Friday, November 18, 2022





Take Care of My Flowers





By Tom Wachunas

“There is no shape to the feeling that has gripped me, no name. Manifested in amorphous sensations and rippling currents – bringing one moment a tear, then a smile; there is no comprehending this wave. A hummingness courses through my mind.”

― Radhika Mukherjee, from “Broken Shadows”

“Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritable.”  - Robert Motherwell


EXHIBIT: Emily Orsich – First Solo Exhibit, at John Strauss Studio, 236 Walnut Avenue NE, downtown Canton, THROUGH DECEMER 16, 2022 / viewing hours Monday-Friday 10 a.m to 5 p.m / Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

   A recurring motif in Emily Orsich’s commanding paintings is a confluence of assertive boldness and delicate fragility, describing things simultaneously settled and tentative, solid and liquid. Her configurations are kinetic, intricate synchronies of opposites that nonetheless exist in an uneasy equilibrium.

   So what could these ‘things,’ these ‘opposites’ be? Maybe think of the painter as a cartographer, drawing in code, here mapping terrains of a kind, often inlaid with broad swaths of black and blood red - like rivers, deep-cut roads, or skid marks - juxtaposed with wandering crooked rivulets, amorphous translucent pools, and quiet, empty plains.

   Beyond sketchy, enigmatic connections to earthly geography, however, the expressive immediacy of these works also suggests metaphors for another type of terrain. Which is to say the artist’s state of mind and heart.  

   In this context, consider Orsich’s style of abstraction as a kind of writing. Think of her mark-making as a spontaneous cursive script, approaching a form of calligraphy both agitated and strangely elegant. 

   Could these paintings then indeed be narratives about Orsich, and by extension, all of us viewers willing to trust our own intuitions? Are these stories about navigating personal relationships? About resolving conflicts? Or finding joy amidst chaos? Or serenity in anxiety? Psychological balance? About growth, discovery, and catharsis?

   The answer’s in the looking. More power to ‘ya.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Compelling Drama, Mesmerizing Virtuosity


 Compelling Drama, Mesmerizing Virtuosity 

Pianist Michelle Cann

Gerhardt Zimmermann

By Tom Wachunas

…No, no, no, no, no, no, no /I'm overdue /I'm really in a stew/

No time to say goodbye, hello /I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

-      Lyrics from “I’m Late” from Disney film Alice in Wonderland

   Late indeed. With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, I’m slowly returning to my writeful place here on ARTWACH, and very grateful for all the loving encouragement you readers sent my way following my previous post about my medical woes. So here’s a long overdue THANK YOU to the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO), now celebrating its 85the Anniversary, for yet another superb adventure into sheer musical excellence.  

    In writing about the CSO’s October 30 concert, Music Director and Conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann casually mentioned that a few of the selections were meant to “…help usher in Halloween the next day…” Fittingly, the intriguing thematic diversity of the program of four works certainly did include a few especially haunting journeys to the dark side.

   The evening commenced with César Franck’s 1883 macabre symphonic poem, Le Chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman). The work was inspired by a ballad by German poet Gottfried August Bűrger, and tells the tale of The Count of Rhine who, on one fateful Sunday, decided to forego obligatory church devotions in favor of galloping into the woods to hunt, happily blowing his horn. The absolutely sumptuous sounds of the CSO strings and bright percussive chimes calling the faithful to worship on a sunny day soon enough gave way to the piercing clarity of the naughty horn calls. The hapless hunter proceeds to ride his way into the darkness wrought by his guilty conscience and subsequent pursuit by Satanic demons. For desecrating the Sabbath, the hunter became hunted by Hell itself. In telling the story, the orchestra quite effectively soared to chilling depths of aural scariness.

   And then, a mesmerizing respite from bittersweet morbidity transpired, thanks to the exquisite technical virtuosity of guest soloist Michelle Cann. Her dazzling piano wizardry was truly a wonder to behold as she brought to light and life the effulgent lyricism of Piano Concerto in One Movement, composed in 1934 by African -American composer Florence Price (1887-1953).

    Cann returned after intermission to further regale us with jaw-dropping panache in her rendering of Richard Strauss’s complex and rowdy Burleske for Piano and Orchestra. When the enthralled audience clamored for an encore, Cann eagerly obliged. With stern authority, she pounded the keyboard with the first three brooding chords of Rachmaninoff’s iconic Prelude in C sharp minor.  But then, not missing a beat (and no doubt in a Halloween spirit of clever mischief), Cann immediately unleashed a raucous and riveting mashup of Rachmaninoff’s motifs into a blindingly fast and seamless hybrid of jazzy- boogie-woogie - ragtime variations. At once brilliant and hilarious.          

   The evening concluded with yet another fierce trip into doom - Tchaikovsk’s magnificent 1876 Symphonic Fantasy, Fransesca da Rimini. For this narrative, Tchaikovsky sourced Dante Alighieri’s iconic 1321 allegory, The Divine Comedy, particularly its visit to the second circle of Hell, where sins of the flesh are punished, the sinners whipped mercilessly by roaring winds in eternal darkness. In a stunning interlude - slowly developed with achingly sweet melodies - Fransesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo are allowed to rise above the torture and tumult long enough to recall their carnal happiness in one of Tchaikovsky’s most heartrending love themes, only to be sent back to explosive torment. When the last frenetic cymbal crashes and violent drum rolls sounded the anguished finale of this work, please don’t think me too frivolous when I say I could practically hear a replay of the rattled lion’s chant in the Wizard of Oz movie, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do I do I do I DO!”

   And so once again, when all was played and done, I too remained a believer. Certainly not in fictional ‘spooks’ as such, but far more importantly, in the Canton Symphony Orchestra as a palpable aesthetic force, haunting – and blessing – us with its always potent and inspiring embrace of pure, artful sublimity.