/music/david-bowie-dies-at-69.html       

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Rites of Renewal

 

Rites of Renewal 






By Tom Wachunas

 

“Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.” – Ezra Pound

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. —Ursula K. Le Guin

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson

“You can make anything by writing.”  -C.S. Lewis  

 

   A curious phenomenon – this consciousness of inspiration in making art. Inspiration. An indwelling idea, an implanting of…what? A force? A truth? A spirit? A person? Inspiration for me is all of that.

    Most of my art of the past 20 years has been a response to Divine prompting - my response to a presence that pursues, reveals, counsels. That presence becomes all the more real when I read the Bible. The words therein are indeed a voice – his voice, the Creator’s voice - that holds me in its thrall just as a steady wind would fan the pulsing glow of embers from a fire. Inspiration.

   So from inspiration to realization. The making of something. An arrival. My most recent arrival is called Rites of Renewal, a mixed-media painting/drawing on a wood panel, 16” (h) x 12” (w).

   The piece is a convergence of multiple recollections and reflections. Among those is my memory of a homework assignment from my Catholic school days, requiring me to copy, in my very best penmanship, on unlined white paper, the complete biblical text of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 (which the good Sister and her cohorts always called “The Love Chapter”). I can still recall having an uncanny sensation, though I didn’t then know exactly what to call it. Looking back, I know it was a key moment when reading and writing had joined to become for me a singular action, a potent rite of discovery and spiritual renewal. The words printed in my Bible, those “little black marks on wood pulp,” became a living form, and not just on paper. My very being had been imprinted.

   Further, I was fascinated to read that Pope Francis recently held an inter-religious prayer service near the the ancient Ziggurat at Ur, in Iraq. This sacred structure is a towering, stepped pyramid (though not a tomb; think of the biblical Tower of Babel story) dating back to the ancient Sumerian civilization (c. 2100 BCE), which was the first to evolve a writing system, pre-dating Egyptian hieroglyphs, called cuneiform. Not an alphabet per se, cuneiform is comprised of pictograms - symbolic drawings - of observable realities. Hence my inclusion of brown cuneiform marks – my homage to the beginnings of writing itself. They appear to mingle with my green handwriting of a passage from The Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). To read my imperfect scrawl, you would need to hold the painting up to a mirror. In lieu of that action, I offer it to you here:  

 …Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

At the Corner of Hither and Yon

 

At the Corner of Hither and Yon 


Somewhere near Do Not Be Afraid

Somewhere on a Walk with Addie and Jon

Somewhere, Sunshine

Somewhere, after SOS

Somewhere Turning Twenty-Three

Somewhere I Almost Remember

By Tom Wachunas 

“You need to bring your awakening into city life. Bring it into fast-paced complexity where it thrives.”  - John de Ruiter

“The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind.”  - Lewis Mumford

matrix (noun) - ˈmā-triks :  something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form.

EXHIBIT: Somewhere - paintings by Lizzi Aronhalt / curated by Alaska Thompson, at Vital Arts Gallery, 324 Cleveland Ave NW, downtown Canton, Ohio / Through April 24, 2021 – gallery hours are Thursday-Saturday, 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.  

From Vital Arts web page at https://www.facebook.com/VitalArtsGallery/  :

"As much as we feel we know a place, time passes, places change, and we as people do as well. Eventually those places are held in memories: sometimes with fading sweetness and sometimes with feelings of regret."

Lizzi Aronhalt's recent series of paintings "Somewhere," created during the covid-19 pandemic, explores the physical locations she has inhabited, whether for a few moments, many months or only in her imagination…

___________________________________________________________

   Lizzi Aronhalt’s acrylic cityscapes are bright and bold, luminous and loud.  Just as cities can be regarded as matrixes in flux, her painterly scenes are themselves matrixes - intriguing urban simulacra, both literal and abstract. These somewheres, if you will, are intersections of the tangible and the ephemeral, announcing themselves like so many neon signs flashing in the light of day.

   Made during this vexing time of scattered closures, lockdowns and “social distancing,” it’s interesting to notice what’s missing in these depictions of the urban milieu: people. For the most part, there’s a real scarcity of shoppers strolling by storefronts, or pedestrians crossing streets, or folks leaning out of apartment windows, or neighbors chatting on sidewalks and front stoops. So where are the essential social components of this matrix we call citizens?

   Here’s a thought: We have met the citizens, and they are us. Art viewers. In looking at these paintings, we become residents of the matrix. Aronhalt’s visions – whether memories of places she inhabited, visited, or simply imagined – aren’t about distancing or diminishment so much as they are immediate, in-your-face realities. These places aren’t disintegrating or fading away. With all their electrifying color dynamics, their exuberant rhythms of lines, marks and generously brushed shapes, they become our dwelling space, at least for the time we make to really see them.

   Stretch of your imagination a bit and try thinking of these pictures as having the heartbeat of a medicine woman, a healer. Or think of the artist as shaman and celebrant, practicing sympathetic magic. “If I paint where I dwell in this manner,” the healer thinks, “that place can remain alive.” And so can we.   

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Metamorphs

 

Metamorphs


Backwoods Escapade, by Justin Brennan

Untitled, by Andy Thomas

Untitled, by Andy Thomas

Untitled, by Andy Thomas

Untitled, by Andy Thomas

Pale in Comparison, by Justin Brennan

Misplaced Trust, by Justin Brennan

100 Miles per Hour, by Justin Brennan

By Tom Wachunas 

“All painting is an accident. But it's also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.” - Francis Bacon

“Clay is a very interesting and fundamental material: it's earth, it's water, and - with fire - it takes on form and life.”  - Rithy Panh 

EXHIBIT:  Figural Allusions - BY JUSTIN BRENNAN (PAINTINGS) AND ANDY THOMAS (CERAMICS) / at The Malone Art Gallery, located inside the east entrance of Malone University’s Johnson Center, 2600 Cleveland Ave, N.W., in Canton, Ohio /  THROUGH MARCH 30, 2021 / Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment.  The gallery is free and open to the public.  Face masks, social distancing, and limited occupancy (18-person maximum) are required.

https://www.malone.edu/gallery-and-exhibits/the-gallery/

   An intriguing tension permeates this gathering of abstract works by Cleveland-based painter Justin Brennan. There seems to be a deliberate bait-and-switch dynamic at work here. You might well imagine the painter initially setting out to make a portrait – a painting of, and/or about, a person. An expectation. But then, somewhere in the process, changes happen. A different narrative inserts itself, desired or not. Unexpected memories surface. Unplanned events or random circumstances alter the painter’s state of mind or heart. Pesky serendipity. Making a painting can often be a chance operation. Slowly, abruptly, or both, the painter arrives at a painting about… painting. Questions abound.

    These paintings are certainly departures from the conventional niceties of portraiture. They’re frenetic, ambiguous glimpses - interrupted moments of careful rendering. The disciplined act of making illusory likenesses of an actual person’s face has given way to unleashing all manner of tactile painterly marks and gestures. Brushed, piled, poured, slashed, scraped, or sprayed, the paint insists on telling its own story. Does this image depict a face emerging from behind a veil, or being erased? Does that one show a person coming into being, or fading away in rushes of smeared, dripping colors? A spirit of the unpredictable, the spontaneous and even the accidental prevails. It’s a dichotomous spirit, fraught with opposing energies. Yet here they are, coexistent in a fascinating if not quirky equipoise. Casual, playful, glib, disquieting, disarming. All at once. And lifelike after all.

   Technically, the untitled objects by Andy Thomas in this exhibit are clay vessels (i.e., hollow containers) that appear to be made of stone. Yet when considering how they subtly suggest the contoured form of the human body, we can also regard them as sculptures in-the-round. These vessels transcend a strictly utilitarian function of decorative receptacles.

   The fact of their hollowness is not to say that they’re empty. There’s a preternatural sense of something active inside them, as in a body. Something contained, yes, but also pushing forward, animating the tight, stony skins of the outer surfaces with elegant undulations and the nuanced look of muscles flexed or breathing.

    Whether intended by Andy Thomas or not, there’s an aura of the primeval about these ceramic abstractions, evoking an ancient narrative - the Genesis account of creation. You know… the story of the first human, made from the stuff of earth. Clay given a pulse.         

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Terpsichore in Paint

 

Terpsichore in Paint


Winter, Midnight - 1894, by Childe Hassam

Drifting with the Tide, Venice - 1884, by Ralph Wormeley Curtis

Near the Beach, Shinnecock - 1895, by William Merritt Chase

On the Sands - 1915, by Edward Potthast

A Windy Day - 1910, by Alice Schille

By Tom Wachunas 

“For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations.”   - Paul Cezanne

“The pleasure we derive from the representation of the present is due, not only to the beauty it can be clothed in, but also to its essential quality of being the present.” - Charles Baudelaire

Terp·sich·o·re | tərp-ˈsi-kə-(ˌ)rē / - the Greek Muse of dancing

 

EXHIBIT: Dancing in the LIGHT: Masterworks from The Age Of American Impressionism / at the CANTON MUSEUM of ART (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue N., Canton, Ohio / Through March 7, 2021 / 330-453-7666 /Advance Timed Ticket Reservations Required – Visit www.cantonart.org/reservetickets

Hours and Admission link:  https://www.cantonart.org/contact/hoursandadmission/hours

Click on these links for more comprehensive background and commentary (including videos):

https://www.cantonart.org/exhibits/dancing-light-masterworks-age-american-impressionism

Canton Museum of Art MAGAZINE:

https://www.cantonart.org/sites/default/files/CMA%20Winter%20Magazine%202020%20low%20res.pdf  

    This post is very late in arriving, and for that I can only offer my sincerest apologies. Still, it’s not too late - the exhibit’s final day is March 7. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to get interactive and click on the hyperlinks above before your visit.

    This important – and in a word, magnificent – exhibit was guest-curated by James M. Keny, of Keny Galleries in Columbus. It’s a stunning selection of 51 American Impressionist works, gathered from museum collections in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown; from museums in Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, as well as from private collections.

   The exhibit is an enthralling remembrance of one seminal passage into Modernist painting, which first emerged in a time when growing numbers of European painters were breaking free of the rigid academic standards that had been imposed on their medium for centuries.

   It’s interesting to note that the name, Impressionist, was originally a derisive reference to an 1874 Paris exhibit of paintings by 30 artists, including Claude Monet. Among his works in the show was his 1872 painting titled Impression: Sunrise, and one of many works skewered by French art critic Louis Leroy. His sardonic review mercilessly ridiculed this new style as too raw, too unfinished, too unrefined. Here’s a link, and if you read it, I think you’ll agree that Leroy’s scathing assessment was, while oddly funny, a monumental failure of perception:

https://arthive.com/publications/1812~Pictorial_Louis_Leroys_scathing_review_of_the_First_Exhibition_of_the_Impressionists

   Undaunted, the style became a movement that would further impact and inspire notably eminent painters in America. Impressionism was a metamorphosis - a deeper probing and expansion of Romanticism’s spontaneity, the earthy physicality of Courbet’s Realism, the gestural fluidity of Manet. Making a painting no longer had to be a matter of duplicating or imitating the exactitude of observed nature; no longer just a varnished window framing a static illusion for the gaze of spectators standing still.

   Impressionist paintings offer an immersive sensory experience invested with a lyrical materiality all their own. You could call it a kinetic expressivity, or a visceral choreography, performed by the quick prancing of staccato brush strokes, or the broader strides of a palette knife. There’s a palpable cadence in all that gestural, painterly motion. The rhythmic placement of vibrant color harmonies transforms the tactile reality of paint into an alluring ephemerality that seems to pulse, even dance, in shimmering, transient light.

   So, Impressionism.  An art “movement” indeed. Savor the dance.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

What I Did on Ash Wednesday

 

What I Did on Ash Wednesday







By Tom Wachunas

 

   “God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of him. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it. But if I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought of Him that I was meant to embody, I shall be full of his actuality and find him everywhere in myself, and find myself nowhere.”  - Thomas Merton

 

   My newest artwork: Ash Wednesday, mixed media painting (fabric, acrylic, latex and graphite on corrugated panel), 18” (h) x 17 ½” (w).

   Lent begins. A solemn 40-day season of penitent prayer, self-sacrifice, holy preparation. Ash Wednesday invariably takes me to a trove of Catholic childhood memories.

   The pastor, vested in purple, rubs our foreheads with ashes, the resultant smudge often looking more like an accident than a cross. Even so, it was a mindful symbol of our inheritance: Mortality. All of us wore it like a badge of dishonor - a haunting remembrance of our ignominious expulsion from Eden. Yet there was always the promise of a glorious new inheritance to come. Resurrection.

   Once again, my piece includes cursive writing, and more challenging to read than usual (not that my handwriting was ever really easy to decipher). But at one point in making the work, for some mysterious  reason I was thinking about Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks filled with the “mirror writing” that accompanied his drawings. He wrote his words backwards, right-to-left, and one would need a mirror to read them. I’ve developed no such writing technique. So I cheated the process by writing the words on very thin tracing paper and flipping the paper over, the words still visible in reverse. Words not my own, but from Genesis 3: 22-23:  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”  

   Presenting the words in this manner was intended to make the experience of reading them more interactive and literally personal. I held the finished painting close to my face as I lifted it up to the mirror on my medicine cabinet. There they were, the words now readable, and I, in one reflection, framed together in the same plane. It was a humbling reminder that I am dust become a re-made child of the Lord God.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Archaeology of the Soul

 

Archaeology of the Soul


Eden Excavated




By Tom Wachunas

 

   “…In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed to a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a story-teller.”  - G.K Chesterton, from Orthodoxy

   My work is a continuous probing of Christocentric content that springs from being a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is both God and Man. In his story, the Bible (his autobiography, really), he tells us in the opening chapters how he created humanity in his image and likeness, forming us from the dust of the ground he made, breathing his life into us. I believe that the impulse to make art, whether an artist senses it or not, is an embedded echo or a remnant spark - a still-glowing ember of God’s first explosive utterances: “Let there be light…,” and later, “Let us make…” 

   Accordingly, I am called to make as I have been made, to somehow give a spark of life and light to my chosen materials. Most of my works are mixed media assemblages - spiritual tableaux constructed around a codified language of the heart. They are tactile narratives about excavating the merely apparent and uncovering the fully real. These metaphors for an archaeology of the soul are explorations of the boundaries between the accessible and the hidden, between the mundane and the mystical. Ultimately, they symbolize aspiration, faith, and discovery.

   My most recent piece is called “Eden Excavated” (16” x 14 ½”  x 1 ½” - wood, plaster, latex acrylic, graphite). I completed it while reading, for the third time in the last 20 years, G.K. Chesterton’s 1908 book, Orthodoxy. It is a wondrous work of writing about a journey and an arrival, and an otherwise profoundly cathartic immersion in Christian apologetics. It continues to inspire and renew my spirit.

   “Eden Excavated” actually began back in 2007 as the first in a series of several works under the collective title of “Apocalypse.” [By the way, keep in mind that ‘apocalypse’ actually means revelation.]  Re-reading Chesterton’s classic somehow moved me to resurrect, as it were, that 2007 construction which had been gathering dust in my studio, and prompted some significant alterations (or altarations, if you will), literally giving an old work new life.    

   I consider copying words, excerpted for this work from the Genesis creation story and written here in cursive, as a form of life drawing. A way of imprinting memory, a way of sealing a story into consciousness. My process examines a symbiotic duality of writing and drawing, of reading and seeing. To write is to draw, to draw is to write. And seeing art is to read a language.