Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Come What May - PART 80


Come What May -  Part 80 

PUN, by Tom Wachunas

The Last Cowboy, by Todd Bergert

The Fall, by Murli Narayan

The Catholic, by William Bogdan

Articulated Agave II, By Diane Belfiglio

Venice Street, by Bruce Humbert

Chrome Lady, by Thomas Kilpatrick

Data Entry, by Daniel Vaughn

By Tom Wachunas 

EXHIBIT: 80th ANNUAL MAY SHOW/ at The LITTLE ART GALLERY, located in The North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton, Ohio/ Viewing hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. /  THROUGH JUNE 24, 2023

Jury-awarded works (Best-in-Show, Second Place, Third Place) pictured here (open the hyperlink):

   This hallowed ritual usually features a remarkably abundant diversity of media and content. While handsomely mounted to be sure, this year’s exhibit of 31 works somehow feels…small. However well-crafted, maybe it’s the preponderance of entries tending toward the formulaic or nostalgic, often  settled into the cute and conventional.

   The photos I include here are of those pieces that I found especially captivating.

   Throughout many iterations of this annual event, Diane Belfiglio has been a deserving and frequent presence. Her recent sudden passing means she won’t be blessing us any more with her unique and sublime captures of sunlight and shadow, making her beautiful watercolor, Articulated Agave II, an altogether bittersweet encounter.       

   For you connoisseurs of classic Flemish-technique oil painting, the masterful draughtsmanship, the startling realism of fine textures, and the chromatic richness in the paintings by Tod Bergert (The Last Cowboy) and Murli Narayan are truly exquisite. Narayan’s painting, The Fall, is a particularly playful application of thinking outside the box. Those autumnal gourds appear to be falling out of the illusory picture frame. An arresting illusion within an illusion.  

   And speaking more of ‘playful,’ there’s Daniel Vaughn’s Data Entry. You might read this dazzling arrangement of Lego tiles as a newfangled sort of QR code. Translation: scintillating rhythmic complexity.

    William Bogdan’s The Catholic is a large and engrossing woodcut print. It exudes a soaring yet fragile Gothic monumentality. A priest, appearing dwarfed by the enormity of his surrounds, stands in the center aisle, facing  the steps leading up to the altar. All the church pews behind him are empty but for one silhouetted figure, sitting alone, encased in what looks like a white body halo. There’s a haunting here. A question, maybe even an irony. Under the towering, vaulted ceiling of architectural heaven, what carries more weight, more actual sanctity? The standing priest with an audience of one? All that elaborate, mute ornamentality of the surrounding statues and icons? Or is it the solitary seated figure emanating white light?  

   Whenever my own work appears in a juried group exhibit that I’m posting about here in my blog (as is the case with this exhibit, which includes my newest work, titled Pun), I’ve always acknowledged the jurors’ acceptance with gratitude and left it at that, with no further comments on my own work.

   This time’s a bit different. So yes, I’m certainly grateful. AND, here’s some shameless self-promotion. My piece belongs here. It’s the ONLY  ‘cutting-edge’ art (wink wink, nudge nudge) in the entire exhibit. You might call it a political commentary. With tongue-in-cheese, however, I think of it simply as a still life about the fomented state of our broken culture.  E Pluribus Unum, shredded.    

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Installation Femmetastiques - PART 3


Installation Femmetastiques - Part 3 

Violence Against Women

Violence Against Women

We Wrap Ourselves Around You: Angels For Ukraine

Dance With Dementia

By Tom Wachunas

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” —Coco Chanel

“I think what's important is to give space to the range of human experience.”  - Judy Chicago

“As an artist, I never wanted to be fettered by gender nor recognized or defined as a female poet, musician or singer. They don't do that with men - nobody says Picasso, the male artist. Curators call me up and say, "We want your work to be in a show about women artists," and I'm like, why? For Christ's sake, do we have to attach a gender onto everything?”  - Patti Smith

EXHIBIT: Salon des Femmes -  celebrating the work of 12 local female artists / Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave NW, Canton, OH / Through June 14, 2023 / Viewing hours Monday -Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m to 3 p.m. (closed on first Saturday of month)

EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Heather Bullach, Heidi Fawver, Kat Francis, Marti Jones Dixon, Erika Katherine, Judi Krew, Aimee Lambes, Sam Lilenfield, Sally Lytle, Erin Mulligan, Emily Orsich, Jo Westfall

   For much of art history, the techniques and materials of functional domestic crafts (weaving, sewing, quilting, embroidery and the like) associated with women, a.k.a. “women’s work,” was thought to be intellectually empty and unworthy to be called “high art.” Such work was typically dismissed as mere ornament or decoration. Fortunately, such institutionalized small-mindedness has been in steady decline for decades, thanks in large part to the potency of transformational ideas central to the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

   And ‘potent’ is certainly an appropriate descriptor for the three marvelous pieces here by Judi Krew. They’re from her ongoing Hoard Couture wearable art series. Here’s a relevant she said–he said about that series, excerpted from my blog comments about her 2021 solo show at Massillon Museum. First, she said, “…I embrace the mantra of reuse, repurpose, reconsider, and reimagine to guide the overall concept of each piece… The original intent of Hoard Couture, to reduce an accumulation of things, has evolved over time into a series that sometimes looks back at our past and perhaps also forward to our future…” Then, he (I) said, “… we can rightly regard Judi Krew’s works as not just fashion design, but also as remarkable mixed-media sculptures… In all of their astonishing intricacy of constructed details, these exquisitely crafted assemblages are more than merely decorative. They’re declarative…”

The spiritual power of We Wrap Ourselves Around You: Angels For Ukraine is indeed a purposeful declaration and, I dare say, a prayer. Wearing this brilliant and sparkling tribute to the people of Ukraine would be to don the wings of hope and healing.

   On a distinctly more somber note, there’s the interactive Violence Against Women – at once sobering and disturbing. More than simply “feminist” in concept and scope, it’s compellingly humanist. Read Krew’s statement: “Upon this piece are 22 individual pockets depicting 30 forms of violence against women both historical and contemporary. The text is hand stitched and incorporates a small visual reference. The body of the pockets are intended to be “beautiful” individual works of art using craft materials… Within each pocket are laminated stories from victims who suffered these acts of violence. Please reach in and read their stories so they can reach out to you… Do not allow women to remain hidden anymore.”

   In her statement that accompanies Dance With Dementia, Krew writes that she designed the work as a “modified dance costume comprised of: the artist’s 1984 wedding rehearsal dress; overskirt made from a bedsheet that was wrapped around her mother’s bridal gown (to preserve it) circa 1958; and the front panel of a real dance costume…”  

   The garment is covered with 45 miniature dresses that echo the Hoard Couture series as a whole. Krew tells us that the small pieces are “…made as memories and more able to be stored once the artist passes away and the full scale series is eventually disposed of. When fully assembled, this dancer’s dress serves as a retrospective of the artist’s years making Hoard Couture and a lifetime of playing with art materials.”

    So there is, belying the fulsome visual brightness of the piece, a pensive this-too-shall-pass sadness about it. Here, Krew shows herself to be a gifted poet, evidenced by the panel attached on the front of the garment, bearing the arresting Dance With Dementia poem she wrote:

A little girl grows up to make art / She wears it well, they say / Dancing under gallery lights /

Accolades / Decades / Pieces of herself left behind, until /

An unfinished canvas, an empty hook / a missed deadline / Unsigned /

Did anyone notice? / Were there signs? / Decline /

The stage grows dark / The theater lies empty / Studio spaces forgotten

A.R.T. entombed in bins / Abandoned / Unavailable /

A nice lady gives her some crayons

 Judi Krew, thank you. I keep noticing the sublimity of your work, the fabric of your heart. And I suspect that any dancing you might be doing with crayons in the future would be no less enthralling.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Installation Femmetastiques - PART 2


Installation Femmetastiques - Part 2 

Still Life with 2 People, by Marti Jones Dixon

Compassion, by Erin Mulligan

Beach Ponies, by Heather Bullach

Photos by Aimee Lambes

Erika Katherine art

Under Siege, by Sally Lytle

By Tom Wachunas

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”  - Martha Graham

“The only quality that endures in art is a personal vision of the world. Methods are transient: personality is enduring.” - Edward Hopper 

EXHIBIT: Salon des Femmes -  celebrating the work of 12 local female artists / Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave NW, Canton, OH / Through June 14, 2023 / Viewing hours Monday -Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m to 3 p.m. (closed on first Saturday of month)

EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Heather Bullach, Heidi Fawver, Kat Francis, Marti Jones Dixon, Erika Katherine, Judi Krew, Aimee Lambes, Sam Lilenfield, Sally Lytle, Erin Mulligan, Emily Orsich, Jo Westfall 

   I quoted Martha Graham at the top of this post because even though her powerful words were originally offered in the context of modern dance, I believe that the spirit of her observations is nonetheless applicable to any act of aesthetic expression. The styles, materials and messages offered in this exhibit are widely varied. Still, each artist offers a distinctive translation of that “…vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening…”  which inspires her to manifest a unique personal vision of being alive in the world.

   Speaking of relevant quotes, when you look at the gorgeous photographs here by well-travelled Aimee Lambes, let these words from photographer Annie Leibovitz resonate: “There's an idea that it's hard to be a woman artist. People assume that women have fewer opportunities, less power. But it's not any harder to be a woman artist than to be a male artist. We all take what we are given and use the parts of ourselves that feed the work. We make our way… Photography lets you find yourself. It is a passport to people and places and to possibilities.”  ‘Nuf said.

    Heather Bullach’s 19 paintings here are breathtaking in their classic style of elegant and poetic naturalism. The pristine serenity and precision of her confident brushwork gives her visions a patina of luminous silk.

   With her astonishing exactitude of technique (I often think her brushes might be made from feathers, or even cat hairs), Erin Mulligan paints delightfully dramatic encounters of the metaverse kind. She rules a magical Morphdom snatched from the jaws of our ordinary world. The intriguing pictorial tales she tells straddle the whimsical, the weird, and the always wondrous.

   The captivating figurative paintings by Mart Jones Dixon are imbued with expressive, gestural immediacy. They often convey a sense of the artist capturing a crescendo moment before her memory of it changes or vanishes. A social encounter, an intimate conversation on the threshold of impending action, or of telling a secret, asking a question, revealing an answer. This expressivity is greatly enhanced by Dixon’s deft articulation of light, drawing us in to look – or listen -  longer.

   I’ll be sharing more of my take on this adventurous show in Part 3, sometime next week. Meanwhile, once again, FĂ©licitez les femmes!

Monday, May 8, 2023

Installation Femmetastiques (part 1)


Installation Femmetastiques (Part 1) 

By Tom Wachunas


   “The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: Sometimes, placing one work of art near another makes one plus one equal three. Two artworks arranged alchemically leave each intact, transform both, and create a third thing.”  - Jerry Saltz 

EXHIBIT: Salon des Femmes -  celebrating the work of 12 local female artists / Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave NW, Canton, OH / Through June 14, 2023 / Viewing hours Monday -Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m to 3 p.m. (closed on first Saturday of month)

EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Heather Bullach, Heidi Fawver, Kat Francis, Marti Jones Dixon, Erika Katherine, Judi Krew, Aimee Lambes, Sam Lilenfield, Sally Lytle, Erin Mulligan, Emily Orsich, Jo Westfall

   Gobsmacked. Smartstruck. Dazed and bemused. Wooed and wowed by this amazing amalgam of artworks, my blog’s agog.

   For this exhibit, Cyrus Custom Framing and Art Gallery has undergone a most extraordinary transformation - a floor-to-ceiling facelift.

   Here’s a vigorous THANKYOU to keen-eyed arts champion Dan Kane, the retired entertainment editor of The Canton Repository, for conceiving and curating this marvelous show, and to his collaborator- in-design, Christian Harwell, owner of Cyrus Art Gallery.

   For his excellent April 13 Canton Repository article on the exhibit, Ed Balint talked with both men. Kane said on that occasion, "…My guiding idea was to hang the artwork salon style, with many pieces of work by each artist. Rather than a group art show, it's more like a dozen solo shows. The artists represent a wide range of styles and a 40-year age range…” Additionally, Harwell observed that “… each artist plays with their own space, showing the design and emotion that perfectly complements their artwork and message. Every one of these women are established and innovative local artists that have a message to deliver. We felt now is a timely opportunity to celebrate the important contribution that women make to contemporary art in general, but more directly to our local art scene."

   Important contributions to be sure. More than a few of the artists here have captivated me for years (including Marti Jones Dixon, Erin Mulligan, Judi Krew, Heather Bullach, Aimee Lambes and, in the last several months, Erika Katherine, Kat Francis, Jo Westfall, and Emily Orsich), all prompting ARTWACH commentaries. So it’s all the more gratifying to see again the astonishing aesthetic depth these remarkable creators bring to this context.

   The exhibit is a compelling homage, a robust and immersive soiree, a veritable sensory cornucopia of iconographic diversity. I will be posting Part 2 of my thoughts hopefully in a few more days.

   Meanwhile, you can open the following hyperlink and listen to the What’s Up Stark? Podcast from April 25. It’s a thoroughly engaging conversation with artists Marti Jones Dixon and Erin Mulligan, hosted by Dan Kane: 


   FĂ©licitez les femmes!