Friday, December 30, 2016

Spare Changes - A Personal Remembrance

Spare Changes – A Personal Remembrance

By Tom Wachunas

    This time of year invariably brings some missives from friends or family chronicling their doings over the past year. And with the approach of 2017, that particular holiday practice has put me in a reflective  frame of mind. What I wish to share with you here is not a recap of the past year, however, but rather a few thoughts on something that recently startled me: January, 2017, will mark the 25th anniversary of my decision to resettle in Canton, where I was born, after living in New York City for 14 years. Twenty-five years back in Canton! Whaaat the…where’d the…who…how did…Huh?

   Not very long ago, I was surprised to get an email note sent by a New York friend from a lifetime ago. It included a YouTube link that plays back an original song I had recorded, titled “Happy the Man,” for an LP (yep, a full-length vinyl album) I made in Columbus, called “Spare Changes,” in 1975. It also included a those-were-the-days remembrance of how I often played the song during my brief stint as a singer (in the loosest sense of the word)-songwriter at various Manhattan folk music venues. The song was originally about a broken romance with a specific young woman. Yet in listening to it again, I thought of another broken romance altogether.

   The song now has the strange effect of bringing me to the moment when I   decided to leave New York for good. I had been staying with my oldest brother and his family for the holidays at their North Canton home. At that point, I was coming to grips with the unsavory details of my circumstances – taking an inventory, if you will – which included being recently divorced, jobless, and homeless. I had beaten a hasty retreat from the city that never sleeps to take a long, sobering look at my very un-sober life. New York, that beguiling playground of possibilities, had morphed into an ugly landscape of self-sabotaged dreams.

   And so it is that on one January morning in 1992, after an ice storm in these parts, I was looking out of the picture window of my brother’s house, framing a pristine vision of Ohio winter. A decision was waiting, as if standing in the wings, poised to make its entrance on to the stage of my life, cluttered as it was with the debris of so many previously bad decisions. I stepped outside to breathe in the landscape. A persistent wind was whistling  through the ice-laden branches of the trees, causing a gentle cacophony of clicking noises as they flapped together. Back and forth, like so many crystalline hands etched into the sky. It sounded almost like…yes, that was it. Applause. The premiere of a new show. Adieu, New York.

    One  line in “Happy the Man” is particularly relevant in this context - “We cannot stay in one place long if staying means losing what we are.”  Indeed.

   For your entertainment, I include here a link to the YouTube entry    ,as well as a link to info about the album, 

   which includes this short and… uhm, flattering review:  
“among the Top Shelf Singer-Songwriter albums ever! ...imagine Neil Young in some carribean lagoon crackin' up shells for new songs and you get an idea for Tom's voice! 6- and 12-string guitars w/accordion, e-piano, vibes, bass 'n drums and Bruce Roberts (of ONE ST. STEPHEN-FAME!!) cranks some lead-guit-licks that shimmer w/the icy-intense-sparse ("happy the man") ...I guess Acid-Folk is the term! an utterly relaxed performance with THAT introspective, poetic fade-glow that borders to the ethereal shiver (Joni M. would love this...) ...10 songs like delicious fruit in the bowl or shootin' smooth arrows outta ever-full quiver (at the owl) recorded in Columbus, Ohio in the summer of '75 .”

  And speaking of happy, my wish for all of you readers is that your New Year is just that. See you then.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Enthralling Eggsactitudes

Enthralling Eggsactitudes

By Tom Wachunas

   “…Working in all artistic media from oil, acrylic and watercolor paints to encaustic, fiber, and ceramics, from printmaking, photography, and pen & ink, to sculpture, light works and sculpture, the artists transform ostrich eggs into works of great beauty that refer to traditions in high art—the Imperial Easter eggs crafted by Peter Carl FabergĂ©—and to folk traditions as well—beeswax-decorated Ukrainian pysanaky eggs….”

   Full background, photos, and curator’s statement at:

   EXHIBIT:  Art 360°: Contemporary Art Hatching Across Ohio, Curated by Charles Bluestone/ at Massillon Museum, Second Floor Gallery/ THROUGH  FEBRUARY 12, 2017 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon / 330-833-4061 /   44 contemporary artists from across Ohio have embraced the challenge of embellishing ostrich eggs; they have come together in a wide variety of forms to demonstrate the creativity of the arts community.

   “The world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities.”  - George Eliot

   Entering this beautifully mounted exhibit on the second floor of Massillon Museum is to enter a world of ovoid oddities, a world of curiouser and curiouser orbs. Eggs, to be exact. Ostrich eggs, to be exacter.

   These alluring objects are a universe apart from, say, typical decorated Easter eggs, which are essentially a Christian adaptation of much more ancient craft traditions – from diverse cultures - associating eggs with fertility and the renewal of life.  

    Generally we think of an egg as a vessel containing the essential stuff allowing for a particular life form to eventually emerge from the protective, nurturing shell.  And indeed, forms do emerge from the eggs in this exhibit, though certainly not in the same way that we predict and expect a specific bird’s egg to produce a specific bird. I’m reminded that long before the idea of biological evolution became part of our world view, ancient philosophers such as Aristotle posed a causality dilemma when they mused, “which came first, the bird or the egg?” So let’s just suppose for a moment that in this context, the finished artworks are the birds, so to speak. One could then perhaps view this exhibit as a delightfully playful metaphor for creativity itself, whimsically resolving the aforementioned dilemma. So which came first? Why, the egg of course - that ovoid vessel with the essential stuff to birth a finished form.

   For each artist in this exhibit, surely it was the physical form of the egg - a pre-existing “found object” of sorts - that initially nurtured (inspired) a creative process giving rise to, or hatching, the birds we now behold. And unlike real ostriches, these birds really do fly into all manner of realms. Some are familiar and friendly, some strange, magical, or mystifying, but all of them are enthralling. 
   Collectively, these beguiling sculptures are a dazzling display of remarkably fecund imaginations, realized with unimpeachable artisanship. And as objets d’dart, they’re no less treasurable than jeweled FabergĂ©s.

   PHOTOS, from top: All photos   ©Feinknopf Photography, 2016.
1.   The Leap of Life, digital sculpting, 3-D printing, acrylic paint, by Josh Sutton / 2. Day and Night, inks, lacquer, clay, by Cathie Bleck / 3. Acqua Alta (Venice), oil paint and silver, by Marianna Smith / 4. Get Your Head Out of the Sand, spray paint and found objects, by Rondle West / 5. Living Off the Land, encaustic, by Christopher Rankin / 6. Marko Pollo, acrylic paint, silver foil, glitter, by Amy Kollar  Anderson

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

To all my readers, the Truth, and nothing but the Truth…

And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself and became obedient
to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest
place and gave him the name that is above
every name, that at the name of Jesus
 every knee should bow, in heaven and on
earth and under the earth, and every
 tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
in the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 8-11

Monday, December 5, 2016

Biocosms: Reaching for the Big Bang

Biocosms: Reaching for the Big Bang

By Tom Wachunas

   “Ultimately based on the promise of circles of life, of night and day, of birth and death, changing of the seasons, resurrection and renewal, my spirit seeks for simplicity. I go back in time and reach for the big bang of all the creation.  I seek to touch the origins, the sources, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the elusive spark, that essence of creation that is ever evasive, yet forever wondrous.” 
- Isin Sezer

    EXHIBIT: Paintings by Isin Sezer, at Studio M in the Massillon Museum, THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2016 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon / 330-833-4061 /

    Among the most vexing things I’ve ever been called upon to write is the so-called Artist Statement. For as much as I truly savor words well written, the very idea of explaining my visual art – as a matter of philosophy, process and/or product – has always felt, ironically and exasperatingly enough, antithetical to the purpose of making the artwork in the first place. The art world is rich with writings that can leave readers/viewers perplexed by arcane artspeak or otherwise codified nonsense. Shouldn’t the point of an artist’s statement be to open, rather than numb, the imagination of the beholder?

   Isin Sezer’s statement, excerpted at the top of this post, is anything but numbing. It offers some fascinating inroads to interpreting the visual language of her paintings, to appreciating the potentiality of words to affect our curiosity. 

   Sezer’s iconographic content indicates a reverence for biology. The imagery is mimetic of living things or processes on a minute, cellular plane. These painterly acrylic renderings are deftly choreographed so that amorphous shapes and membranous structures appear to both quietly levitate and actively dance to the music, as it were, of a rhythmic, often electrifying color dynamic. The delicate layers of glazed underpainting delineate ghostly recapitulations of the foreground components, effectively adding a palpable depth, and with it a sense of mystery.

   And in as much as Sezer’s beautiful paintings tend to articulate (and in some cases perhaps literally illustrate) scientific particularities, it seems to me that those particularities nonetheless harmonize with the overall spirituality suggested by the words of her statement. Her paintings, though modest in physical scale, are transportive to the extent that they’re metaphors for much larger, even infinite things - things like the Big Bang, and the ensuing expansion of the complex universe, at once hypnotically luminous and dark. 

   In one way, Sezer’s aesthetic brings me back to a painting teacher from my college days. On the first day of class, he wondered out loud why any marginally intelligent person would want to enter a life of painting, which he considered to be an “unreasonable” pursuit. I took his words to be a challenge, not an insult. At that moment I understood once and for all that the best painters are in fact pursuers of reasoned unreasonableness, purveyors of timeless mysteries.

   In another way, Sezer’s paintings bring me back to Genesis: “In the beginning…,” and “Let there be…” They remind me that, like life itself, every painting has a beginning - a singular mark willed into existence, an initial gesture made across an empty expanse. Nothing becomes something. The arrival of light, of an idea,…the painter’s big bang. After that, it’s always a matter of expansion. 

   In her pursuit of “the elusive spark, that essence of creation,” Isin Sezer has indeed engaged a gloriously unreasonable desire to make that spark tangible. In the process, she offers us enthralling echoes.

   PHOTOS, from top: Duodenum villi / Untitled / Untitled / Suspended / Xanthoria parientina / Immune (l. to r., 1, 2, 3)