Monday, September 18, 2023

Tantalizing Terrains


 Tantalizing Terrains

Magical Thinking



A Glimmering Shift

A Stone from the Sky

Talk Talk

By Tom Wachunas 

“…I work in a wide range of images, sometimes recognizable and sometimes abstract. The world between the two is where most of my work resides. Narratives weave loosely through this process and… images coalesce and collapse almost simultaneously.” – Randi Reiss McCormack

“… incorporating fiber-based materials and techniques into a painterly vocabulary and dazzlingly beautiful objects, Reiss-McCormack enlivens and enriches the art world’s most exalted medium, and imbues it with hospitality, domestic tradition, diversity, and accessibility.”  - Cara Ober, May 2022

EXHIBIT: Magical Thinking / work by Randi Reiss-McCormack on view THROUGH SEPTEBER 22, 2023 / at The Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, in the Fine Arts Building at Kent State University at Stark, 6000 FRANK AVENUE NW, NORTH CANTON, OH / Gallery hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

   During and after looking at this mesmerizing exhibit of 14 abstract works by Baltimore-based painter and fiber artist, Randi Reiss McCormack, a thought kept returning like a chant, embedding itself in my memory. It is this: The picture wants what the picture wants.

  Think of the initial gestures of placing formal elements (lines, shapes, colors, textures) on a surface as a realization of the artist’s will to voice a message, feeling, or story with a particular visual vocabulary.  Yet as time progresses, the distinctive grammar of the curious creature we call abstract art is such that another agency can often enter the process of picture-making, spontaneously investing the vocabulary with new nouns, verbs, objects. This agency is the most ineffable of motivators. The closest term that comes to mind in describing it is intuition. Something other than pre-learned or overt consciousness.

   You might also call it magic, or enchantment. It has a will of its own, even a desire, to be heard. It can push, pull, compel, or constrain, as if conversing with the artist’s hand. The picture wants what the picture wants, and seemingly instructs the artist.

    In responding to this uncanny coalescence of wills, Randi Reiss McCormack is equal parts bold, resourceful speaker and responsive listener. She expands the parameters of painting beyond actions of the brush with an array of impressive skills that include fiber techniques such as rug tufting, needlepoint, embroidery and punch needle. Spinning yarns, weaving tales… and sew it goes indeed.

   Her resulting imagery is an elaborate, practically sculptural balancing of dualities at once earthbound and ethereal. The entire exhibit is a sumptuous  tactile metaphor, or allegorical suggestion of forces and forms inspired by nature, all in constant, simultaneous states of becoming and dispersing. Here is a gripping confluence and an alluring dialogue between matter and spirit in flux.

   The enticing bravura of Randi Reiss-McCormack’s artistry is wonderful to behold. And be held, as in… touched. And so I confess to tasting the forbidden fruit of art show etiquette by letting not only my eyes but also my fingers gently saunter over the luscious and intricate diversity of these touchable terrains. I simply couldn’t resist. I feel only a little guilty. After all, Reiss- McCormack started it. She made me do it. She’s something of a shaman, you know. A magician.

Friday, August 25, 2023

X Marks the Spot


X Marks the Spot

Skeleton // XXIII/II

Skateboard decks

Drella / II / 10.22

Frank Sinatra // XXI

Exploding Star // XXIII - X

By Tom Wachunas

“Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness” - Allen Ginsberg

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." -Andy Warhol

“Billy Ludwig’s mixed media pieces are meant to look as though they were just cut off a downtown wall covered in guerrilla marketing and/or artwork that was once hanging in an establishment like a museum that has been abandoned — the structure set to be torn down after years of it and its contents being vandalized, these pieces have been rescued from demolition. Along with signature accents, each piece is embellished with various information about the subject - significant numbers, latitude/longitudes, quotes and more. The devil really is in the details…”  - from Billy Ludwig, at

EXHIBIT: SKULL & BONES -The Artwork of Billy Ludwig / THROUGH SEPTEMBER 7th  at Cyrus Custom Framing and Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton, Ohio / Viewing hours: Monday - Friday 10am ish – 6pm / Saturday 11am - 3pm /Closed first Saturday of the month and Closed on Sundays / (330) 452-9787 / CLOSING RECEPTION FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, at 6:30 p.m.

   What does the name of this monotonal exhibit – “Skull and Bones” – suggest to you? Pirate flags and plundered booty? Mortality? Decay?  Aaargh, me mateys…

   The entire gallery space is saturated in a somber palette. Collectively, Billy Ludwig’s black-and-white mixed media works on wood or canvas exude a palpable solemnity and, perhaps, a funereal pallor. The visual un-glitziness of these pieces, given the nature of their subject matter, is weirdly ironic, yet somehow still intriguing and provocative.

   That subject matter is largely built upon appropriated photos of famous people and characters. Celebrities. Here are artists/entertainers, influencers, real as well as fictional, who have become (for better or worse) luminous pop-culture icons. Treasured objects of our worldly attention, affection, admiration. Presences now or once so bright we call them… stars.

   Yet their light, as rendered here, often feels faded. Their likenesses are printed in glib shades of grey. Sometimes they’re engaging, like a magazine glamour pic. And sometimes they’re also quite mundane, like photos on a driver’s license, a passport, a mug shot.

   Fame and celebrity can be fickle, feckless and fleeting - a dazzling, death-defying skateboard trick against inevitable gravity before the wheels fall off. Exhibited in this context, a few of Ludwig’s dramatically stark abstract paintings might be metaphorical reminders that fame and celebrity, like stars, explode. They end, leaving behind only scribbles, splotches and shadows of their former glory.

    To what degree are all of us pirates, insatiable consumers, ever searching for and seizing the latest greatest biggest bestest pleasure treasure the world has to offer?

   To the devil in the details, here’s a tasty tidbit of ancient wisdom, from Ecclesiastes 1:8-9: All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

   Aaargh, me mateys.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Mesmerizing Synchronies


Mesmerzing Synchronies 

Suspended Between

Plying Together

Out Of The Box

Imaginative Space Evoked

Lattice Woven

X Blue Hue

By Tom Wachunas 

Just look around: in modern life, the grid is everywhere… The grid is the net that connects art with the increasingly ordered qualities of day-to-day life. As Rosalind Krauss wrote, “logically speaking, the grid extends, in all directions, to infinity.”  - Nessia Pope, ARTSPACE curator, from “How the Grid Conquered Contemporary Art” (2014)

I think it's really useful to create parameters. The term you use can be forwarded into something more like a grid, a rubric, a system that you apply to all environments, and in so doing you create a situation in which you can locate local color, local differences within new environments.  - Kehinde Wiley 

liminal: of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold ; of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : IN-BETWEEN, TRANSITIONAL

synchrony: the way in which two or more things happen, develop, move, etc. at the same time or speed

EXHIBIT: LIMINAL – paintings by Mary Crane Nutter  / THROUGH AUGUST 18, 2023, at Strauss Studios Gallery   / 236 Walnut Ave NE in downtown Canton, OH / M – F 10a.m. to 5p.m.

Background / Bio info and images:

 EXCERPTS: Mary Crane Nutter lives in Walla Walla, Washington, where her studio is located at her home/small farm with a traditional wood barn. Several years ago, she partnered with her sister, Sarah Crane, a graphic designer and photographer to create a neighborhood art and performance experience for the local community at the farm. In creating that experience, she began to make color blocked paintings on panels that were inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch barn star artwork… “If it had not been for that experience, I would not be making the paintings I am making today”, she explained. “It is here in Walla Walla, while immersed in quiet country living… that my mind travelled back to fond memories of my late Grandmother Doris and the many hours I spent as a child watching her create beautiful quilts.

   Think about what Mary Crane Nutter has called her immersion in “quiet country living” as an initial motivation - and a conceptual foundation – for making her mesmerizing acrylic paintings on wood panels. Most of her works in this exhibit are layered geometric abstractions rendered with mellifluous  chromatic harmonies and a vigorous linear precision.

    Interestingly enough, there are few instantly familiar rural or agricultural tropes, much less any stereotypical scenes of what we would readily identify as bucolic, pastoral or backwoodsy. In that sense they’re not prosaic illustrations of specific localities so much as poetic implications. I’m thinking of them as metaphorical pictographs. Poetry for the eyes.

   A central formal element in Nutter’s intricate compositions is the inclusion of intermingled grid motifs in varying dimensions and positions. Here are grids within grids. They can suggest any number of life’s recurring physical patterns and topographies, like meticulously stitched patchwork quilts; like houses or barns or whole neighborhoods – themselves typically constructed on wooden grids; like the fields on which those structures stand, fields often scored and furrowed with crisscrossed lines left by by plows or lawn mowers or rows and rows of crops; like woodlands with their networks of vertical tree trunks and horizontal branches.

    Embedded within many of these grid configurations are circular forms. Such bold emblems might suggest everything from windows and magnifying lenses, to shimmering, multi-colored bubbles reflecting a changing sky, or the organic textures of soil and wood.

   In any case, they serve perhaps as arresting encouragement for viewers to fully look a-round at Nutter’s intriguing ciphers. And really, the only requirement for decoding them is to immerse yourself in the grid – the country, if you will – of your own imagination.  

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Novus Ordo Seclorum


Novus Ordo Seclorum 

By Tom Wachunas 


   My most recent work is a collage on canvas (20” x 16”), called Scars and Stripes.

   OK, so I’m a word-play maniac. Maybe think of this piece as a crime seen, or State of the Contusion address. Let me explain:

In the course of human events, in order to form a more perfect  fight, we the people, in our twilight’s last perilous gleaming, give proof through the night of bombs, bursting what so proudly we hailed. Oh say!  Can you yet see, o’er the ramparts, a new order of the ages?

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Between the seams, a fibrous journal


Between the seams, a fibrous journal

Everloving (top) / Because You're Safe

I don't do well

after all these years who is that staring back at me?

you're more graceful than that

My stomach hurts

By Tom Wachunas

“What does it feel like when our race against the clock overshadows the likelihood of preserving memories? Moving through grief, time, and the end of a transformative decade, I explore my origins in an effort to grasp this new life…”  - Sarah C. Blanchette artist statement

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something until it becomes a memory.”  - Dr. Seuss 

EXHIBIT: Sarah C. Blanchette: All Shook Uptextiles and mixed media prints / Through July 23, 2023, in Studio M at Massillon Museum /  located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. For more information, call 330-833-4061, or visit

From Massillon Museum: “Sarah C. Blanchette is a photo-based fiber artist who works out of the Detroit area. Through repetitive acts of hand and machine sewing and physical manipulations of the self-portrait, she documents her coming of age in a digital world while embarking on a journey toward growth and autonomy in womanhood.”


   Inside this remarkably provocative Studio M exhibit of works by Sarah C. Blanchette, the very air in the room feels dense, even desperate. Saturated with introspective solemnity. The walls themselves project a gravitas. They’re not supporting bright, eye-popping colors. Instead, they appear stark and heavy, weighted with billowy splotches of …what?

   All the pieces were made with digital thermal print scans printed on velvet, cotton thread, vinyl and batting, and largely handsewn. Blanchette calls them “tactile tapestries,” and “journal-esque monochrome velvet quilts.” Imagery and words are stitched together, gleaned from personal and familial sources, spanning various moments across time, including voice recordings and family communications posted in social media. In her statement, the artist writes that, “…when brought together, these documentations served as resources to express the terror that time is slipping away…”  Blanchette also adds that her artworks “…beg the viewer to consider their weight.”

    So here’s one of those potent occasions when viewing art evokes, of all things, spelunking. Don’t just glance at this art. See into it, as if peering into, and then entering, a cave. A cave holding memories. Some bright and bold, others a bit murky. In any case, what I find most engaging about Blanchette’s works are the intriguing questions they raise about the dynamics, the lifespan, the preservation of memories and the truths they hold, or hide.

   Does a memory have a physique, a measurable mass or weight? Can a memory exude light? If so, will that illuminated physical presence, that present-ness, be necessarily diminished by the relentless passage of time? And during that inevitable passage, will the light from our accumulated memories be dimmed or fade away completely?

    Making art is certainly one of our culture’s most courageous – and loving - acts of memory preservation. As Blanchette so poignantly observes in her statement, her new pieces “…have become the most dependable form of preservation…They won’t ever disappear, even as their subjects do.”

   One more metaphor. Truly compelling artworks are like the sturdiest of ships carrying real treasure, and able to survive the storm-ravaged seas of passing time. Sarah Blanchette’s creations are indeed see-worthy vessels.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Scott Alan Evans Phones Home


Scott Alan Evans Phones Home

Alien Egg III


Chestburster (ALIEN)

Ack Ack Ack (Mars Attacks)

Blair Thing

Palmer Thing

By Tom Wachunas

“You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse.” – Ripley, from Alien

“Klaatu barada nikto.” – from The Day the Earth Stood Still 

EXHIBIT: Shock! Horror! Whizz! Bang! – Paintings by Scott Alan Evans / at Patina Arts Center / 324 Cleveland Avenue NW in downtown Canton, Ohio / Through July 29, 2023 / Gallery hours: Thursday Noon to 8p.m., Friday 7p.m. to 10p.m., Saturday Noon to 9p.m.

   Imagine, if you dare, watching the likes of Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon or Vincent van Gogh (and for that matter, a host of other expressionist paint pushers, living and dead, do come to mind here) pumped up on some sorta performance-enhancer (not that they really need it), and then executing a portrait.

 Well…they’re heeeere. Get a load of the spanking new works by Scott Alan Evans.

   So yes, the pictures in this exhibit are, for the most part, portraits. In this case, portraits of some iconic characters from Movie Land. To be precise, monsters, robots, and aliens you might love to hate or hate to love. As formal compositions, they’re uncomplicated, never too cute, and all at once simple, stark, halting, haunting.

   In as much as I’ve come to detest the woefully overused term ‘painterly’ as an adequate descriptor of artistic technique, for the moment I plead guilty to applying it. To be more specific, Evans’ acrylic paintings on canvas are ample proof of a very aggressive if not playful hand at work. His is a frenzied - and to some degree delightfully puerile - hand, given to spontaneous moments of laying down colors impasto-style, then quickly adding tonal variations that get unceremoniously smooshed, swiped or scraped. Call it a rude blending. And interestingly enough, these visceral surfaces don’t look so much like the liquid rubbery stuff of acrylic, but rather exude an unrefined, earthy sheen of oil paint. So…painterly it is after all.

   I can see how avid fans of kitschy sci-fi horror flicks, gripped as they may be by feverish nostalgia, could well find these works “charming” in some darker sense of the word. Some of the paintings are unabashedly lurid caricatures. Others have a genuine, humorous edge about them. Still others are truly frightening in their unfettered boldness.

   Whatever your tastes may be, I highly recommend coming to the gallery this coming Saturday, July 15, 7p.m. to 9p.m., to meet and talk with Scott Alan Evans as he discusses his inspiration and processes.

  While you’re there, be sure to ask him: Ack ack ack, klaatu barada niktu?

Friday, June 9, 2023

Live. Breathe. Sing. Love.


 Live. Breathe. Sing. Love. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philipians 4:8

   And finally, brothers and sisters, as I hope is the case for so many of us in this presently numbing moment, my sadness can be greatly diminished, perhaps even overcome, only by the power of unfettered gratitude. Gratitude for the blessed gift, the gem, that is Gerhardt Zimmermann.

  Thank You, Maestro, for stirring, indeed igniting, my soul. Thank You for listening to what has called you. Thank You for the truly profound impact of your artistry, the sheer nobility and praiseworthy excellence of your loving vision and passion.

   And so to my readers, here is the letter which Gerhardt recently wrote to his family of orchestra musicians.


Dear Canton Symphony Orchestra Musicians,

I hope this letter finds you well and surrounded by the joy of music. It is with profound sadness and a heavy heart that I write to you today to share some difficult news. After nearly 50 extraordinary years of leading this marvelous orchestra, it is my responsibility to inform you of a significant decline in my health and my transition to Hospice care.

Throughout the past half-century, it has been an absolute privilege and honor to stand before this exceptional group of musicians as your conductor. Together, we have created unforgettable experiences for ourselves and our audiences. The dedication, talent, and passion that each of you brings to our performances have made the Canton Symphony Orchestra a beacon of excellence in the world of classical music. The music we have brought to life, the harmonies we have crafted, and the emotional landscapes we have traversed are a testament to the power of our collective artistry. The Canton Symphony Orchestra has become my musical family; it is the gem that many people search their whole lives for and never find and I was lucky enough to have it for so many years.

Though my body may weaken, my love for music and the incredible talent each of you possesses remains undiminished. I implore each and every one of you to continue nurturing music; embrace the beauty of every note, find inspiration in every measure, and strive for excellence in every performance. Cherish the camaraderie that exists within this orchestra, for it is the bond that fuels our collective brilliance.

Please understand that I will forever be with you in spirit, even if I am unable to stand on the podium. Your dedication, talent, and commitment have made the Canton Symphony Orchestra an artistic force to be reckoned with, and I have the utmost faith in your ability to carry that torch forward. May music always be your guide, and may the passion in your hearts continue to ignite the souls of your audiences. Never stop pursuing the beauty that lies within each note.

Sitting in the orchestra for the first time at Bowling Green, it was as if the heavens opened up. From that moment on, a conductor was all I wanted to be. In life, if you're going to do it, give it all you can. Live it. Breath it. Sing it. Enjoy it. Love it. Sing, sing, sing...