Friday, November 18, 2022





Take Care of My Flowers





By Tom Wachunas

“There is no shape to the feeling that has gripped me, no name. Manifested in amorphous sensations and rippling currents – bringing one moment a tear, then a smile; there is no comprehending this wave. A hummingness courses through my mind.”

― Radhika Mukherjee, from “Broken Shadows”

“Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritable.”  - Robert Motherwell


EXHIBIT: Emily Orsich – First Solo Exhibit, at John Strauss Studio, 236 Walnut Avenue NE, downtown Canton, THROUGH DECEMER 16, 2022 / viewing hours Monday-Friday 10 a.m to 5 p.m / Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

   A recurring motif in Emily Orsich’s commanding paintings is a confluence of assertive boldness and delicate fragility, describing things simultaneously settled and tentative, solid and liquid. Her configurations are kinetic, intricate synchronies of opposites that nonetheless exist in an uneasy equilibrium.

   So what could these ‘things,’ these ‘opposites’ be? Maybe think of the painter as a cartographer, drawing in code, here mapping terrains of a kind, often inlaid with broad swaths of black and blood red - like rivers, deep-cut roads, or skid marks - juxtaposed with wandering crooked rivulets, amorphous translucent pools, and quiet, empty plains.

   Beyond sketchy, enigmatic connections to earthly geography, however, the expressive immediacy of these works also suggests metaphors for another type of terrain. Which is to say the artist’s state of mind and heart.  

   In this context, consider Orsich’s style of abstraction as a kind of writing. Think of her mark-making as a spontaneous cursive script, approaching a form of calligraphy both agitated and strangely elegant. 

   Could these paintings then indeed be narratives about Orsich, and by extension, all of us viewers willing to trust our own intuitions? Are these stories about navigating personal relationships? About resolving conflicts? Or finding joy amidst chaos? Or serenity in anxiety? Psychological balance? About growth, discovery, and catharsis?

   The answer’s in the looking. More power to ‘ya.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Compelling Drama, Mesmerizing Virtuosity


 Compelling Drama, Mesmerizing Virtuosity 

Pianist Michelle Cann

Gerhardt Zimmermann

By Tom Wachunas

…No, no, no, no, no, no, no /I'm overdue /I'm really in a stew/

No time to say goodbye, hello /I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

-      Lyrics from “I’m Late” from Disney film Alice in Wonderland

   Late indeed. With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, I’m slowly returning to my writeful place here on ARTWACH, and very grateful for all the loving encouragement you readers sent my way following my previous post about my medical woes. So here’s a long overdue THANK YOU to the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO), now celebrating its 85the Anniversary, for yet another superb adventure into sheer musical excellence.  

    In writing about the CSO’s October 30 concert, Music Director and Conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann casually mentioned that a few of the selections were meant to “…help usher in Halloween the next day…” Fittingly, the intriguing thematic diversity of the program of four works certainly did include a few especially haunting journeys to the dark side.

   The evening commenced with César Franck’s 1883 macabre symphonic poem, Le Chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman). The work was inspired by a ballad by German poet Gottfried August Bűrger, and tells the tale of The Count of Rhine who, on one fateful Sunday, decided to forego obligatory church devotions in favor of galloping into the woods to hunt, happily blowing his horn. The absolutely sumptuous sounds of the CSO strings and bright percussive chimes calling the faithful to worship on a sunny day soon enough gave way to the piercing clarity of the naughty horn calls. The hapless hunter proceeds to ride his way into the darkness wrought by his guilty conscience and subsequent pursuit by Satanic demons. For desecrating the Sabbath, the hunter became hunted by Hell itself. In telling the story, the orchestra quite effectively soared to chilling depths of aural scariness.

   And then, a mesmerizing respite from bittersweet morbidity transpired, thanks to the exquisite technical virtuosity of guest soloist Michelle Cann. Her dazzling piano wizardry was truly a wonder to behold as she brought to light and life the effulgent lyricism of Piano Concerto in One Movement, composed in 1934 by African -American composer Florence Price (1887-1953).

    Cann returned after intermission to further regale us with jaw-dropping panache in her rendering of Richard Strauss’s complex and rowdy Burleske for Piano and Orchestra. When the enthralled audience clamored for an encore, Cann eagerly obliged. With stern authority, she pounded the keyboard with the first three brooding chords of Rachmaninoff’s iconic Prelude in C sharp minor.  But then, not missing a beat (and no doubt in a Halloween spirit of clever mischief), Cann immediately unleashed a raucous and riveting mashup of Rachmaninoff’s motifs into a blindingly fast and seamless hybrid of jazzy- boogie-woogie - ragtime variations. At once brilliant and hilarious.          

   The evening concluded with yet another fierce trip into doom - Tchaikovsk’s magnificent 1876 Symphonic Fantasy, Fransesca da Rimini. For this narrative, Tchaikovsky sourced Dante Alighieri’s iconic 1321 allegory, The Divine Comedy, particularly its visit to the second circle of Hell, where sins of the flesh are punished, the sinners whipped mercilessly by roaring winds in eternal darkness. In a stunning interlude - slowly developed with achingly sweet melodies - Fransesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo are allowed to rise above the torture and tumult long enough to recall their carnal happiness in one of Tchaikovsky’s most heartrending love themes, only to be sent back to explosive torment. When the last frenetic cymbal crashes and violent drum rolls sounded the anguished finale of this work, please don’t think me too frivolous when I say I could practically hear a replay of the rattled lion’s chant in the Wizard of Oz movie, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do I do I do I DO!”

   And so once again, when all was played and done, I too remained a believer. Certainly not in fictional ‘spooks’ as such, but far more importantly, in the Canton Symphony Orchestra as a palpable aesthetic force, haunting – and blessing – us with its always potent and inspiring embrace of pure, artful sublimity.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Bent but not broken


Bent but not broken

By Tom Wachunas 

   To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

   But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… -2 Corinthians 4: 7-9 

   Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…  – Philippians 4: 8 

   Maybe subtitle this one Confessions of a recovering critic ?

    It’s not for want of subject matter that after September 27, my usually regular though quirky writing routines, rituals and processes ceased altogether. Call it floundering in a mode of unproduction. Sadly, I have been wholly unable to offer my assessments and appreciations of some recent local arts events and exhibits. This situation has been a distressing consequence of recent medical issues that left me in various stages of hurt-filled immobility and an otherwise depressed state of heart and mind. The time, energy, and ability required to effectively focus on composing arts reviews have been sorely compromised. Diagnosis from Omni Orthopaedics: “Invertebral disc disorders w radiculopathy, lumbar region (M51.16), Spondylolisthesis, lumbar region (M43.16).” Translation: Profound pain.

   Butt, after surgery on October 18, I am slowly on the mend. Soul-renewing gratitude, rather than physical pain, is progressively filling my days.

   In wrestling with (and frankly resenting) this recent absence from my love for looking at and writing about art, I’ve had ample time to prayerfully examine (or brood about) the motives driving that passion. My sense of…purpose.

   Yes, over the years, I have remained acutely aware and thankful that ARTWACH has garnered certain “rewards” in the form of heartfelt comments and sincere praise for my insights and writing skills - all God-bestowed, I assure you. But at its core, ARTWACH isn’t about ME. So despite all the I-me-mine content of this very post, I am nonetheless compelled to remind you that the ARTWACH raison d'être was intended from its beginnings in 2009 as a you-we-ours platform. It is a place, a context, meant to serve, inspire, and elevate our community, our culture, by embracing and assessing, savoring and celebrating, the abundance of truly remarkable art and artists flourishing in our midst.

   I’ll be back. Meanwhile, THANK YOU ALL for your caring and attention. Be well, and happy hunting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Farewell and Hello


 Farewell and  Hello 



Announcement from The Canton Symphony Orchestra

   The Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) announces the departure of long-term President & CEO, Michelle Charles with a heavy heart. Her last day of service will be on Friday November 25th, 2022.

   On Monday, November 28th, 2022, current Community Engagement & Education Manager, Rachel Hagemeier, will become President & CEO. Rachel will be the youngest person to ever serve in this position at the CSO at 25 years old.

Here is the Press Release from the CSO:

  "Michelle Charles has served as President & CEO of Canton Symphony Orchestra for eleven years. Previously serving in all capacities of the organization as chorus member and volunteer, board trustee and staff, she was a driving force behind the increasing notoriety of the Canton Symphony. Charles was the catalyst for several major activities that solidified the Symphony's position in Stark County. Under her leadership, she oversaw the funding, construction, and eventual operation of the Zimmermann Symphony Center as part of the 2011-2014 capital campaign. The endowment of the Canton Symphony grew from $1.5 million to over $4 million during Michelle's time with the CSO. During her tenure, Canton Symphony brought in many internationally acclaimed guest artists including Grammy-Award winners Bela Fleck and Sylvia McNair and collaborated with numerous organizations including the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, Canton Museum of Art, Massillon Museum of Art, Stark Parks, and the Dancing Wheels. “I have loved every minute of my time with the Canton Symphony”, said Michelle. “I will certainly miss the staff, musicians, patrons, and donors once I leave but I am excited for my next chapter in my professional career.” Beginning November 28, Michelle will be working at The Summit, a public alternative radio station in Akron.

   On Monday, November 28th, 2022, current Community Engagement & Education Manager, Rachel Hagemeier, will become President & CEO. Hagemeier was the first and obvious choice to replace Charles, demonstrating an unmatched reverence for all things relating to music and education. Her tenacity to accomplish above and beyond what is needed has propelled Canton Symphony's educational initiatives into an unprecedented era of engagement. Just recently, Hagemeier was named one of Stark County's "Twenty Under 40!" list, produced by ystark!, a department of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and The Canton Repository.* When asked how she felt about this transition, she said, "To be the next President & CEO of the Canton Symphony Orchestra is a dream come true. In my three years here at the symphony, I have seen the impact classical music can have on a community, and I am overjoyed to continue being a part of this incredible work. This symphony has been rooted in Stark County for 85 years and I am ready to take us into our next chapter of music making. Canton is a special place filled with talented, hard-working, and creative people, and I am lucky to be a part of it."


The Canton Symphony Orchestra board, staff, and musicians are thrilled to welcome Rachel Hagemeier into her new position. They are confident that under her supervision, classical music will be alive, well, and growing into the foreseeable future."

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Roads into Arboreal Auras


 Roads into Arboreal Auras

Cartography, nos. 1, 2, and 3


Filtered Light

Reflected Light

Morning Light


By Tom Wachunas

   "We have all found ourselves looking for “detours” during the last two and a half years. Ways to pass time; ways to stay safe; ways to calm our own anxieties; and maybe even ways to escape. My detours found me traveling near and far to appreciate simplicity, solitude, and a bit more of myself." - Chris Triner 

“…I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”  - From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost


EXHIBIT: DETOURS, new works by Christopher Triner/ Through October 31, 2022 / at Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio / gallery viewing hours Mondays-Fridays 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

   A possible starting point for appreciating the title of this exhibit of new paintings by Christopher Triner – Detours – could be to consider his trio of small square mixed-media abstractions called Cartography, nos. 1, 2, and 3. They suggest aerial maps of urban districts, or perhaps neighborhoods. Their bold patterns of geometric shapes and regulated straight lines (streets?) feel  like an incursion - a   trespassing - on otherwise serene clouds of subtly shifting colors.

    It’s that curious juxtaposition of static enclosures and unobstructed airiness, of concrete constructions seemingly afloat on ethereal surrounds, which affected me with a desire to look for a road not into, but out of town as it were. To find a place to simply breathe in, and savor a timeless, healing light.

   And that’s precisely what so many of the other paintings in this exhibit provide. Triner’s brushwork is facile and assertive, imbuing his sylvan visions with an expressive spontaneity. There’s also plenty of attention to rendering ligneous and foliate textures, but never to the point of being overly -precious.

   The enchanting power and beauty in these paintings is in their breathtaking capture of light and how Triner has let it inhabit his luscious palette. Even in the most shadowed or dark pockets of the woods, the colors retain a distinctive aura. And when the sun is filtered through the arboreal canopy, the ground becomes a dance floor of sorts, dappled with rhythms of flickering, shimmering pools and puddles of brightness, looking sometimes like so many iridescent footprints.

   Welcome to where light is a tactile reality unto itself. Walk, bask, smile, dance. Just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Meet the Metamorphs


Meet the Metamorphs 

                                                                         By Tom Wachunas


   “…Strange fascination, fascinating me…Ah, changes are taking the pace I’m going through…Time may change me, But I can’t trace time…  - lyrics from “Changes” by David Bowie, 1971

Metamorphosis: a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means / a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances  - Merriam-Webster


   EXHIBIT: Dust to Diamonds, new works by Erika Katherine, at Patina Arts Centre, 324 Cleveland Avenue N.W., in downtown Canton / Viewing hours are Thursdays Noon to 8 p.m. and Saturdays Noon to 9 p.m. / Through August 20, 2022

   First, here are some sentences I excerpted from Erika Katherin’e artist statement for this exhibit:

  Erika Katherine's newest collection of work explores the idea of time as pressure. Through intentionality, time itself feeds us, grows us, and makes us the creative beings we are. Diamonds are formed under pressure,… From nothingness, a beautiful stone is formed… Inspired by her love for fantasy, dark art, and surrealism, Erika has created a whimsical aesthetic…featuring the cute, the creepy, and the strange… character sculptures and surreal worlds from found objects that were once considered trash, polymer/paper clays, and epoxy resin….Dust to Diamonds… features work that has been molded by time. Scavenging through her studio at The HUB, collecting pieces and parts, trinkets, found objects, and adding in a combination of resin and polymer clays. Erika Katherine works to transform it all into something new and beautiful…Created from nothingness… and an abundance of magic, this exhibition aims to incite wonder.”

   Wonder indeed. As in, I wondered a lot about what her exquisitely crafted objects – particularly the smallish “character” sculptures - might signify exactly. Interestingly enough, there are no titles posted with the pieces, which can be useful (though not always, to be sure) in deciphering meaning.  Then again, being left to our own devices in that regard needn’t be a bad thing. In fact it can, for those willing to take time to look intentionally, actually incite a collaboration, a completion. The artist makes an object out of found, repurposed stuff, and the viewer makes something of the found art, so to speak. A partnership.

   Erika Katherine’s art – and for that matter, anything we call art -  isn’t really born from absolute nothingness. Art is always a… somethingness, taken from a somewhereness which the artist transubstantiates into a… something-elseness. In that sense, artists don’t “create” in the grand theological sense of the word so much as they impose metamorphoses. 

   What, then, are we looking at here? Pearly-sheened oddments. Glossy states of mind, at once whimsical, mystical and macabre.  Effigies, totems, incarnations, avatars. These curios from elsewhere all pop with luxuriant ornamental details and luscious color.

   There might be a saga here, a bizarre fairy tale. Something like this, perhaps: Once upon a sometime, blindfolded Princess Antenna came out of the mouth of Kingskull Gold Eyes to find her wandering misfit friends so they could help save her beloved horned pet, Watchyacallit, from being crushed by the evil Insomnia Tower harnessed to the poor thing’s back. Or not.

   OK so that may not be your take-away. In any case, see for yourself. Make time to put some pressure on your imagination. And while you’re at it, name those metamorphs. Save Watchyacallit!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Continuing Combobulations


Continuing Combobulations 


Mothra Getting Distracted

Ghost with Brains


Cop with Birds

By Tom Wachunas


   “…I got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days…”  - from “Life During Wartime” - song by Talking Heads, 1979

EXHIBIT: DaveRuinsArt - David Sherrill’s art, at The Hub Art Factory, 336 6th Street N.W, in downtown Canton.

NOTE: One remaining time to view the exhibition - the closing party on FRIDAY, AUGUST 19, 6 to 9p.m.

   In many ways this exhibit could rightly be considered a busy extension of David Sherrill’s first solo show mounted at Silo Arts gallery roughly six months ago. What I wrote about that exhibit is still very much applicable to this latest installation at The Hub Art Factory, so I offer this link to my first review if you care to click and (re)read:

     Is the epigram “DaveRuinsArt” a statement about existential irony? A logo for streetsmart sarcasm? Or just a smartass motto?  

   What are we looking at? Psychopunk? HyperPop Expressionism? David Sherrill cooks up up a bubbling hot casserole of images and ideas, generously spiced with edgy humor and a teaspoon or two of horror.      

    Are we to read Sherrill’s ruining of art as nothing more than a disarming bit of self-deprecation? If so, he’s a shade too modest. After all, the man is a facile enough painter. Beyond his wild white-lined abstractions, look at the finesse with which he places his acrylic movie-world monsters atop those found, “thrifted” scenes. Better yet, notice how he has recently revived the ancient art of black velvet painting with haunting portraits seemingly aglow in the dust of colored light. One of those is the jarring likeness of Gollum, that slithery mutant from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sagas. So arresting, I could practically hear his throaty, dark gurgle of a voice complimenting the other velvet renderings nearby, “Precious!”  

   So maybe in the end, DaveRuinsArt is a tongue-in-cheek marketing strategy to bait the insatiably inquisitive and the wild-at-heart among us. For here’s an invitation to walk that evermore wobbly tightrope of life between mirth and mayhem, fun and fury. You needn’t worry about falling off. The balloons on the gallery floor will cushion your crash.