Monday, August 3, 2020

Remote Yearning: Prompt and Circumstance




Remote Yearning: Prompt and Circumstance 



By Tom Wachunas 

 

"Drawing is putting a line (a)round an idea."  - Henri Matisse

 

          γρ σοφία το κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρ τ

       Θε στιν γέγραπται γάρ δρασσόμενος

       τος σοφος ν τ πανουργί ατν  - 1 Corinthians 3:19

 

    Here’s a new drawing of mine called Remote Yearning: Prompt and Circumstance (graphite and acrylic on sketchbook paper). At first, I regarded this return to a black-and-white dynamic as a possible starting point for a more elaborate work replete with lots of painterly textures, along with some robust color and collage elements, and not too unlike a few of my recent Summer pieces on wood panels. Some day, perhaps, but not yet.

    I’m satisfied at the moment to offer it simply as a work of abstract writing -  a codified reaction to the vexing challenges of designing an online version of the course I’ve been teaching at Kent Stark (“Art as a World Phenomenon”) for the past 13 years. For most of this Summer I’ve been reluctantly navigating the technological muck of tutorials and webinars on using digital media platforms and tools for remote teaching. Thanks to the necessary practices that Covid19 has wreaked upon our schools and universities, we’ve become dependent on the Internet, like never before, to facilitate education. I remain unenthused, even questioning the efficacy of “distance learning,” all the while missing the hallowed (and still wisest) traditions of  real, face- to- face teaching…teaching as a true performance art.

   So this drawing is by a complainer. He’s temporarily floating and aimless, cut, dragged, pasted and downloaded (or is it uploaded?) into a sea of infection connections - icons, tabs, hyperlinks and prompts, screens within screens within screens. In the end maybe it’s all just an exercise in remote yearning.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Porcelain Parables


Porcelain Parables

A summer Breeze and a Golden Necklace

The Future Is Bright

These Are Barren Times

Our Collective Existential Crisis

The Taste of Fleeting Success

Black Bear Thoughts


By Tom Wachunas

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

“I create narratives using personal experience combined with animal interactions and semiotics…I strive to reveal human realities by exposing both the light and shadow parts of life…”   -Taylor Robenalt

   EXHIBIT: SYMBOLIC NARRATIVE: CERAMICS BY TAYLOR ROBENALT / at The Canton Museum of Art (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue N. / THROUGH AUGUST 2, 2020 / Hours: Tuesdays-Fridays 10a.m. to 4p.m. / FREE ADMISSION THROUGH AUG.2 /  330.453.7666 / visitors should pre-schedule their viewing time and reserve tickets at


   From Merriam-Webster, definition of semiotics: a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics.

   Though I’m fairly certain that this exhibit was planned well before the onset of the Covid crisis, it nevertheless resonates with our time -  this protracted season of intense societal flux. We’re living in a complicated, dystopian era, poised at a volatile nexus of viral anguish and consuming desire for healing and redemption.

   Taylot Robenalt is a storyteller. Viewed collectively, her porcelain objects are a compelling sculptural treatise on the human experience of life’s dichotomies, life’s challenging dualities. Her exquisitely crafted pieces  merge figure, flora, and fauna into intriguing metaphors. These are codified narratives – symbols, totems, shrines, memorials. They’re emotive reflections on embracing the human spirit - at once fragile and robust, vulnerable and indomitable - as it navigates all manner of existential circumstances.

   To be fully alive is to be touched by the inevitability of cycles, of change - to experience a journey into light, into darkness, and back again.  There are stories here rendered in the dulled colors of mourning, of corruptibility and mortality, such as These Are Barren Times, or Our Collective Existential Crisis.

   There are also brighter episodes of purity, or hope, or joy, such as in A Summer Breeze and a Golden Necklace. Yet, look closely at the woman’s face (the artist’s self-portrait?). She appears about to cry. Is her golden crown on the verge of falling off? Even the graceful white swan looks like it’s snarling, as if to say this moment won’t last. Likewise, in The Future is Bright, there’s still an abiding sense of the temporary, of precarious balancing. The woman’s expression is subtly serious, even stern, locked in concentrated determination to savor all that delicate, beautiful fertility atop her head before it becomes...what? And so it goes, this circle, this yin and yang of being.

    Through all their intricate forms, sumptuous textures, and lustrous hues, Robenalt’s porcelain musings exude a strange charm, unsettling and disarming at the same time. Here are eloquent parables about the eternally changeable seasons of being alive.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Dazzling Devotions


Dazzling Devotions

Merv Corning, Ancient Warrior 

Merv Corning, Baker's Table with Brass and Silver 

Merv Corning, The Bath

Merv Corning, October - Wyeth Farm 

J.D. Titzel, Harmony Church 

J.D. Titzel, Nuthatch 

J.D. Titzel, Remnant Tractor 

J.D. Titzel, Orchard Truck


By Tom Wachunas

“Painting is possessed of divine power, for not only does it make the absent present, but also makes the dead almost alive.” - Leon Battista Alberti

   “There are no half measures when it comes to watercolour. Watercolour demands constant devotion.”  -Pierre Tougas

   EXHIBITS: Reflections: The Artistic Spirit of Merv Corning / Patient Work: Watercolors by J.D.Titzel / at The Canton Museum of Art (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue N. / THROUGH AUGUST 2, 2020 / Hours: Tuesdays-Fridays 10a.m. to 4p.m. / FREE ADMISSION THROUGH AUG.2 /  330.453.7666 / visitors should pre-schedule their viewing time and reserve tickets at


   The following two paragraphs are excerpted from CMA Exhibition statements:

   “… In fact, the NFL first contacted Corning (American, 1926-2006) in 1966-67 for watercolor illustration work; their relationship would span 30 years, with Corning becoming, as the NFL put it, "football's pre-eminent artist”…This major retrospective exhibition honors Merv Corning’s importance as an American master of art—particularly watercolor…Reflections showcases not only works from CMA's Merv Corning Collection, but also works from private collections and museums around the country…”

   “Largely self-taught watercolor artist, J.D. Titzel, has drawn and painted since high school. He began his college career as an art major at Wittenberg University but found he couldn’t connect with the largely popular abstract movement…When he paints in watercolor, Titzel builds color slowly in very thin layers of paint. Some areas are 2-3 layers while others are attained in 10 or more layers. This gives the painting more nuances and depth than a single color can achieve…”

   Once upon a time, in a confused mentality far, far away, I was often too cavalier in dismissing watercolorists in general as so many dabblers, casual amateurs, Sunday-painter hobbyists. Mea maxima culpa.

   Due largely to CMA’s ongoing and admirable commitment to collecting and exhibiting significant American watercolor works from the 19th century and forward, I’ve come to savor the medium’s unique character. Many painters, accomplished and otherwise, can attest to its unforgiving nature, its daunting technical demands, and the skills required to meet them effectively. In the disciplined hands of masterful painters such as Merv Corning and J.D.Titzel, the medium is magical.

   Their pictures are representational in nature, speaking a language most would categorize, understandably enough, as realism. But as with any language, there can be differing dialects, accents,  inflections. And that’s evident here. While both artists engage the same vocabulary and basic grammar – identifiable subjects from the visible world – there are subtle but distinct differences in the artists’ syntactic practices.

   Among the most captivating elements in the works by both of these painters is the uncanny illusionism of tactile surfaces. The precision of nuanced detail is at times astonishing.

   But those details can be rendered in different kinds of light. The way Corning laid in his crystalline illumination often gave his colors a surprising solidity and brilliance. The light in Titzel’s works tends to be a bit more diffused, though certainly no less captivating. His visions feel wrapped in a softness, a meditative quietude.

   Looking at these works induced in me the sensation of reading the artists’ personal narratives. Here are stories of their passionate devotions to closely observing their surrounds, their willingness to be immersed in what they were looking at. Here is the joyous eloquence of the practiced, indeed patient hand, and the unwavering eyes that can find profound poetry in even the simplest of things.

   So these aren’t just pictures. They’re vessels of transportation. They can take us to that spellbinding place where we too can be immersed in our own act of seeing.

Monday, July 6, 2020

BON APPETIT!


BON APPÉTIT!

Magic Circle Variation 6, by Rogan Brown (2015)

Heart of the Son, by Michael Buscemi (2016)

Tsunami-Oblivious, by Bovey Lee (1982)

Coringa, by Margaret Griffith (1981)

Collective Portrait #8..., by Amy Oates (1987)

(top) Cabron, (bottom) Untitled (Irises), by Gabriel Schama (2015)

Between the Lines, by Mounir Fatmi (2010)


By Tom Wachunas

   “With this exhibition we can see that the long history, tradition, and art of paper cutting now find a rich synergy with our contemporary art world. The process and art of cutting—complex, delicate, beautiful, tedious, consuming, frustrating, and awesome—can be seen as a metaphor for life itself and the acts of creating: in art, work, and family.”  - Excerpted from curatorial statement prepared by Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Bedford Gallery.

   EXHIBIT: Cut Up / Cut Out, at Massillon Museum, in the Aultman Health Foundation Gallery / THROUGH AUGUST 23, 2020 / 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / HOURS: Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm and Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

     More info at:      http://www.massillonmuseum.org/499
 
   These recent months of navigating the torrid seas of societal mayhem have radically disrupted my sense of time passing, of place and destination, of purpose and productivity, and otherwise my expectations of “normalcy.” It’s all been a rude reminder that expectations are often resentments waiting to happen.

   But enough with such frustrations. My experience of walking through the doors of Massillon Museum on the first day of its re-opening (June 26) was a therapeutic one. Healing, in fact. After such a protracted period of involuntary fasting, seeing actual art again - in real time, in an actual, physical place designed to exhibit it – viewing Cut Up/Cut Out was just like partaking of a lavish feast.   
  
   This travelling exhibition, featuring the work of more than 50 national and international artists, was organized in 2016 by Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions at the Bedford Gallery in the Lesher Center for the Arts, located in Walnut Creek, CA. Her inspiration for the exhibit came from her avid interest in the art of paper cutting, historically an often decorative practice with roots dating back to 6th century China, the birthplace of paper as we know it.

   The very eclectic range of content in this splendid exhibit transcends the immediacy of ornamentation - dazzling as it often is - into compelling symbols, narratives, and metaphors.  In the hands of these artists, the skilled act of cutting a tangible surface or plane (and not just paper here)of severing, penetrating, perforating, reshaping – is not simply a finely-crafted diminishment or removal of material for decoration’s sake. Rather, the cutting reveals things beyond the apparent. The entire exhibit is an exhilarating reminder that much of the power and beauty of art is in its capacity to transform worldly materials and mundane processes into metaphysical realities…to make the spiritual somehow tangible.  

   The sheer intricacy of minute detail in many of the works can induce a  hypnotic hold on your attention. Look long at the labyrinthine clusters of tiny shapes (hand and laser-cut paper) in Rogan Brown’s aptly titled Magic Circle Variation 6. There’s a practically microscopic intensity in the way the work evokes diving deep into a bleached coral reef.

   Equally mesmerizing and meditative is Michael Buscemi’s Heart of the Son (hand-cut archival paper). All those curvaceous foliate shapes seem to emit their own radiant light, bursting from the center like tongues of white flame.

   Tsunami-Oblivious (Chinese rice paper), by Bovey Lee, tells a riveting story about the power of churning wind and waves. [Please note: The photograph of the work I’ve included here is from the artist’s web site. The piece in the Massillon show is mounted under glass on a dark blue ground.]  Considering the chaotic nature of the disaster unfolded before us, the piece is rendered with an uncanny delicacy.

   Coringa is a commanding and mystical floor-to-ceiling installation by Margaret Griffith, made with all-black hand-cut paper. The piece suggests something at once architectural and floral, posing some intriguing associations. Is it a silhouetted scene from nature at night? Or the animated shadows of sculpted arabesques on an ancient gateway or temple? It dances in space.

    For her Collective Portrait #8: All the people I encounter each day (hand-cut paper hung with monofilament), Amy Oates constructed a fascinating crowd of seemingly transparent figures that appear to float in and out of their own shadows. It’s a delightfully spirited memory of real people, or maybe a fleeting encounter with friendly ghosts. 

   So let me return for a moment to my sense of this show being a feast. I came hungry. I savored the lavish menu for its wild variety of tastes – some savory and sweet, others packing a tangy wallop. I left gratefully nourished. It’s a grand table indeed, set to serve any famished soul.

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