Monday, March 27, 2023

Always the Light


Always the Light 

By Tom Wachunas, with Diane Belfiglio


“…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

   First, the blur. Since learning of the sudden passing of Diane Belfiglio a few days ago, I know I do not grieve alone in a state of numbing sorrow, incapable of finding words to describe the enormity of her departing our midst.

   But then, the shape of her shining cuts through the billowing clouds of sadness. I remember. Thank Dear God I remember. Her impact as superb artist, beloved friend, teacher most excellent, colleague most encouraging. An altogether inspired and inspiring creative force in our community. Here are some of Diane’s words about her work:

   "I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and 'in-your-face' commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls…. 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.”

    Something extraordinary indeed. I have been writing about Diane’s work for about 25 years. So now let me offer you, dear readers, this memorial composite of past comments from numerous reviews.

   I’ll always see Belfiglio’s oeuvre as something akin to one hand firmly caressing earthbound materiality, the other channeling through it the warmth and movement of light. The ethos of her work is a see-worthy vessel that remains buoyant and sturdy in turbulent waters – intact and unabashedly beautiful in our splintered culture too often floundering in pointless pop junk and ugly sensationalism. Hers are contemplative, mindful visions for our thoughtless times. As such, they are acts of bravery, courage and love on canvas or paper. Woven into the arresting formal elegance of her pictures is a consistently tender, mesmerizing harmony of astonishing technical acuity and compositional lyricism that imbues them with the rarefied air of poetry. Call it all a constant rising to ineluctable light.

    Always, the light. Rest there, dear friend Diane.

   And finally, here are two links. The first, to Diane’s gorgeous website so you can visit and be reminded of her brilliant work. The second to Zanesville Museum of Art’s beautiful posting on Diane’s current exhibit there.

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.