Wednesday, December 30, 2020




By Tom Wachunas


“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and may not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  - Genesis 11:4

“…Come, make us gods who will go before us…”  - Exodus 32:1


   #goldencalf? is the fourth piece in my series of altered -or altared - computer servers. This “found sculpture” is more of a 3D painting than the previous three (Deus ex Machina nos. 1, 2, and 3).

   I’m fascinated by the common use of the term tower in reference to these computer devices. It brings to mind the astonishing, indeed towering capabilities, the ubiquitous, ever-growing impacts of digital technology on living in this world.

   Think for a moment on the Genesis account known of the Tower of Babel. A hopelessly proud and self-possessed people set out to construct a ziggurat. It was intended to be a spiraled stairway to the clouds, a man-made mountain topped by a temple to an invented god. And more, it was a shrine to their own ingenuity and bloated ambition, an emboldened declaration of human autonomy and sovereignty over all creation.

   Or think about the Exodus account of The Golden Calf – a manmade proxy for God. An idol for worship.

   I see #goldencalf? as a cautionary tale of ensnarement. It’s a gilt (or even guilt) inquiry. Have we made a god of our digital technology? Is our willful dependence on it - our eager embrace of its programs, protocols and procedures, its scrupulous rules and rituals – in effect a form of adoration? Of worship? Of religion? Navigating a sea of algorithms, can my desktop ziggurat be my stairway to heaven?

   Wait! I know…I’ll just Google it.       

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Untroubled, Unafraid


Untroubled, Unafraid


   Painted meditations. Shown here are three small (8 ½” x 11”) paintings from my ongoing series of annual Christmas cards. The series began in 2002 with a Nativity scene - the birth of The Lamb of God. I also include this year’s offering of Jesus embracing our planet, along with the one I made in 2012, called “Mens Christi (Mind of Christ).”

   I hope that they prompt you in some grateful measure, be it great or small, to find light and comfort in the Faith and Peace of Christ, now and forever.

   May all of you have a Blessed Christmas.

   From John 3:16 - “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.”

   From John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

   From Psalm 95:3-7 – “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In Memoriam: John W. Carlson

In Memoriam: John W. Carlson

                                                             by Tom Wachunas

  “I want to show definitions by gesture, slant and color that might be seen and held in small or large hands, feelings, emotions, pains, anguish, anger, love, pleasures, and irregularities, battles and tranquilities.

 I want to paint Pure Forms knowing I will never succeed at it, — you need a godliness for that — to consider Silence and Emptiness as they were at that very moment before the Big Bang — can you even imagine it? — waiting there trembling, and then intervals of violence and peace, as in a man’s history.

 But most of all I want to show — Simplicity — a man, one at a time, himself rubbed into his body by gesture, slant and color, if that be possible.” - from John’s beautiful website, at  

 My very recent Facebook surfing (where I found the above photos) has brought me to tears. The outpouring of response to the sudden passing of artist John W. Carlson is both utterly heartrending and inspiring. 

 We weren’t “close personal friends” in the way most people understand such relationships to be. And yet, and yet… During and ever since my first meeting with the man - at the opening of his 2017 solo exhibit at Massillon Museum’s Studio M – I felt as if we were true old friends picking up where we’d left off from a previous conversation. He simply had that enlivening way about him…genuinely open, approachable and grateful, generous with his time, and sincerely interested in and encouraging of my own journey as a writer and maker of art. That meeting remains, like his art, unforgettable. Here’s a link to my 2017 review of that first encounter:  

 Thank you, John W. Carlson, for the bountiful giving of your creative passion, the affirmative power of your articulated aliveness. You will always be present to me and the innumerable artists whose lives you touched. And may we all continue to be moved to join ourselves, indeed to “rub” ourselves, into the body of this world - in all its smallness and enormity, in all its fragility and vitality. Thank you, John W. Carlson, for showing us how through art, such “gesture, slant and color” is not only possible, but necessary.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Delectable Feast of Presents


A Delectable Feast of Presents

By Tom Wachunas

A woman's place was in the home, by Judi Krew

Shared Desires (A Cup of Coffee), by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker

(Not) Our Bodies Ourselves, by Priscilla Roggenkamp

Dancing Cirrus Clouds, (photography) by Charity Hockenberry

Imminent Storm, (oil) by Gerald Fox

Ormond Beach VI, (oil pastel) by Diane Belfiglio

Transitions, (encaustic) by Therese Cook

“When I think of art I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not in the eye it is in the mind. In our minds there is awareness of perfection.” – Agnes Martin

“Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented – which is what fear and anxiety do to a person – into something whole.” – Louise Bourgeois

“…If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?”― Alice Walker

   EXHIBIT:  Annual STARK COUNTY ARTISTS EXHIBITION, at Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / THROUGH JANUARY 17, 2021 / Phone: 330-833-4061 / The Massillon Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm – 5pm  

   The bad news is that it’s time once again for my annual complaint against the practice of designating special awards in juried art exhibitions (Best in Show, Second Place, Third Place, and Honorable Mentions). The good news is that I’ve decided to do something unprecedented (oh how I’ve come to hate that word!) this year by sparing you the trouble of trudging through more of my griping about a dated, silly ritual.  

   That said, I am elated to have a mixed media piece in this show called Writes of Passage, which I wrote about here on June 5 (and which you can find in the ARTWACH archive if you care to read more about it).  I congratulate this year’s top awardees, and my aforementioned objection to the awards process in general is certainly not intended to question the excellence of their works. I encourage you to listen to their statements by clicking on this video link: 

    Additionally, I commend all 40 artists on view here for their engaging contributions to this diverse and delectable feast for the eyes. It’s a remarkable assembly of 57 works selected out of 164 entries from 66 artists. This year’s jurors were Nolan Beck-Rivera, a Cleveland-based designer and founder of Heyhey Studio; Alexandria Couch, an Akron-based painter and printmaker; and Bellamy Printz, a Cleveland-based printmaker and owner of Deep Dive Art Projects and Editions. Their decisions must have been difficult.

   One compelling aspect of this exhibit is that slightly more than half of the exhibitors are women. Not that I’m surprised, mind you. Far from it. Stark county has been notably rich with accomplished women artists for a long time. There was even a point when I seriously considered titling this post “Hommage aux femmes artistes.”  However, my purpose in that case was never to imply that the jurors were somehow acting on a peremptory or exclusionary agenda, or that the exhibiting menfolk didn’t merit our careful attentions.

   Speaking of careful attention, consider Imminent Storm, a stunning oil painting by Gerald Fox (Honorable Mention). There’s a dramatic tension at work between the dreamy, glowing green field receding to a quiet, low horizon, and the looming storm above - verdant peace about to be engulfed by monstrous supernal forces. A fitting metaphor for the current turbulence of our sociocultural landscape?

   Turbulent indeed. In these contentious and traumatic times, many voices of women have risen with renewed passion and intensity as they speak to issues of female aspirations, empowerment, and identity. There’s an intriguing dichotomy conveyed in (Not) Our Bodies Ourselves, a dyed fabric work by Priscilla Roggenkamp (Third Place Winner). The four hanging,  camesole forms are somewhat suggestive of uterine anatomies. At once autonomous forms and yet tied together, are they united, or entangled?  I wonder: Is that loose-looking knot a symbol of solidarity, or an imminent act of subjugation?

 Patricia Zinsmeister Parker has three mixed media paintings in this exhibit. Her Shared Desires (A Cup of Coffee) was awarded Second Place. It seems like a still-life, though there’s nothing static about it at all. Parker  doesn’t paint scenic pictures in the strictest sense of the word. She paints attitudes, really, and with a thoughtful swagger. Call it mindful playtime. Her picture planes aren’t illusionistic windows but rather like dance floors, where bold shapes and textures pop and pulse, push and pull, all vigorously swaying in sassy saturated hues. Thoroughly electrifying.

   Best in Show was awarded to Judi Krew for her exquisite A woman’s place was in the home.  It’s a 1950s-style dress that Krew fashioned from vintage pieces of embroidery and tatting work made by Krew’s husband’s grandmother, Anna Drottleff, circa 1930s-1950s. This work - a collaboration of sorts - is an altogether bedazzling adventure in fibrous storytelling on Krew’s part. You could consider it a loving dialogue between two women spanning generations. Here’s a tactile conversation, then, about wondrously dexterous hands transcending time as they reconfigured pieces of old dresser and chair scarves, tablecloths, pillowcases and the like, into something far more than a domestic utilitarian craft.

   These days (and maybe more than ever before in our lifetime?), viewing an actual art object – up close, in real time - can be an efficacious salve for the myriad vexations inflicted by “social distancing.” Art always makes tangible the voices of the makers’ innermost musings and ideations, in effect transmitting an intimate narrative of their aliveness. Their presence.  Better yet, their presents. Which is to say…gifts. Looking at them, long and slowly, is to open them, to unwrap them. And when you do, here’s hoping it’s with eyes wide open, an alert mind, and thankful heart.

   So savor this feast. Be filled. And have a Merry Christmas.