Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Making Paint Sing


Making Paint Sing 

by Tom Wachunas

                                                             Dark Was The Night

                                                      1,000 Miles From Nowhere
Woman 1

La Muerte de la Madre 

                                                              On a Sea of Forgotten Teardrops
                                                                       Exit from Eden

                                                                 Cinderella Sleeping It Off

“Take me for what I am / A star newly emerging / Long simmering explodes / Inside the self is reeling / In the pocket of the heart, in the rushing of the blood / In the muscle of my sex, in the mindful mindless love / I accept the new found man / And I set the twilight reeling…”  Lyrics from “Set the Twilight Reeling” - by Lou Reed

“I use the human form, in all its complexities and abilities – through gesture, expression, and energy, to interpret the relationship between us and our emotions. Ultimately my intention is to make the viewers aware of their existence and how they fit into the collective experience that is life, where they came from, why they’re here, and what it means to be human.” – John W. Carlson

EXHIBIT: Set the Twilight Reeling – Paintings, prints, drawings, videos and objects by John W. Carlson / at Massillon Museum’s  Aultman Health Foundation Gallery, THROUGH November 12, 2023 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

   Have you ever heard a painting sing? Impossible, you say?

   As absurd as it might be to consider, have you ever had the uncanny sense of a picture evoking – maybe even actualizing - a human voice caught in the throes of grieving? Have you listened to an urgent vibrato seeking respite from anger or painful loss? Or felt its tremulous probing of tragedy in a courageous search for serenity and hope, harmony and healing? Can the physical materiality of a painting make tangible the impassioned lyricism of, say, a Blues song?  

   I’ve always been an avid believer in the agency of a painter’s hand to make empathy a visceral, empirical reality. To make immediacy palpable. It’s an agency in jaw-dropping abundance at the wonderful exhibition, or concert, if you will, still happening right now at Massillon Museum - a posthumous, thoroughly loving homage to the work of John W. Carlson (1954-2020).

    For this (unfortunately) late blog post, I’m taking off my formal critic’s hat. No arcane techno-speak from me here. Instead, for those of you who may not be able to see the show before it ends on November 12, I’m appealing to your open-hearted time and willingness to do some exploratory homework. Accordingly, you can read about Carlson’s life, motivations and prolific aesthetic pursuits by clicking on the hyperlinks above.

   Vital in embracing the overall spirit of the exhibit is this important  background information wisely provided by the Massillon Museum: “John Carlson collaborated with his partner, artist Shari Wilkins, on the project titled American Emotionalism founded in 2015. A manifesto of artistic intention was created for this movement, revealing some of the ways that Carlson and Wilkins challenged themselves in their work. Spanning a wide variety of mediums—from photography and music to painting and collage—American Emotionalism was a reaction against the over-explanation of visceral work. Carlson and Wilkins’ intention was to create work that elicits emotions that arise from instinctive, intuitive feelings, leaving space for viewers’ interpretation with little to no explicit explanation.”

   Carlson’s own words are generously evident throughout the exhibit, including these: “Viewing a painting with a strong presence asks us to stop and be present with it. It reawakens us, and we remember we are alive and that things matter.”

   Matter indeed. With this stunning show, Massillon Museum has outdone itself in gifting us with such a prodigious tribute to the mind and heart of a superb artist. John W. Carlson was, and remains, an évocateur of the most consummate sort. He told us, “…I’m…trying to conjure an image almost like a spell.”  Let me add, like a song.

   Simmering, exploding, rushing from the pocket of the heart…Come look and sing. Empathy, anyone?

1 comment:

seawolff said...

a sweet, accurate appreciation of an artist who has been sorely missed for almost four years—and will continue to be. His is indeed a fine exhibition.