Monday, June 3, 2019

Of Poetry and Place

Of Poetry and Place

Afoot and Lighthearted

I Have a Desire to Go

A Brighter Dawn

Block by Block


Bay Side

My Sun Is at Noon

By Tom Wachunas

…The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell….
- from Song of the Open Road, by Walt Whitman

EXHIBIT:  Earth Sky Sea - paintings and assemblages by Robyn Martins / at Lynda Tuttle’s Art Center, 209 Sixth St. NW, downtown Canton, Ohio, through June 29, 2019 / GALLERY HOURS:  Wed. and Thurs. 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to noon /  5 to 10 p.m. on First Fridays / Visits also by appointment, call 330-452-8211 to schedule /  artist website at:

   An interesting article in The Canton Repository by Dan Kane (May 23) piqued my curiosity about North Canton artist Robyn Martins. I think it would be good for you to read it and get some background before reading my take on her paintings.  Here’s a link:

   The conceptual thrust of Martins’ particular style of abstraction springs from her being inspired by poetry. She tells us in Kane’s article, “I’m informed by the nature of the poem…Sometimes I scratch text right into the painting. It’s not always legible, but I know it’s there.”

  When ‘scratched’ texts are visible, such as in Afoot and Lighthearted (poem from Walt Whitman), or I Have a Desire to Go (poem from Gerald Manley Hopkins), they’re integrated in an unobtrusive manner. Think of them as singularly quiet thoughts, afloat in places still being formed from the mists of memory, or yearning.

   Those amorphous mists are rendered in thin layers of oil paint blended with cold wax, giving the paintings a matte finish and a subtly earthen texture. Martins’ palette is subtle, too. Not mute, though. There are voices here, near and distant, often murmuring or whispering in hushed tones, and sometimes rising in volume to relatively more saturated hues.  

   With or without the cueing function of words, Martins’ iconography doesn’t come off as meticulously detailed representations of specific locales. Her images aren’t literal illustrations so much as they’re distillations, conjurings, evocations. Essences of places in the process of being retrieved, or newly discovered. Poems in themselves, really.

  These captivating meditations merit considerably more actual wall space for viewing than what they’ve been given. Paintings, and our eyes, need room to breathe, free from too many surrounding objects competing for attention. As it is here, the life in Martins’ paintings feels just a bit stifled. Her pieces have been crowded together like so many stacked greeting cards on a retail rack. They deserve a much more formal and elegant gallery setting – the kind which presently doesn’t exist in the downtown Canton arts district.

   Still, I offer my gratitude to Lynda Tuttle for a compelling enough introduction to an artist very worth watching in the future.

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