Thursday, October 14, 2021

Metascores (rhymes with...)


                                                             Metascores (rhymes with…)  


Chorus: 34 Drag Chute

Chorus: Little Nova Rocker

Chorus: Singing Through a Hole

Chorus: Singing Through the Fence

Chorus: Singing on President's Day

Chorus: Gold Finch Song


By Tom Wachunas 

   “A painter… in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of colour, for setting colour in motion.”

Wassily Kandinsky, from Concerning the Spiritual in Art

EXHIBIT: Chorus and Understudy, An Invitation to Look – 29 paintings by Earl Iselin / at The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building at Kent University at Stark / 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, OH / THROUGH OCTOBER 29, 2021 / Gallery Hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (NOT OPEN on Friday, Oct. 15)


Artist Reception and Gallery Talk – THURSDAY OCTOBER 21 - 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

    In a recent statement about his work, Earl Iselin wrote about a seminal encounter from his days as an undergrad at Kent State University. While there, he often visited Robert Smithson’s land art installation, Partially Buried Woodshed, made on the University grounds in 1970. Sitting inside the entropic structure (i.e., designed by Smithson to disintegrate over time) induced a sensation of being buried alive. In that setting, Iselin’s view of the sky – a signifier of possibility for fully experiencing a present moment  – was obstructed.

   That memory resonates in his poetic philosophizing about painting. What he has called “skying the painting” speaks to the purpose of his pictures. “To be at home in painting means to defy the past,” he tells us, adding, “Every generation has to come to painting for itself. Every generation must go through the labor of off-loading in order to find what is appropriate for them, to unemcumber their work. We have to decide what we will take with us into the present, and what we will leave behind. Our inspiration must find lift.”

    Looking at these paintings brings to mind the phenomenon of synesthesia, from the Greek syn, meaning "together", and aisthesis, meaning "sensation." Synesthesia happens when one sensory or cognitive process is stimulated enough to cause a simultaneous perception or experience in another sense or cognitive pathway.

    A recurring pathway in Iselin’s paintings is the grid. It’s a motif apparent in much of modernist painting history, and one that can codify any number of contexts, including architectural constructions, urban landscapes, maps, measured units of time, or the very idea of repeated patterns found in nature.

    Iselin’s grids vary widely in terms of their rigidity and clarity. There are painterly, tactile actions – both representational and purely gestural or abstract – resting under, intertwined through, or placed directly on top of the grids. Faces, places, or objects – faded or fading, softly in the past, or loudly in the present. Balance and counterbalance. Seen and… heard?

   The titles of these paintings are intriguing. Most of them suggest a musicality, beginning with the word ‘Chorus’ followed by a reference to a specific subject. Voices singing and continuously interwoven. Iselin’s use of the grid as a delineated system for containing his marks and shapes is not so far removed from how a composer scores a musical work via a staff - the horizontal, 5-lined configuration for attaching or mapping the various signs and symbols that articulate melodies and harmonies, pace and rhythms, or durations in time.

   So here’s an invitation to not only look, but perhaps to listen as well. Iselin’s paintings are, on one fascinating level, scores written for the instrument of his imagination and yours. To look at this impressive collection is to join a choir and…find lift.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Unto Dust?


Unto Dust? 

Homecoming (2018)

Precedent (detail)



Precedent (2021)

By Tom Wachunas 

   “…for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  - Psalm 103:14

   “…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  - Romans 8:22

   “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”  Phillipians 4:6-8

   “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 inveterate Word nerd strikes again. On one level, this most recent work of mine - titled “Precedent” – began in a spirit of disdain. Actually, hate would be more accurate. I’ve come to hate the attachment of the word unprecedented to just about every report and opinion on this protracted pandemic season of ours. As it is now, too much of humanity is floundering in a merciless vortex of anxiety and anger, confusion and conflict, medical mayhem and moral malaise. And no measure of political poppycock and prattle can alleviate our pain.

   But,…unprecedented? A rarely mentioned, much less researched, COVID side-effect is its power to turn us into blithering amnesiacs when it comes to remembering our plagued history as a species on earth. Call it an Anthropocene nightmare. defines the Anthropocene epoch as the “… unofficial interval of geologic time, making up the third worldwide division of the Quaternary Period (2.6 million years ago to the present), characterized as the time in which the collective activities of human beings (Homo sapiens) began to substantially alter Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, and systems of nutrient cycling ...”  

   These days, I’m thinking that the Anthropocene should be renamed the Entropocene, as in entropy – our collective, ongoing decline into profound disorder in virtually every aspect of existence. There is indeed a precedent for my newest painting. I think of it as a topography of a tautology. I / we have been here before, again. And so I repainted a work from nearly four years ago. I wrote about that painting (shown here above) in a post from early 2018, titled, ironically enough, “Can the past have a future in the present?”  

   The old painting exists now only as a digital image, a memory. Meanwhile, traces of it are still present in the new work. It isn’t an alteration so much as an altaration – a performative, sacrificial prayer to reach for the promised peace of God while living in a troubled world. I fully believe that it is that peace alone which will overturn our entropy.