Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Terpsichore in Paint

 

Terpsichore in Paint


Winter, Midnight - 1894, by Childe Hassam

Drifting with the Tide, Venice - 1884, by Ralph Wormeley Curtis

Near the Beach, Shinnecock - 1895, by William Merritt Chase

On the Sands - 1915, by Edward Potthast

A Windy Day - 1910, by Alice Schille

By Tom Wachunas 

“For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations.”   - Paul Cezanne

“The pleasure we derive from the representation of the present is due, not only to the beauty it can be clothed in, but also to its essential quality of being the present.” - Charles Baudelaire

Terp·sich·o·re | tərp-ˈsi-kə-(ˌ)rē / - the Greek Muse of dancing

 

EXHIBIT: Dancing in the LIGHT: Masterworks from The Age Of American Impressionism / at the CANTON MUSEUM of ART (CMA), 1001 Market Avenue N., Canton, Ohio / Through March 7, 2021 / 330-453-7666 /Advance Timed Ticket Reservations Required – Visit www.cantonart.org/reservetickets

Hours and Admission link:  https://www.cantonart.org/contact/hoursandadmission/hours

Click on these links for more comprehensive background and commentary (including videos):

https://www.cantonart.org/exhibits/dancing-light-masterworks-age-american-impressionism

Canton Museum of Art MAGAZINE:

https://www.cantonart.org/sites/default/files/CMA%20Winter%20Magazine%202020%20low%20res.pdf  

    This post is very late in arriving, and for that I can only offer my sincerest apologies. Still, it’s not too late - the exhibit’s final day is March 7. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to get interactive and click on the hyperlinks above before your visit.

    This important – and in a word, magnificent – exhibit was guest-curated by James M. Keny, of Keny Galleries in Columbus. It’s a stunning selection of 51 American Impressionist works, gathered from museum collections in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown; from museums in Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, as well as from private collections.

   The exhibit is an enthralling remembrance of one seminal passage into Modernist painting, which first emerged in a time when growing numbers of European painters were breaking free of the rigid academic standards that had been imposed on their medium for centuries.

   It’s interesting to note that the name, Impressionist, was originally a derisive reference to an 1874 Paris exhibit of paintings by 30 artists, including Claude Monet. Among his works in the show was his 1872 painting titled Impression: Sunrise, and one of many works skewered by French art critic Louis Leroy. His sardonic review mercilessly ridiculed this new style as too raw, too unfinished, too unrefined. Here’s a link, and if you read it, I think you’ll agree that Leroy’s scathing assessment was, while oddly funny, a monumental failure of perception:

https://arthive.com/publications/1812~Pictorial_Louis_Leroys_scathing_review_of_the_First_Exhibition_of_the_Impressionists

   Undaunted, the style became a movement that would further impact and inspire notably eminent painters in America. Impressionism was a metamorphosis - a deeper probing and expansion of Romanticism’s spontaneity, the earthy physicality of Courbet’s Realism, the gestural fluidity of Manet. Making a painting no longer had to be a matter of duplicating or imitating the exactitude of observed nature; no longer just a varnished window framing a static illusion for the gaze of spectators standing still.

   Impressionist paintings offer an immersive sensory experience invested with a lyrical materiality all their own. You could call it a kinetic expressivity, or a visceral choreography, performed by the quick prancing of staccato brush strokes, or the broader strides of a palette knife. There’s a palpable cadence in all that gestural, painterly motion. The rhythmic placement of vibrant color harmonies transforms the tactile reality of paint into an alluring ephemerality that seems to pulse, even dance, in shimmering, transient light.

   So, Impressionism.  An art “movement” indeed. Savor the dance.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

What I Did on Ash Wednesday

 

What I Did on Ash Wednesday







By Tom Wachunas

 

   “God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of him. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it. But if I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought of Him that I was meant to embody, I shall be full of his actuality and find him everywhere in myself, and find myself nowhere.”  - Thomas Merton

 

   My newest artwork: Ash Wednesday, mixed media painting (fabric, acrylic, latex and graphite on corrugated panel), 18” (h) x 17 ½” (w).

   Lent begins. A solemn 40-day season of penitent prayer, self-sacrifice, holy preparation. Ash Wednesday invariably takes me to a trove of Catholic childhood memories.

   The pastor, vested in purple, rubs our foreheads with ashes, the resultant smudge often looking more like an accident than a cross. Even so, it was a mindful symbol of our inheritance: Mortality. All of us wore it like a badge of dishonor - a haunting remembrance of our ignominious expulsion from Eden. Yet there was always the promise of a glorious new inheritance to come. Resurrection.

   Once again, my piece includes cursive writing, and more challenging to read than usual (not that my handwriting was ever really easy to decipher). But at one point in making the work, for some mysterious  reason I was thinking about Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks filled with the “mirror writing” that accompanied his drawings. He wrote his words backwards, right-to-left, and one would need a mirror to read them. I’ve developed no such writing technique. So I cheated the process by writing the words on very thin tracing paper and flipping the paper over, the words still visible in reverse. Words not my own, but from Genesis 3: 22-23:  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”  

   Presenting the words in this manner was intended to make the experience of reading them more interactive and literally personal. I held the finished painting close to my face as I lifted it up to the mirror on my medicine cabinet. There they were, the words now readable, and I, in one reflection, framed together in the same plane. It was a humbling reminder that I am dust become a re-made child of the Lord God.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Archaeology of the Soul

 

Archaeology of the Soul


Eden Excavated




By Tom Wachunas

 

   “…In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed to a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a story-teller.”  - G.K Chesterton, from Orthodoxy

   My work is a continuous probing of Christocentric content that springs from being a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is both God and Man. In his story, the Bible (his autobiography, really), he tells us in the opening chapters how he created humanity in his image and likeness, forming us from the dust of the ground he made, breathing his life into us. I believe that the impulse to make art, whether an artist senses it or not, is an embedded echo or a remnant spark - a still-glowing ember of God’s first explosive utterances: “Let there be light…,” and later, “Let us make…” 

   Accordingly, I am called to make as I have been made, to somehow give a spark of life and light to my chosen materials. Most of my works are mixed media assemblages - spiritual tableaux constructed around a codified language of the heart. They are tactile narratives about excavating the merely apparent and uncovering the fully real. These metaphors for an archaeology of the soul are explorations of the boundaries between the accessible and the hidden, between the mundane and the mystical. Ultimately, they symbolize aspiration, faith, and discovery.

   My most recent piece is called “Eden Excavated” (16” x 14 ½”  x 1 ½” - wood, plaster, latex acrylic, graphite). I completed it while reading, for the third time in the last 20 years, G.K. Chesterton’s 1908 book, Orthodoxy. It is a wondrous work of writing about a journey and an arrival, and an otherwise profoundly cathartic immersion in Christian apologetics. It continues to inspire and renew my spirit.

   “Eden Excavated” actually began back in 2007 as the first in a series of several works under the collective title of “Apocalypse.” [By the way, keep in mind that ‘apocalypse’ actually means revelation.]  Re-reading Chesterton’s classic somehow moved me to resurrect, as it were, that 2007 construction which had been gathering dust in my studio, and prompted some significant alterations (or altarations, if you will), literally giving an old work new life.    

   I consider copying words, excerpted for this work from the Genesis creation story and written here in cursive, as a form of life drawing. A way of imprinting memory, a way of sealing a story into consciousness. My process examines a symbiotic duality of writing and drawing, of reading and seeing. To write is to draw, to draw is to write. And seeing art is to read a language.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Where Light Lives

 

 Where Light Lives 


Ormond Beach III, oil pastel, 2019

Going Deeper II, oil pastel, 2015

Fleeting Fall, oil pastel, 2014

Daffodil Diagonals II, oil pastel, 2010

Angled Ascent, 1997, acrylic



By Tom Wachunas

“Moonlight is sculpture; sunlight is painting.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

"O, Sunshine! The most precious gold the be found on earth."  -Roman Payne

"It's the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun falls."  -Romain Rolland

“…But the transcendentalism by which all men live has primarily much the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur…” – G.K. Chesterton

EXHIBIT: Illuminated Visions: Art by Diane Belfiglio / at the Atrium Gallery of the Birk Center for the Arts at Walsh University, 2020 East Maple Street, North Canton, Ohio /  through March 26, 2021, open to the public Mon-Fri 8 am - 5 pm

Belfiglio website:   https://www.belfiglio.com/

   Viewing art during this exhausting, strange season of Covid has necessitated a kind of hunkered down wintering in the World Wide Web. The Cloud. While I’m grateful for the many platforms available for virtual viewing, even the most excellently constructed of art websites are, ironically enough, generally unsatisfying exercises in digital distancing (he said, as you scroll through this post.)

    Interestingly, though, they’ve caused me to cherish all the more those corporeal places, those purposeful physical destinations, designed for seeing art. Galleries and museums, to be precise. Comparatively speaking, encountering art in the Cloud, more often than not, falls short of delivering  potentially enthralling adventures of mindful looking, in real time and real space, at actual art objects.     

   So talk about well-timed gallery exhibits. For any of you longing to commune with tangible beauty, this 28-year retrospective by Diane Belfiglio, with works made between 1992 – 2020, is a potent antidote for the often numbing sensations of passively navigating the Internet.

   Equally adept in acrylic, colored pencil, oil pastel, or more recently watercolor, Belfiglio is a marvelous technician. Here’s how she has articulated the alluring constancy of her aesthetic:

   No matter the subject or medium, my work is firmly grounded in the formalist ideas that have interested me since my beginnings as a professional artist: closely cropped images bathed in the interplay of pattern between sunlight and shadows. Although realistic in presentation, I rely heavily on the underlying abstract qualities of my forms. Shadows, ethereal by nature, take on a rigid structural aspect in my compositions. Colors range from brilliant to subtle in an effort to reproduce the strong sense of sunlight streaming through each piece. My goal is to transform the mundane into the extraordinary, so that we see beauty in images that generally go unnoticed by most of us on a daily basis.”

   Extraordinary indeed. I’ve always seen Belfiglio’s oeuvre as something akin to one hand firmly caressing earthbound materiality, the other channeling through it the warmth and movement of light. Like the dialogue between conductor and orchestra.

   Even at their most formally precise there is in her pictures a mesmerizing harmony of technical acuity and compositional lyricism that imbues them with the rarefied air of visual poetry. Her Ormond Beach oil pastel drawings from 2019, for example, evoke a baptism, an immersion in purifying water, a rising to ineluctable light. Always the light.   

   Thank you, Diane Belfiglio, for filling this purposeful destination with the thoroughly enchanted reality of your sublime visions.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Compassionate Chiaroscuro

 

Compassionate Chiaroscuro



"Noah" by Heather Bullach

"Sheena" by Heather Bullach

"Daniel" by Heather Bullach

"Kaitlyn" by Theresa Clower

"Joshua" by Theresa Clower

"Devin" by Theresa Clower

By Tom Wachunas

 

"I love the quality of pencil. It helps me to get to the core of a thing."  - Andrew Wyeth

"Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see."   Edgar Degas

"Drawing takes time. A line has time in it." -David Hockney

chiar·oscu·ro | \ kē-ˌär-ə-ˈskyu̇r-ō : pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color;  the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art

 

EXHIBIT: INTO LIGHT - GRAPHITE PORTRAITS OF INDIVIDUALS FROM OHIO WHO HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES DUE TO DRUG ADDICTION /  THROUGH FEBRUARY 12, 2021 /at The Malone Art Gallery (MAG), located inside the east entrance of Malone University’s Johnson Center,  2600 Cleveland Ave, N.W., in Canton, Ohio / Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.   Face masks required.  Read more about the exhibit at :

https://www.malone.edu/gallery-and-exhibits/the-gallery/

   Here are some excerpts from that web page: “The national nonprofit organization INTO LIGHT… is dedicated to reducing the stigma and shame associated with drug addiction through the power of art…The purpose of the INTO LIGHT project is to honor the lives of those who have died from drug addiction in their entirety, rather than defining these lives only by the disease of addiction and their cause of death…Since INTO LIGHT’S founding, exhibits have been curated in Maryland and North Carolina. Each exhibit has 41 entries, one for each person who dies in the U.S. every five hours from drug overdose according to founder and executive director Theresa Clower. …Canton artist Heather Bullach has contributed to Malone’s exhibit by drawing 21 original graphite portraits of individuals from Ohio who have lost their lives to drug addiction. Clower has drawn the other 20. Additionally, INTO LIGHT created a narrative about each loved one that shows them as remembered by their nominator: in darkness and in light.”

   Considering an order of magnitude in art media, graphite (pencil) drawings can sometimes seem to be relatively minor platitudes in the vast spectrum of the spectacular, like so many banal arrangements of marks in gray. But in this pristine gallery, the 41 drawings are mounted as if in a procession imbued with quiet solemnity and reverence, made even more immediate  when you read the sensitively written narratives accompanying each portrait. It’s all a compelling revelation of lives lived, painfully lost, and lovingly remembered.

   In this context, pencil feels perfect. The wonderfully sharp eyes and facile hands of Theresa Clower and Heather Bullach show it to be a flexible and elegant medium, well suited for rendering aliveness in all its complex existential dualities – both subtle and stark, whispered and shouted, fragile and robust, soft and hard, light and dark. Here then is a marvelous confluence of lines, tones and textures, giving form to the ineluctable  chiaroscuro of the human soul.

Friday, January 8, 2021

True Colors

 

True Colors 





By Tom Wachunas

 

   We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”  - preamble to the U.S. Constitution

   “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”   - John Lydgate (originally)

 

   Recent events in Washington are further unwelcome evidence that the societal toxicity rampant in America is not limited to COVID-19. We are afflicted, infected and conflicted by something far more insidious and tragic than any microscopic virus.

    Diagnosis? I don’t know what to precisely call it. And even if I did, I’m fairly certain that in these contentious times many people could come to bloody blows over whether or not it’s true and accurate, or real and relevant. Under our banner of free speech we  might go wee wee wee all the way home to life, liberty and happiness, or to the start of yet another fight.

   So who exactly are ‘We the People,’ and what are we forming? It’s very complicated, this entity of we, of America. Is it nothing more than an ever-growing gray area of existential smudges and smears, shadows and shades? I’m just… a wee bit blue about it.

   True Colors is the name of my fourth in a series of “flag bags” (which began in 2010) – paintings done on flattened paper grocery bags. It’s all at once a remnant, a resignation, a reaction, a rumination. Or a ruination? An icon of debauched ideals and devastated dreams?

   As I said, it’s complicated. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

On A Mission

 

On A Mission 


Kelly Cocoran

Rachel Hagemeier

Matthew Jaroszewicz

   Please note that all the text following this brief introduction has been copied from the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) website and Facebook page. Consider it an invitation to listen to a series of 6 podcasts (with more to follow), premiering this Friday, January 8, and hosted by Matthew Jaroszewicz (CSO Associate Conductor) and Rachel Hagemeier (CSO Manager of Education and Community Engagement). At this point, I can only add that the scope of this visionary project is one of vital relevance and importance. Stay tuned!!

  

In just a few short days, Canton Symphony will be premiering a new podcast, Orchestrating Change. This podcast will facilitate conversations that will make the concert hall a more welcoming place for previously ignored communities as well as create more acceptance and diversity on the stage.

In the first episode, Kelly Corcoran leads us in a conversation about the perspectives of audiences and musicians in the field of classical music. She pushes us to see a possible future where tradition is honored and the future is embraced by diverse audiences and musicians. How can the field of orchestral music keep relevance in today's times and how do we engage in music in our everyday lives in a way that will allow us to embrace the future of orchestral music? Tune-in to find out.

Sign-up to receive a notification when the first episode is aired on Friday, January 8th.

https://www.cantonsymphony.org/orchestrating-change/ 

Kelly Corcoran bio:    https://www.cantonsymphony.org/episode-1-kelly-corcoran/ 

Orchestrating change in our community.

Canton Symphony Orchestra knows the need for change within the orchestral community. The tradition of classical music has ignored many communities that have contributed to the development and canon of repertoire played in the concert hall. While Canton Symphony is a regional orchestral, change starts at the smallest level.

With “Orchestrating Change”, the Canton Symphony Orchestra hopes to facilitate conversations that will make the concert hall a more welcoming place for previously ignored communities as well as create more acceptance and diversity on the stage.

Goals

*Be a platform for open discussion about diversity and inclusion in the orchestral community.

*Be a platform for Black, Latinx, Asian, female, and LGBTQAI+ musicians, composers and administrators as well as other ignored demographics. 

*Educate our audience to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion and expose our current patrons to more music by Black, Latinx, female, Asian, and LGBTQAI+ musicians and composers. 

*Bring new audience to the orchestra by creating a more welcoming community that is reflective of the demographics in our Canton, Ohio community. 

*Move the CSO forward to programming more diverse music as well as increasing diversity within the organization.