Friday, April 28, 2017



By Tom Wachunas

    EXHIBIT: Urban Biology – paintings by Betsy Cavalier-Casey and Lizzi Aronhalt  /  at Cyrus Custom Framing and Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton, Ohio / THROUGH JUNE 2, 2017

  “Both science and art have to do with ordered complexity.”
— Lancelot Law Whyte

   “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.”  - Paul Cezanne

   The last time I saw work by Betsy Cavalier-Casey was in 2013 at North Canton’s Little Art Gallery ( reviewed here at ). Her pieces in this current exhibit, curated by Erin Mulligan and with a few works from that 2013 show (including an updated version of her marvelous floating sculptural installation piece, “Out of Impulse”), are essentially a reiteration of her painterly explorations in the realm of interconnectivity within a given system of diverse components. More specifically, you could call any one of her paintings a kind of diagram, or an abstract anatomy of what might be  biological microsystems and processes.

   While I don’t have much more of great substance to add to what I wrote in my 2013 review, it’s worth re-noting the especially tactile nature of her painted surfaces. In some ways they source the legacy of Jackson Pollock’s “action paintings.” He manipulated all sorts of paints, in varying viscosities and thicknesses, in all sorts of unconventional ways (by 1940s and 1950s standards) – dripping and flinging, splattering and pouring, pooling and scraping. His pictures are compelling documents of choreographed gestures and motions that marry the material behavior of paint to the ephemeral effects of space, time, and gravity.

   That said, Cavalier-Casey’s paintings, despite their ostensibly abstract feel, are more intentionally managed entities. Hers are pictures of things drawn, albeit loosely, from the visible or accessible world, as opposed to Pollock’s substantially more dense and wholly non-objective content. Relatively speaking, Cavalier-Casey leaves lots of air in her pictures. And she often articulates passages wherein she outlines the contours of organic shapes with a sharpie. There’s a certain intimacy to making these thin lines in counterpoint to the less delicate action of, say, pouring a pool of color on to the surface and letting it dry as it will, producing a variety of textures such as wrinkles or cracks. Think of it as the difference between writing in long-hand script, and shouting out loud. Yet both of these mark-making methods function harmoniously enough in her paintings, generating an elegant symbiosis.

    Lizzi Aronhalt’s arresting cityscapes shout out loud too, with both a highly luminous palette (much like that of Cavalier-Casey) and the incorporation of strong linear elements, often drawn in black. While those elements can appear to be super-imposed outlines, they also act as skeletal underpinnings that reinforce the rhythms of all those bold architectural shapes. At times, Aronhalt’s thinner lines seem to float and meander in a scribbled manner, like microbursts of energy animating the objects and the air in her scenes. These pictures have a pulse. Listen. Hear their heartbeat? 

   Stylistic and iconographic differences aside, both of these artists, with remarkable panache, engage that elusive balance between spontaneity and planning, between lyrical intuition and conscious engineering. Whether micro or macro in scope, their works are intriguing testaments to an aesthetic truth embraced by such seminal modernists as Manet, Cezanne, Matisse, Pollock, and beyond: The painted surface is a life unto itself.

   PHOTOS, from top: Betsy Cavalier-Casey – Hyperactitivity; Pods; Super Frazzled / Lizzi Aronhalt – Pigeons Twice Removed; Mountains and Dishes; Ohrid      

Tuesday, April 18, 2017



By Tom Wachunas

EXHIBIT: POM POM NEBULAE MICRO RESIDENCY, By Dana Lynn Harper / Main Hall Art Gallery / Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio / THROUGH MAY 5, 2017 – Gallery Talk and Artist Reception on Thursday, May 4, 9:30 a.m. / Viewing hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

     “About my method of work: first it’s the state of mind—Elation (joy).”  - Alexander Calder

    “For me, an object is a living thing.”  - Joan Miró

   “…the works act as a portal to warm feelings and childhood fantasy, a social catalyst for interaction and connection. Playful patterns, dancing tinsel and unapologetic fluorescent colors are not only a testament to the beauty of life, but to the ever-encompassing joy of living.”   - Dana Lynn Harper
   Nebula, noun; plural nebulae [neb-yuh-lee, -lahy], nebulas.
   In astronomy, a cloud of interstellar gas and dust;(formerly) any celestial   object that appears nebulous, hazy, or fuzzy, and extended in a telescope view.

   With this scintillating installation, Dana Lynn Harper has constructed a multidimensional ode to joy.

   The white gallery walls aren’t a final destination. The physical space is not merely a container, or a formal resting place for passively examining interesting objects. The artist’s work is not a compendium of clues to solve any particular riddle or discern a single message. Think of Harper as a playwright (play right?) who has provided tantalizing props in a story which in fact calls on us, the viewers, to be co-authors.

   Dozens of small (from Harper’s hand to yours, so to speak) doodads and thingamabobs float in the air, hung on nearly invisible monofilament lines strung from the ceiling. These dazzling contrivances are made from diverse synthetic substances, a combination of manipulated found materials and thrift store trinkets, and often have the look of children’s playthings. But they just as frequently suggest cosmic and organic forms, floral and animal, at once strange and familiar, mysterious and whimsical: Astral clouds and psychedelic plankton confer with childhood juju.   
   Stepping into the gallery is to enter a field, or better yet an atmosphere more vast than the physical dimensions of the place would seem to allow. Here the mundane and the metaphysical converge into an expanse of squiggling, feathery shapes and amorphous ornaments that seem to pulse on their own with electrifying color. Try focusing your field of vision so as to lose your sense of place, to not notice ceiling or floor or corners. Then be transported into the purity of an implied infinity, where unbound imagination can make unexpected discoveries and surprising connections.  

   Here, then, the gallery has been transformed into an enchanting firmament of suggestibility. More than a conventional 3D space to house static objects, the gallery air itself has become an animated, experiential gestalt.  Consider it an open-ended invitation, literally and figuratively, for us to be active performers in a spectacular theatre of possibilities. 

   This wholly immersive work of dangling talismans is far greater than the sum of its fastidiously placed parts. RSVP. I dare you not to smile.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Remembering The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Remembering The Way, The Truth, and The Life

   To my readers, He is risen indeed. It’s Spring. May the following words be as seeds, and may you harvest the Life that they promise. A Blessed Easter to you all.

   Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?  - John 11:25,26

   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you,…              1Peter 1: 3,4

   For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
   - John 3:16 

   And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  – Romans 8:11

   I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  - John 16:33

    “The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new has appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse.” A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?”  - C.S. Lewis, from What are we to Make of Jesus Christ?

   “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity   

   These last three paragraphs are from The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton:

    “They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture [burial] and guarded by the authority of the Caesars.
    For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.
    On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

   (PHOTOS: drawing by me, 2017; painting by Matthias Grϋnewald, 1510 )

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Preserving A Vital Part of Ourselves

On Preserving a Vital Part of Ourselves: Museums Make the Case for Funding Arts and Humanities

   By: Max Barton, Executive Director, Canton Museum of Art / Joseph J. Feltes, Chair, Board of Directors, Canton Museum of Art / Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Executive Director, Massillon Museum / David Schultz, Chair, Board of/Directors, Massillon Museum

   The arts and cultural industry is an economic engine, a $704 billion industry that represents 4.2 percent of our nation’s GDP. Museums are a critical component of that engine, contributing $21 billion a year to the U.S. economy and sustaining more than 400,000 jobs. With funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and many other programs, including affiliate state agencies such as the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) and Ohio Humanities (OH), museums and other arts organizations contribute to our education, cultural identity, and quality of life. If these resources cease to exist, as proposed in the recent budget blue-print submitted by the president to Congress, the loss will be felt right here in our communities—we lose both economically and culturally, and we also lose a piece of ourselves.

   Museums preserve our heritage. They are gathering places to meet, explore, and discuss how the past has/can influence the present and the future. Museums influence how individuals view the world. Museums become rallying points for cities and their citizens. Museums are, indeed, where art meets life—igniting creativity, fueling educational development, engaging social awareness and action, sparking innovation, and building communities.

   Did you know that museums of all types and sizes are, at their core, direct educational institutions? Did you know that museums all across the country are essential to our educational infrastructure, investing more than $2 billion annually in educational programs for people of all ages, or that students who attend museum field trips demonstrate improved critical thinking skills, teamwork, and tolerance? Most educational programs focus on PreK-12 students, including more than 55 million visits to museums by American schoolchildren each year—often the first time they are experiencing art. Many of our institutions bring exhibits and curriculum-based art programs directly inside classrooms across the country. And for homeschoolers, museums are often quite literally the classroom. 

   These are just a few of the reasons to “preserve, protect, and defend” public funding for the arts and humanities. 

   Here in Stark County, Ohio, the economic, educational, and cultural impact of our museums is considerable. At both the Massillon Museum and Canton Museum of Art, we offer an array of educational programs for our community. Our museums participate in bringing arts lessons to 1,300 preschoolers throughout Stark County as part of the award-winning Artful Living Program. An IMLS grant has allowed Massillon Museum to originate a traveling exhibition of artwork created by a hidden child of the Holocaust, seen by more than 20,000 people across the country. This year, Massillon is hosting the tenth-consecutive Big Read in partnership with Massillon Public Library. Funded by the NEA, this initiative has, since its inception, allowed the Massillon Museum to disperse nearly 25,000 free books throught Stark County; host two living, award-winning, internationally-renowned authors; engage more than 200 high school drama arts students in directing and performing original one-act plays inspired by Big Read novels; and create access to underserved audiences in the community, such as individuals who speak Spanish, and who have low vision. Likewise, recent grants from the NEA, NEH, OAC, and OH helped the Canton Museum of Art to create three original exhibitions that reached more than 21,000 people, created lasting “arts partnerships” with high school students across Stark County, and made the inspiration of art accessible to families and children of all ages through free events designed to help them form a connection with art. This year, the Canton Museum of Art started an “Art for Health and Healing” program in partnership with several community service agencies, using art therapy as a way to help the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of people experiencing trauma, illness, or other challenges. In just under six months, the program has helped more than 400 people across our community.

   While museums drive considerable economic activity nationally, here in Stark County they are also investment drivers. Specifically, the Massillon Museum is becoming a catalyst for the city, including its downtown revitalization. With a $5 million expansion underway, funded in part by the State of Ohio, the Museum is adding 15,000 square feet of space for educational programming, exhibitions, community events, and the Paul E. Brown Museum. Not only has this project spurred additional building development in downtown, but we hope a majority of dollars spent on the project will stay in Northeast Ohio, reinvesting in and helping to secure jobs for Ohioans.
   Museums are a key component of the $171 billion cultural tourism industry. Research shows that museum (and arts) visitors spend more and stay longer than other tourists, boosting our local eateries, hotels, and other Stark County businesses. 

   We have this impact because museums continue to be extremely popular. The American Alliance of Museums estimates that U.S. museums welcome 850 million visits annually, more than the attendance at all major league sporting events and theme parks combined. Attendance at the Massillon Museum and Canton Museum of Art totaled nearly 70,000 in 2016, including onsite visitors and participants in community outreach programs.

   Museums also play another invaluable, if a bit less tangible, role. Museums everywhere collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit our national heritages—historical, cultural, natural, and scientific. Where else can you go to see P.T. Barnum’s solid gold-tipped cane, or a bronze RMS Carpathia medal presented to a crew member of the ship sent to rescue survivors of the Titanic, than at the Massillon Museum? Visitors of all ages can be transformed by their experience or interaction with an historical object, a specimen, or by a work of art. The Canton Museum of Art’s collection is home to nearly 1,200 acclaimed works by American masters such as John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Viola Fry, Andy Warhol, and many more. We are charged with showcasing and protecting these cultural treasures now and for future generations—inspiring all to explore, dream, learn, and be inspired by great art.  

   If you appreciate our museums here in Stark County and across our region, you can lend your voice to preserve, protect, and defend public funding for the arts, and museums. Visit the Americans for the Arts website (  ) and/or the American Alliance of Museums’ website (  )  to find customizable messages to Congress that you can send with just a few clicks. Remember, Congress determines the federal budget and appropriations each year—so it is important that our representatives hear from you!

   All of us at the Massillon Museum and the Canton Museum of Art are deeply grateful for the support the citizens of Stark County and beyond have shown to us over the years.  Thank you for being amazing consumers and strong supporters of our museums, and the arts.