Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Insightful Incisions


Insightful Incisions 

Every Year They Grow From Nothing

When I Become A Tree

When I Become A Tree In Fall (detail)

When I Become A Tree / Taking Off

Lying In Red

When I Become A Tree Aflame

I Thought I Was Supporting You #3

By Tom Wachunas 

“… Woodcut is incredibly physical and energetic, but also requires a level of intimacy and care in carving each mark. The resulting work is subtle, careful and rash, reflecting my own state of being as the artist…”  - Meryl Engler

From Merriam-Webster: Catharsis (kə-ˈthär-səs)

a: purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art

b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension


EXHIBIT: I Had Been Young Vol. 2 – woodcut prints by Meryl Engler / THROUGH MARCH 1, 2024,  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. 

About the artist: Meryl Engler grew up in Huntington Beach, California and moved to Akron, Ohio in fall 2019.  Meryl attended Syracuse University where she studied sculpture, printmaking, religious studies and history, while also competing on the women’s rowing team.  Next she went to graduate school at University of Nebraska-Lincoln for studio art with an emphasis in printmaking.  This is where she developed her love of colorful woodcut prints, often using pattern and repetition.  She is inspired by hidden landscapes in our environment and the relationships we form to it and each other. In 2022 she started working at the Morgan Conservatory and learned Eastern and Western papermaking techniques and now incorporates papermaking into her print work.  She has shown both nationally and internationally...


   In her statement for this exhibit, Engler writes that in this latest series of prints, “…I felt compelled to delve into my personal narrative…using self-portraiture, herons that symbolize messengers of change and transformation, quilts to portray nurture and caring, and one very peculiar tree…”

   That tree had been growing through a few seasons in, of all unlikely places, a parking lot - a location, she surmised, annoying to “most people” - near her Akron residence. Yet she came to see it as a unique symbol of her own growth and change.

   Mesmerizing in their complex patterns and linearities, Engler’s images are at once crowded and airy. Breathtaking and breath-giving. Lines of varying densities harmonize and seem to breathe as they rise and spread outward from tight clusters of foliate shapes. Her mark-making has a calligraphic sort of elegance about it, as if the imagery wasn’t carved so much as written in cursive style. Further, Engler’s incorporation of color imbues many of her images with a diaphanous light you might well call palpable magic. Nowhere is all this dazzling intimacy and intricacy more commanding than in the sheer ambitious scale of several monumental prints mounted on the gallery’s longest wall. They’re eight feet tall! Talk about wild grace…

   The marvelous fluidity and exactitude of these meticulous renderings is absolutely entrancing. Insightful. Insiteful. They’re incised with all the skilled precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.  And so they do indeed cut to the heart, as it were, of a beautiful personal catharsis.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Making a list, checking it twice - PART 2


Making a list, checking it twice…

What was...what could've" by Christine Janson

Dream Crusher, by Emily Orsich

Cathedral, by Steve Ehret

Salt and Peppa, by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker

Polaron II, by David L. Kuntzman

Momma Remembers, by Judi Krew

Windows from the Ukraine, by Lou Camerato


by Tom Wachunas


“Judging art is like caging a bird. Instead of seeing it soar, you can only watch it flutter.” — Ron Brackin

“Taste is the best judge. It is rare. Art only addresses itself to an excessively small number of individuals.” — Paul Cezanne


EXHIBIT: Stark County Artists Exhibition / at Massillon Museum Aultman Health Foundation Gallery, THROUGH JANUARY 14, 2024 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

   Shall we make like jurors and play a game of favorites?

   I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the artworks I submitted for this annual contest – er, uhm, exhibition - were not accepted by the jurors. I didn’t make the team, as it were, of 52 artists who were selected, and I certainly congratulate them. As one of 91 rejects, I can only guess as to why exactly the jurors deemed my work unseeworthy.

   As it is, I never gave much if any credence to establishing a hierarchy of monetary awards in group shows such as this -  Best in Show, 2nd place, 3d place, then down to a few “Honorable Mention” certificates. Why not simply consider having art chosen for exhibition as sufficient-enough award?

   To engage the practice of tiered prizes is to dive down a rabbit hole of questions and motives. As a society in the 21st century, for better or worse, we have no indisputably true map or absolute rule book for navigating that most complex of human terrains we have come to call subjectivity. Or better yet, in this context, aesthetic taste.

   With only a few days left to see this show, here’s a reminder that Massillon Museum has provided ballots for viewers to cast a vote for the “People’s Choice Award.” It will be announced shortly after the exhibit ends. Meanwhile, I offer here some pics of works I found to be particularly compelling, and indeed honorable, as I fluttered through my rabbit hole of opinion.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Making a list, checking it twice...


Making a list, checking it twice…

bare feet, by Jessica Morton

Bad Believer,  by Alex Strader

Under Siege, by Sally Priscilla Lytle

The Last Cowboy, by Todd Bergert

Nap-caftan, by Judi Krew

Empty Table, Filtered Light, by Bruce Stebner

(PART 1)

By Tom Wachunas 

“All aesthetic judgment is really cultural evaluation.” – Susan Sontag

“Any great art work… revives and re-adapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world – the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.” – Leonard Bernstein

“Judging art is like caging a bird. Instead of seeing it soar, you can only watch it flutter.” — Ron Brackin

“Taste is the best judge. It is rare. Art only addresses itself to an excessively small number of individuals.” — Paul Cezanne


EXHIBIT: Stark County Artists Exhibition / at Massillon Museum Aultman Health Foundation Gallery, THROUGH JANUARY 14, 2024 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

   After attending the November 30 opening reception for this hallowed annual rite, my initial take-away left me feeling just a bit more naughty than nice. Despite the show’s giddy diversity of styles, content, and media, and its sheer number of pieces (very crowded with 74 works, selected from 221 entries submitted by 91 artists), there was something uneven if not mediocre about the overall quality of the exhibit.

   What was I missing? What was I really doing there anyway? Was I a humbugging critic once again looking for stuff to complain about? Guilt raised its nagging voice and left me to ponder how my first observations of the show were perhaps too cursory.

   Long story short: I returned to the gallery two more times for a much slower, closer look. Of course there are indeed some truly remarkable pieces in this exhibit, and certainly well beyond just the works chosen by the jury to receive awards (as questionable as they may be to some of us).

   Consider this ARTWACH post as Part 1 of 2. So for this first part, here’s a look the jurors’ award winners. I’ll be posting Part 2 before the New Year begins.

Best in Show: bare feet - mixed media by Jessica Morton

Second Place: Nap-caftan – muslin, paper napkins, Sharpie, buttons – by Judi Krew

Third Place: Empty Table, Filtered Light – oil, by Bruce Stebner

Honorable Mentions: The Last Cowboy, oil on board by Todd Bergert / Under Siege, mixed media, by Sally Priscilla Lytle / Bad Believer, Digital, by Alex Strader

[This year’s jurors were Cleveland artist Davon Brantley; Melissa Stallard, Associate Professor, Photography Area Coordinator, The University of Akron; and Steve Mountz, artist/art instructor, Salem, Ohio.]

The 52 Stark County artists exhibited here are: Claire Murray Adams, Rosemary Anderson, Rodney Atwood, Alexia Avdelas, Todd Bergert, Charles Bonakoski, Chris Borello, Lou Camerato, Peter Castillo, Paul B. Codispoti, Therese Cook, Ron Copeland, David L. Dingwell, Laura Donnelly, Tim Eakin, Steve Ehret, Linda Faulkner, Shea Flaherty, Robert Gallik, Timothy Hirst, Bruce Humbert, Christine Janson, David Jentgen, Erika Katherine, Annabelle Kim, Judi Krew, David L. Kuntzman, Susan Kurtz, Ted Lawson, Sam Lilenfield, Amy V. Lindenberger, Sally Priscilla Lytle, Miranda Marsh, Sharon Frank Mazgaj, Susan McClelland, Mal McCrea, Daniel McLaughlin, Jessica Morton, Emily Orsich, Natividad Lopez Ortiz, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, Mark V. Pitocco, Brian Robinson, Priscilla Roggenkamp, Kathryn Skidmore, Sari Sponhour, Bruce Stebner, Alex Strader, Chad Troyer, Pat Mather Waltz, Jo Westfall, and Gail Wetherell-Sack.

Thursday, December 14, 2023





   Here is my 2023 Christmas painting/card to all of you. It’s called, simply, Good News. And with it, I pray always that the seeds of God’s Word - His Promise, Hope, and Peace - sown into the heart of the earth – all of humanity – take root and flourish into abundant Good Fruit. Be Blessed.

   For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9: 6-8

   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… -Galatians 5:22-23

   Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. -Hebrews 11:1

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Making Paint Sing


Making Paint Sing 

by Tom Wachunas

                                                             Dark Was The Night

                                                      1,000 Miles From Nowhere
Woman 1

La Muerte de la Madre 

                                                              On a Sea of Forgotten Teardrops
                                                                       Exit from Eden

                                                                 Cinderella Sleeping It Off

“Take me for what I am / A star newly emerging / Long simmering explodes / Inside the self is reeling / In the pocket of the heart, in the rushing of the blood / In the muscle of my sex, in the mindful mindless love / I accept the new found man / And I set the twilight reeling…”  Lyrics from “Set the Twilight Reeling” - by Lou Reed

“I use the human form, in all its complexities and abilities – through gesture, expression, and energy, to interpret the relationship between us and our emotions. Ultimately my intention is to make the viewers aware of their existence and how they fit into the collective experience that is life, where they came from, why they’re here, and what it means to be human.” – John W. Carlson

EXHIBIT: Set the Twilight Reeling – Paintings, prints, drawings, videos and objects by John W. Carlson / at Massillon Museum’s  Aultman Health Foundation Gallery, THROUGH November 12, 2023 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

   Have you ever heard a painting sing? Impossible, you say?

   As absurd as it might be to consider, have you ever had the uncanny sense of a picture evoking – maybe even actualizing - a human voice caught in the throes of grieving? Have you listened to an urgent vibrato seeking respite from anger or painful loss? Or felt its tremulous probing of tragedy in a courageous search for serenity and hope, harmony and healing? Can the physical materiality of a painting make tangible the impassioned lyricism of, say, a Blues song?  

   I’ve always been an avid believer in the agency of a painter’s hand to make empathy a visceral, empirical reality. To make immediacy palpable. It’s an agency in jaw-dropping abundance at the wonderful exhibition, or concert, if you will, still happening right now at Massillon Museum - a posthumous, thoroughly loving homage to the work of John W. Carlson (1954-2020).

    For this (unfortunately) late blog post, I’m taking off my formal critic’s hat. No arcane techno-speak from me here. Instead, for those of you who may not be able to see the show before it ends on November 12, I’m appealing to your open-hearted time and willingness to do some exploratory homework. Accordingly, you can read about Carlson’s life, motivations and prolific aesthetic pursuits by clicking on the hyperlinks above.

   Vital in embracing the overall spirit of the exhibit is this important  background information wisely provided by the Massillon Museum: “John Carlson collaborated with his partner, artist Shari Wilkins, on the project titled American Emotionalism founded in 2015. A manifesto of artistic intention was created for this movement, revealing some of the ways that Carlson and Wilkins challenged themselves in their work. Spanning a wide variety of mediums—from photography and music to painting and collage—American Emotionalism was a reaction against the over-explanation of visceral work. Carlson and Wilkins’ intention was to create work that elicits emotions that arise from instinctive, intuitive feelings, leaving space for viewers’ interpretation with little to no explicit explanation.”

   Carlson’s own words are generously evident throughout the exhibit, including these: “Viewing a painting with a strong presence asks us to stop and be present with it. It reawakens us, and we remember we are alive and that things matter.”

   Matter indeed. With this stunning show, Massillon Museum has outdone itself in gifting us with such a prodigious tribute to the mind and heart of a superb artist. John W. Carlson was, and remains, an évocateur of the most consummate sort. He told us, “…I’m…trying to conjure an image almost like a spell.”  Let me add, like a song.

   Simmering, exploding, rushing from the pocket of the heart…Come look and sing. Empathy, anyone?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Brava Illustrata! Celebrating Grit, Grace, and Gratitude


Brava Illustrata! Celebrating Grit, Grace, and Gratitude

Water Balloons

Thank you for fixing my Hip

Where did you find that baguette?

Meet ya at Milestone

Happy Pappy

BuzzBin and the Frankenstein Ghosts

By Tom Wachunas

            “I would see this man, pushing a cart down the sidewalk, with a baguette and wearing vans daily when working @siloartsstudio . He always was smiling, and I have no idea where he was finding this tall slender bread- or the story behind his shoes. He always brought a smile to my face. No idea where he came from or where he was going…”  - Kat Francis -  commenting on her piece, “Where did you find that baguette?”

EXHIBIT: Dear Canton – recent work by Kat Francis / at Silo Art Studios, 431 4th Street NW, downtown Canton, Ohio / THROUGH OCTOBER 28, 2023 - viewing hours Monday-Friday 9a.m to 3p.m


      As bad luck would have it, I was unable to be present at the much-heralded Friday the 13th opening of the Dear Canton exhibit of recent work by Kat Francis. By all accounts it was quite the exciting, well-attended event. And deservedly so. While I’m really sorry I missed it,  I’m all the more happy to report that Kat’s work remains viewable here for a few more days.

   So what are we seeing? A journal? A scrapbook? A love letter? An effusive thankyou note? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

   It’s all largely in the form of her playful, meticulous assemblages, many made with thin, layered slices of wood, painted with bright, delightfully energetic illustrations of the people, places and things of Canton’s sociocultural ethos that she has come to love and value.

   Here are some excerpts from the displayed letter she wrote to all of us. “Hello City of Dreamers…I am in awe of how resilient you are…You are determined. You are unique. A city of underdogs that start successful businesses and help their neighbors succeed any time they can…I have been inspired by you…because you’re a unique, scrappy and a determined city, with so many talented, motivated and beautiful people…Thank you for being part of my story. The good, the bad, and inspiring me daily…Cheers to all you underdogs…keep creating the city that you want to live in…”

   So on a personal note to Kat Francis, let me add… may your gratitude remain infectious, your creativity contagious, and your joy ever increasing.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Scintillating Sixth Sense Sojourns


 Scintillating Sixth Sense Sojourns 

80s Track Suit

Olives and Company

Aerial View 2 (top)/ Aerial View 1

Road Signs

Oh My

Lessons of Fatherhood 1-4

Refraction 2 (top) / Refraction 1

By Tom Wachunas 

“I make no distinction between poetry and painting.”  - Joan Miró

   EXHIBIT: Departures / recent paintings by Christopher Triner / at John Strauss Studios Gallery, 236 Walnut Ave NE, Canton, OH / Gallery hours: M – F 10a.m. to 5p.m.  THROUGH OCTOBER 13, 2023 / Artist Reception on Friday, Oct. 6, 6:00-9:00 p.m.

   Prior to seeing this exhibit, my last encounter with the work of prolific painter Christopher Triner was his solo show called “Detours,” at Cyrus Art Gallery one year ago. Here’s what he wrote then about his exquisite landscapes and arboreal scenes: "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."  He focused on representing nature as a beautiful, comforting refuge, rendered with a luscious palette, and pulsing with a luminous serenity.

   Here’s a link to my post about that show, in case you’re interested:

   Switch gears now, and fast-forward to more recent work featured in Triner’s current solo exhibit titled Departures. Here’s some of what he has written about these very distinctive abstractions: “…I see my work as still a type of topography or map-making of landscapes, but now, I cannot visually see the trails, the paths, and the light sources from images; only in the arbitrary occurrences that happen on the painting surfaces…”

   Departures, then? In the particular style of imagery, certainly. Yet Triner’s newer paintbrush trawlings are nonetheless tantalizing arrivals in their own right. They’re intimate, contemplative visits to…elsewhere. Sensing the seine, pith, and marrow of these abstractions is to enter a psychogenic ‘place’ – Triner’s as well as your own. So, how sharp is your sixth sense these days? To get into it, you’ll need to intuit. 

  Triner’s paintings are kinetic, performative actions. They’re not static, objectively illustrated geophysical scenes, but rather energetically encrypted expressions of a state of mind and heart. Call it a meditative choreography of moods and memories filtered, unraveled, and reconfigured as if to the beat of the painter’s brush hearing music.

   To be complete, all they need now are willing partners. Care to listen and dance along, anyone?