Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Gifts from the Gifted

Gifts from the Gifted

Born From Stardust, by Oxana Dallas

Boston Bricks II, by Diane Belfiglio

Gauss, by David Kuntzman

An Imperfect Art, by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker

School Shootings School Bus Cape, by Judi Krew

The Rider, by William M. Bogdan

Grey Matter, by Steve Ehret

Birch Bramble, by Catherine M. Cindia

By Tom Wachunas

   EXHIBIT: Stark County Artists Exhibition / THROUGH JANUARY 26, 2020 / at The Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, in downtown Massillon, Ohio /

http://www.massillonmuseum.org/    330.833.4061

   As the end of 2019 draws near, I’m sincerely grateful. Thank you, Massillon Museum, for continuing the tradition of this important annual juried exhibit – a gift to anyone who savors contemporary art. Thank you, participating artists (a total of 47 individuals out of 79 who entered) for your marvelous giftedness. I feel honored, indeed humbled, to be in your company. Really. The fruits of your creative labors have made this year’s Stark County Artists Exhibition truly the strongest I’ve seen in many years, remarkably rich in formal and conceptual diversity.

   And to all of you ARTWACH readers, give yourselves the gift of viewing the work by these artists: Seth Adam, John B. Alexander, Diane Belfiglio, Todd Bergert, William M. Bogdan, Peter Castillo, Catherine M. Cindia, Therese Cook, Oxana Dallas (Best in Show), David L. Dingwell, Laura Donnelly, Steve Ehret (Second Place), Megan Farrabee, Kathleen Gray Farthing, Gerald Fox, Sharon Frank Mazgaj (Honorable Mention), Robert Gallik, Coty J. Giannelli (Honorable Mention), Jared Hartmann, Charity Hockenberry, Judith Girscht Huber, Judi Krew (Honorable Mention), David Kuntzman, Sam Lilenfield, Timothy Londeree, Priscilla Sally Lytle (Honorable Mention), Nicole Malcolm, Robyn Martins, Tom Migge, Michelle Mulligan, Clare Murray Adams, Benjamin R. Myers, Tina Myers, Robert Nicoll, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, Mark V. Pitocco, Anna Rather, Jacob Redmon, Erika Katherine, Israel Robinson, Priscilla Roggenkamp, Hilda Sikora, Sari Sponhour, Rosemary Stephen, Alex Strader (Third Place), Tom Wachunas (Honorable Mention) and Pat Mather Waltz.

   My gratitude is made all the more sweet by the award of an Honorable Mention for my piece, “Deus ex Machina #3.” Here’s a link to some pictures and a few brief thoughts on the work, if you’re interested:

   Additionally, I’m thankful for not being one of the jurors asked to assess levels of excellence and assign awards.  In an exhibit of such high caliber as this one, it’s an unreasonably challenging ask, if not a futile, perhaps even silly one. As it is, the jurors (Ken Emerick, former Artist Programs and Percent for Art Director at the Ohio Arts Council; Sarah J. Rogers, Director at the Kent State University Museum; and Stephen Tomasko, Akron artist and photographer) who assembled this superb collection saw fit to distinguish “Born From Stardust,” a textile work by Oxana Dallas, with the Best in Show award. There’s much to commend this beautifully sparkling, cosmic night vision of a statuesque woman encircled by people in postures of allegiance or adoration, or maybe supplication. The tactile intricacy of the weaving technique alone is hypnotic.

   Diane Belfiglio’s brighter, more earthbound oil pastel on paper, “Boston Bricks II,” is equally hypnotic, and no less beautiful, no less fascinating in its technical acuity. The gently bristling surface of overlaid chromatic textures is infused with sunlight, with the elegant simplicity of the brick pattern seemingly imprinted by subtly translucent crossings of dark shadows. 

   Speaking of elegant structure, David Kuntzman’s acrylic “Gauss” is a meticulously composed symphony of geometric abstraction. The overlapped grids in bright, pulsing colors create a spatial dynamic that breathes.

   A grid motif is also apparent in the mixed media painting by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, “An Imperfect Art.” Here, though, the pictorial structure is not a neatly delineated scheme, but rather a raw, visceral arrival – a gestural rumination that emerged through time. Parker makes art that wags a wry finger in your face and rattles your expectation of “finished” aesthetic protocol. Her work is seriously engaged in the mindful play of pure markmaking and often brings to mind the sassy kid who refuses to color inside the lines.

   On a more somber and cautionary note, two works: “School Shootings School Bus Cape,” by Judi Krew, and “The Rider,” by William M. Bogdan. Krew’s piece is a compelling, thoughtfully constructed remembrance of a tragic reality in American society, as she explains with heartbreaking statistics in the chalkboard panels mounted on a music stand next to the yellow-caped mannequin: “…Since 1840, there have been 471 recorded incidents of a gun being used at an institution of education to wound or kill another person or one’s self…” Even more arresting, she writes, “…Unfortunately, this is a work in progress…”

   Bogdan’s stark woodcut print is an apocalyptic montage of sorts. His expressionism isn’t rendered with refined precision so much as scratched, clawed, pounded into being. No picture of noble intent or victory here. The horses’ hooves are like anvils. Those helicopters in the sky are like hovering, fattened vultures. That ghostly figure at the lower right is appropriated from Nick Ut’s shocking 1972 photo of a naked young Vietnamese girl, terribly burned and fleeing her village after it was bombed with napalm. But this is more than a jarring remembrance of that,…of then. Like Krew’s sobering notes on a work in progress, Bogdan’s print is a potent connection to a horrific still now, and with it, a haunting reminder that nothing changes if nothing changes. 

   Let’s shift gears for a moment into some surreal shenanigans, some unfettered fun. With a punctilious polychromatic palette, Steve Ehret masterfully manipulated “Grey Matter” – a spectacular, slick oil painting on panel (Second Place award) – into a fantastically fastidious panoply of protoplasmic phantasm. A mind-morphing loony landscape.

   If you consider this exhibit as an essay on the state of Stark County visual arts, Catherine M. Cindia’s encaustic (beeswax) painting, “Birch Bramble” is yet another of many exclamation points. It’s a sylvan scene that’s so dimensional, so sumptuously tactile, that it could be fairly called a relief sculpture. 

  But wait, there’s more, much more. The most meaningful award you can bestow on any of the artists here is your presence. Your time, your intentional looking, your willingness to come and actually see. They’ve earned it.

   Merry Christmas.  

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