Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Whirldscapes and Hortimorphs


Whirldscapes and Hortimorphs 

Evening Bloom on view at Geez Mound, by Ehret and Francis

Conjuring a Spirit Guide from the Hardware Store Parking Lot, by Ehret and Francis

Sun Shower, by Steve Ehret

Ate the Sun, by Steve Ehret

Alter, by Steve Ehret

Haze Glaze, by Kat Francis

Meet Me for Records in the Club House, by Kat Francis

Mr. Soul, by Kat Francis

By Tom Wachunas

We hope to bring you into the play place of our imagination, to live out the earthly magic of the subconscious mind. A place for people to float, have fun and most importantly get weird. Climb hills, roll down them, smell flowers, star gaze, pounce from earthy plateau to plateau.”  - Steve Ehret and Kat Francis

EXHIBIT: POTION PARK – The Kaleidoscopic Garden of Steve Ehret and Kat Francis / at Canton Museum of Art’s Milligan Gallery / 1001 Market Avenue N., Canton, Ohio / last day of the exhibit is March 5th / 330.453.7666 /

The Canton Museum of Art is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sundays 1-5 p.m. Admission is free on Thursdays and the first Friday of every month.

   And again, here comes that notoriously tardy blogger with a way-late vigorous nod in the direction of two prominent local artists- Steve Ehret and Kat Francis. If you’ve not yet seen their intriguing collaborative exhibit, there are still a few days remaining.

  So…”Kaleidoscopic” Garden, or “Collide -oh! – Scopic” Garden? Here’s where the notion of potions comes into play. Depending on the recipe, some potions may taste sweet, others bitter. They can be remedial elixirs or toxic tinctures. The fantazzmagorical visions in this exhibit combine elements of both, though never in a spirit of malevolence.

   The mixed media assemblages (acrylic paint on cut-out wood shapes) by Kat Francis are layered, 3D collages that have a scrapbook souvenir quality about then. Her painting style is charming and direct, sometimes almost childlike. A recurring motif is an embedded face in profile (her own?) which appears to ingest, or spew out, floating snippets of natural scenery. The eye is peering out beyond the picture plane as if meditating, searching, or remembering.

    Steve Ehret’s strange oil landscapes are painted with a sumptuous  fluidity that makes his forms appear to breathe and bounce. Here’s nature morphed into a wondrous waltz of curly puddles, pods and petals; rippling rocks rising and falling; wriggling stones, wiggling stems; and all in rainbow colors that glow from the inside with light stolen from an unseen sun.  

   Strangeness comes into even sharper focus when both artists partner together in one painting, such as in Evening Bloom on View at Geez Mound, or Conjuring a Spirit Guide from the Hardware Store Parking Lot.  Looking at them is like tumbling into the proverbial rabbit hole of altered realities. They’re dreamy and disorienting, yet not downright nightmarish. Surreal, certainly, but not so much sinister as they are sly. Like a fox.

   Begging your pardon, Kat Francis and Steve Ehret never promised us a rose garden. Still, stop and smell the weird. Eye think you’re sure to find the aroma simply…curiouser and curiouser.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Into the Blue


Into the Blue 

The Gloaming #1 - 9



Blue (detail)


The Gloaming 2

The Gloaming #1 - 9 (detail)

By Tom Wachunas 

“The substance of painting is light.” – Andre Derain

“Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit…”  - Mark Rothko

“Almost without exception, blue refers to the domain of abstraction and immateriality.”  - Wassily Kandinsky

EXHIBIT: Jordi Rowe presents Blueing of the Light: The Gloaming / in  Studio M at Massillon Museum / THROUGH FEBRUARY 26, 2023 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / (330)- 833-4061

 A MassMusings podcast interview with the artist will be posted at , and on Spotify on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, at noon.

   Painter Jordi Rowe concludes the artist statement she posted for her exhibit with these thoughts: “Like abstract painters before me, I encompass the viewers in the emotion of experience, add in the remarkableness of the commonplace, and aspire to crystallize a particular everyday moment. I find it rejuvenating.”  With this series of spectacular paintings, she has indeed realized her aspirations in truly sublime fashion.

   The “commonplace” she refers to has much to do with a phase of twilight known as gloaming – those moments of chromatic glowing in the sky right after sunset and just before full nightfall. Sometimes, for a few seconds, when the sun is at a particular position below the horizon, that glowing can become a quickened pulse bursting into an instantaneous flash of intensified color.

   Rowe’s facile confluences of oil, acrylic and spray paints produce a dramatic materiality. The sumptuous tactility of her surfaces turns what quantum physics calls the wave lengths of light into what could be called wave weights of vibrant hues. Her painted abstract “skies” are effervescent vistas, breathtaking fields at once dense and diaphanous, earthy and ethereal, comprised of particulate stuff – misty, thick, fluid, rising and falling. Here’s a beautiful conjunction of substance and spirit, all breathing at the nexus of the physical and the metaphysical.

   Especially compelling is her sprawling installation called The Gloaming, #1- 9. These nine canvases are mounted close together in a single long row spanning two gallery walls. You could start taking it in on the bright yellow end, and follow the colors through those enthralling blues into the night. Or, walk from the opposite dark end of the row to greet the sunrise. Either way, it’s about the passage of time through fugitive moments of a day, each condensed into a finite plane - a page, if you will - and each a complete picture in itself.

   It’s like reading verses of an epic, wondrous poem in paint.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A Compelling Tribute


 A Compelling Tribute 

A Lot of Energy Makes a Little Matter, by Jack McWhorter

Ladders and Holes, by Mal McCrea

You Paint Like a Sculptor, by Alexis Huntsman

Transitions, by Kim Blankenship

The Light You Carry, by Emily Orsich

Promise Land, by Keri Graham

Because (l), Why (r), by Samuel Gentile

Millennium Simulation, by Alaska Thompson

By Tom Wachunas

 “The act of painting is a clash of different worlds, which in their conflict with each other create new worlds. For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the studio is the quest for making paintings that have an equivalence in two or more directions. The paintings derive from a system of metaphors drawn from physical science. A kind of blank slate which allows me to describe what I think I know about existing in time and space, history and nature.”  -Jack McWhorter (1950 – 2022) 

EXHIBIT: Forward Formations: Students Celebrate the Life of Jack McWhorter / at Patina Arts Centre, 324 Cleveland Ave. NW, downtown Canton, Ohio / THROUGH FEB. 25, 2023 / Viewing hours Thursdays Noon to 8 p.m., Saturdays Noon to 9 p.m.

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:  Sarah Amatangelo, Kimberly Blankenship, Jessica Bracken, Noah DiRuzza, Samuel Gentile, Casey Herndon, Rita Hoagland, Nick Hoover, Alexis Huntsman, Kristi Karickhoff, Azia Mae Layman, Keri Marie, Madi Miller, Daniel McLaughlin, David McDowell, Sarah Flower-McVey, Mal McCrea, Jack McWhorter, Emily Orsich, Justin Randall, Natalie Swonger, Brandy Torch, Alaska Thompson, Kaley Weaver, Megan Wanderer, David Whiteman

  Students once under the tutelage of Painter and Professor Jack McWhorter, who passed away on May 1, 2022, have come together to celebrate his life and legacy through a shared exhibition. Jack was a prolific and accomplished artist, and a beloved, influential teacher of painting for 32 years at Kent State University at Stark. Each artist in this thoughtful and compelling tribute - which includes some paintings by McWhorter - created a work of art inspired by one of his pieces.

   At the core of McWhorter’s aesthetic is a persistent navigation of tensions and harmonies within symbiotic dualities. His compositions, which he called “live surfaces,” are clusters or matrixes of lines, shapes, and patterns that juxtapose accumulations and singularities, gatherings and dispersals. Like an explorer’s field notes on remembered sights and sites, places and spaces, his pictures often entwine a then with a now, as if remembering their own beginnings even as they were being transformed by his intuition and imagination into wholly new visual moments.

   New visual moments. The artists in this exhibit haven’t settled for merely copying an exact style, technique or content of a McWhorter original. After all, this exhibit is about inspiration, not imitation. Amidst the great diversity of formal approaches here, there is nonetheless a palpable sense of kindred spirits speaking in their own distinctive dialects, connecting to the act of making art with passion and panache.

   The very walls of Patina Arts Centre have indeed become live surfaces.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

What's the Elephant in the Room?


What’s the Elephant in the Room?  

By Tom Wachunas

…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.   1Corinthians 1:27

“…Although what happens when the “holy fool” begins to be corrupted by the world? He can no longer exist in it…” – Craig Joseph

THEATRE: The Elephant Man, written by Bernard Pomerance, directed by Craig Joseph / at the Mary J. Timken Theatre, located in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Kent State University at Stark, 6000 Frank Ave NW, North Canton, Ohio / Performances on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 3, 4) at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday Feb. 5 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets for all performances may be purchased online 24 hours a day at   Box Office:  330.244.3224.

Open this link to view digital program book:

   Bernard Pomerances’ powerful 1977 play tells the tale of John Merrick, a 19th century English man so grotesquely deformed that he became a circus sideshow curiosity. Making Merrick “more human, more like us” was an all-consuming mission for surgeon Frederick Treves. He befriended Merrick and provided a home for him in London Hospital, safely away from public gawkers.

   As Craig Joseph so astutely observed in his digital Director’s Notes (link posted above), the play is a deep consideration of the conflicted motives, and flawed expectations by which we measure being authentically human, ‘normal’, or beautiful. The story, as Joseph puts it, “… suggests that human-made indicators of “civilization” - Religion, Medicine, Commerce, Art, Law - actually deform and distort our humanity from being its best.”  

   All eight members of the cast are remarkably gifted performers, which makes for an ensemble of brilliant versatility. Six of the eight play more than one character with impressive panache. For example, in the role of Ross, greedy manager of the travelling freak show, Matthew Heppe is chillingly crass. As the well-intentioned Bishop How, on the other hand, he’s an eager and gentle religion teacher.

   Natalie Sander Kern plays Carr Gomm, hospital administrator, with credible dignity and authority. Erin Moore is Nurse Snork, who is severely reprimanded for sneaking into Merrick’s room just to stare at him. Rosie Bresson, playing Miss Sandwich, gushes with confidence that she will be hired to be Merrick’s caretaker, only to quickly bolt from the room, terrified after actually laying eyes on him. These three cast members also play some of the privileged dignitaries visiting Merrick in his room. Additionally, they’re  strangely electrifying as a bizarre carnival trio of the slow-minded “Pinheads”  - victims of a head deformity known as microcephaly. Meanwhile, Shani Ferry’s portrayal of Mrs. Kendal is quite compelling. Mrs. Kendal is a proud, self-possessed stage actress who introduces Merrick to the world of high society (and feminine anatomy), even as she struggles with her own superficiality and emerging compassion.

   Woven into Pomerance’s writing is a generous dose of pathos, beautifully translated here by both Michael Glavan as Frederick Treves, and Henrick Sawczak as John Merrick. Over time, the relationship dynamic between the two characters seems to devolve from real tenderness - tempered by Treves’ insistence that Merrick understand certain rules of etiquette and other “standards” of societal thinking - into a volatile crisis of conscience. Glavan’s performance is wholly captivating as we watch his confidence dwindle into frustration, then anguish, over Merrick’s deteriorating condition amidst questions about God, suffering, science, and human dignity.

    Sawczak’s presentation of Merrick is among the most impassioned and intense performances I’ve ever seen on a local stage. True to the playwright’s instruction for the character to have no prosthetic costume or makeup, Sowczak presents Merrick’s deformity in the form of speech stutters from contorted lips; an awkward, elongated gait; a paralyzed hand; twisted neck and torso; and nervous eyes that can nonetheless focus with startling sharpness as he speaks his agile, questioning mind. None of these deftly articulated quirks interferes with the searing clarity of his words. His tone has an uncanny range that effectively communicates disarming honesty, wit, and wisdom, along with an acute sense of sarcasm.

One of the play’s most striking metaphors evolves as we watch Merrick one-handedly construct an artful model of St. Philip’s Church. He says he regards a church as an imitation of grace, and that his model is in the end only an imitation of an imitation. To Treves’ observation that humanity itself is just an illusion of heaven, Merrick quips that perhaps God “should have used both hands.”  As he fits the final piece on to his model – the steeple pointing heavenward – he emphatically announces, “It is done.” Surely a haunting echo of the dying words from Jesus.

   Yet for us, is the tale really finished? This is sublime stage literature. As such, it resonates well beyond its briskly-paced 21 scenes. In a world still unreconciled to its purposed soul, the story feels like it’s still unfolding.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Combobulated Abstractitudes and Bruised Fruit


Combobulated Abstractitudes and Bruised Fruit 

Moonlight Mile, by Joe Ostrowske

Calm Like a Bomb, by Joe Ostrowske

Through the Eyes of Ruby, by Joe Ostrowske

Can't You Hear Me Knocking, by Joe Ostrowske

by Jo Westfall

by Jo Westfall

Blow In It, by Jo Westfall

The Queen's Astronomer, by Jo Westfall

By Tom Wachunas 

   “Forget your ideas about art. Make a shopping list of everything you like about what you've done. Include qualities that you've seen in your life, in the world, and possibly in art that you like. Take this list and make a work that satisfies all of the things on your list without caring if it looks like art.”  — Joseph Kosuth

   “Art is an experience, not an object.” - Robert Motherwell

EXHIBIT: Joe and Jo – works by Joe Ostrowske and Jo Westfall / at Cyrus Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio / Meet the artists at “A Second Look”  party on January 20 at 6:30 p.m.– exhibit ends on JANUARY 30, 2023 / 330.452.9787 / Gallery Hours are Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

   This provocative, intriguing and otherwise spectacular exhibit of paintings and assemblages has left me transfixed for weeks after first seeing it.  

   Joe Ostrowske has said of his highly expressionistic acrylic canvases that he is addressing “…the way that we all maneuver through the overlapping obstacles of life to find our way.”  Finding our way indeed.

    So what’s the destination? What specifically is being symbolized? That’s an open-ended proposition to be sure. If all else fails, slap your imagination in the face. Hard. Wake it up. Look long, and listen. Art expects nothing less. I’m willing to bet that if you ask 10 different people what any one of these pictures means or does exactly, you’ll get at least 20 different answers. Art can be like that.

   I read these paintings as a collective travelogue. They’re abstract extracts from a journey down the rabbit hole of a volatile nexus – a rough-hewn crossroads, where consciousness and subconsciousness (the artist’s and our own), along with unrestrained intuition coexist. The paintings are suffused with a dizzying diversity of stratified marks and scattered shapes amidst broad, amorphous bursts and rhytms of sizzling bright colors. There’s a palpable sensation of quick physical gestures, motion and transformation. An in-the-moment immediacy. Ostrowske’s style is a painterly stenography of sorts - shorthand explanations of the very actions and processes that brought the paintings into being.  Smudge, scratch and scribble; drip, doodle and delete; rub, rinse and repeat; expose, explore and erase; forget, flounder and find; initiate, improvise and illuminate; wail softly, whisper loudly and wonder always. Life can be like that.

   Meanwhile, versatile Jo Westfall has characterized her 2D and 3D works as “resource art.” Among her many fascinating entries in this exhibit are small, “portraits” of bruised, decaying fruit and vegetables, painted on grainy pieces of wood. In some ways they evoke the ancient aesthetic trope of memento mori – images made as warnings that life is short. Yet there’s nothing fearfully hideous about how these natural resources are depicted in their states of imperfection. Westfall’s exquisite technique imbues them not with the idea of death so much as a gentle savoring of their beautiful fragility.

    The caption accompanying the website (posted above) photo of Westfall describes her as “Designer of adornments, Delver of semi-conscious concepts, Explorer of seams.”  I would add, “Rescuer.” She’s a saver of found, castaway objects and various tactile materials. For her 3D pieces, she skillfully joins together seemingly unlikely candidates for the weaving process into elaborate assemblages that are a fascinating twist on conventional “fiber art.”  

    Read the list of ingredients for The Queen’s Astronomer: Repurposed fabrics and yarns, computer keyboard cables, drum tuners, piano parts, chair springs, zip ties, and phone cable. Or for Blow In It: Pneumatic hose, game controllers, phone cable, piano parts, coated wire clothes hangers, and AV cables. Here’s the sinewy meshing of ordinary computer guts, the common hardware innards of modern industry, or information and communication technology. But now, the original functionality of those components has morphed into a kind of metaphysical circuitry, transmitting a more purely aesthetic experience beyond the mundane and prosaic.

   So here’s to the warp and weft of 3D poetry.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Soulful Entrées


Soulful Entrées 

Requiescat in Pace, by Tom Wachunas

Naame (Reputation), by Chad Troyer

Coat of Sheer Empowerment, by Judi Krew

Seeing is Hearing, by Rodney Atwood

Birth of Matter, by Janis Salas

Fractured Light, by Emily Orsich

By Tom Wachunas 

“Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.”   - Kahlil Gibran

A work becomes a work of art when one re-evaluates the values of nature and adds one's own spirituality. — Emil Nolde

EXHIBIT: Annual Stark County Artists Exhibition / at Massillon Museum, THROUGH JANUARY 15, 2023 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, OH / (330) 833-4061 /

70 works of art by 49 artists (selected from 225 works submitted by 85 artists). More info, and participating artists, listed here:

   While 2022 was for me - as for many of us, I suspect - an exceptionally daunting year in multiple areas of living, through all of it I have remained grateful for the ability to still make and look at art.  And in these fragile, conflicted times, some of the most moving works in this exhibit resonate on deeply spiritual planes with art that embraces and feeds the reality of the human soul. That said, I’m elated that my most recent artwork was accepted into this eclectic congregation of artists offering their responses to being alive. If you care to read more about my piece, click this link to my short blog post from July:  

   Meanwhile, here are a few entrées I found particularly savory.

  Fractured Light, an aptly-titled acrylic/ mixed media canvas by Emily Orsich, is a startling storm of scribbled marks and frenetic painterly gestures all aswirl in an exploding field of gritty textures. An apocalyptic encryption, it’s an epic war of opposites: light vs. darkness, good vs. evil. The world swallowed up and spit out.

   Far less ominous, the mixed media work on paper by Janis Salas, called Birth of Matter, is a mesmerizing sort of calligraphy. Look inside. Subtly nestled in the meticulous repetition of all those thin, black-white-grey curling lines, are wispy dots and dashes of other colors. Words, whispered across the waves, on the cusp of declaration, as in a divine command: Let there be… blue sky and fertile earth.

   Which brings up an intriguing question: Can we hear a painting? We’ve all at one time or another uttered that age-old response to a powerful image along the lines of, “Wow, that really speaks to me.” What, then, might we hear when looking at Seeing is Hearing, a large acrylic on canvas abstraction by Rodney Atwood?  What is this bold, teasing simplicity? An object lesson in synesthesia? The sound of one hand clapping? Maybe it’s a distressed pink dolphin, flapping noisily on a purple urban shoreline, bleating the words of Wassily Kandinsky, from his 1911 book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art: “Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

   Judi Krew’s Coat of Sheer Empowerment is a sculptural figure of a standing woman bedecked in a delectable coat of translucent, ornate fabric remnants. The work is more than just a uniquely spectacular woman’s garment. Here’s a radiant celebration of impactful personhood, inscribed with the embroidered shapes of written words, such as Believe, Kind, Praise, Faith, Motivate, and Forgive. To read them, you need to walk around the figure and let your eyes trace the flow of the fabrics as they wrap their way up, down, and through the entire form. It’s not a matter of cursory glances at bits of pretty patterns so much as a process of discovering an empyreal wholeness. Like finding treasure.

   Speaking of reading and treasure, there’s Chad Troyer’s somewhat enigmatic tapestry and wood piece, strangely titled Naame (Reputation). A woven banner of burlap-like texture hangs in air, suspended from a wooden crossbar cut in the shape of a yoke. Questions abound. Is this a memorial to, or a symbolic portrait of, someone named Wally? Is/was Wally yoked to God? Look inside Wally’s name sewn (or could we say… sowed?) into the tapestry – his implanted soul, if you will - and see the tiny interwoven pieces of paper printed with Bible texts. The work reminded me of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 11:29-30: “… Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   

   Making and looking at art is often a matter of probing the metaphysical, and just as often raises more questions than answers. So be it. Allow yourself this tired old conceit: It’s always about the journey, not the destination. So feast your eyes, feed your soul. Happy New Year and bon appétit!