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.