Tuesday, April 2, 2024

A Sublime Respite Revisited

 

A Sublime Respite Revisited



Succulent Shadows II

Illuminated Bench II

Ascent with Geraniums

Articulated Agave V



By Tom Wachunas

“…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

EXHIBIT: The Artists’s Legacy – Posthumous Exhibit of works by Diane Belfiglio / At John Strauss Furniture/Studio Gallery, 236 Walnut Ave NE, Canton, OH / Gallery hours: M – F 10a.m. to 5p.m – CLOSING RECEPTION ON FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Here’s a link to Diane’s gorgeous website so you can visit and be reminded of her brilliant work:

https://www.belfiglio.com/

   Much of what you’re about to read in this post is from my memorial thoughts about Diane Belfiglio posted here in March of 2023. But first, I offer my deepest THANKS to John Strauss for his continuing vigilance, vigorous promotion, and excellent exhibitions of truly significant contemporary artists - local and otherwise - and their engaging visions at his gallery space.

https://straussfurniture.com/

    When I learned of the sudden passing of Diane Belfiglio in March of last year, my sorrow over her departing our midst was, as it was for many of us, utterly numbing.  But soon enough, the compelling essence of her shining aesthetic cut through the billowing clouds of sadness. I thank God for her impact as superb artist, beloved friend, teacher most excellent, colleague most encouraging. She was, and remains, an altogether 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.”

    I was always thrilled to write about Diane’s work over the past 25 years. So I offer you this edited composite sampling 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.

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    If you’ve not seen this exhibit yet, there are still a few days left. Or come to the closing reception on Friday evening. Come see how the pedestrian, the ordinary, the mundane became the extraordinary, even the…sacred. Come look at bricks breathe, colors dance, shadows sing. And the light. Always, the light.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

In the Path of Totality

 

In the Path of Totality






By Tom Wachunas 

   I made my most recent mixed media assemblage, In the Path of Totality, in response to an invitation from Vicki Boatright (aka the Artist BZTAT) to participate in the group exhibit she has organized at her new gallery space, BZTAT Studios in Canton Creator Space. The show is called CELESTIAL: EXPLORING COSMIC CURIOSITIES, and intended as a celebration of the much- heralded solar eclipse happening on April 8. The exhibit opens tonight, March 30, from 5:30 to 8:30.

EXHIBIT: March 30 - May 24, 2024, at Canton Creator Space, 730 Market Ave. South / Canton, Ohio /

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11:00a.m.-5:00pm., Saturday 12:00-5:00p.m.

   I look now at the cosmos, the universe -   at least what very little of it I can actually see with my unaided eyes - as a created reality. Not a mind-boggling or science-baffling accident, not an inexplicable random event. But evidence, a glorious manifestation, of a wholly limitless, eternal power with a divine purpose and intent. A spiritual experience in itself. Call it a personal, gradual seeing of true light in its totality.

   So I painted on the slats of an ordinary functioning window blind to make simple images of both a darkened and a blazing sun, signifying a journey from light eclipsed into light fully realized. It’s a symbol of the cosmos, and meant as an iteration of conscious spirit, as well as a meditation on blindness and seeing.

   My piece is an interactive metaphor. I invite you as a viewer to gently twist the wand hanging on the left side of the blind to expose both states of the sun. As you do so, you’ll notice words written in red progressively coming into view on the board behind the slats. You might need to change your stance a bit, or adjust the angle of your gaze, or the tilt of your head as you read the words appearing between the slats. You could consider such adjustments a symbol in its own right too. What changes do any of us need to make in our efforts to clearly see a truth?

   Those red-written words - four verses, all taken from Scripture – are meant as a suggestion, if not an invitation: For the sun, read The Son.

There he was transformed before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as the light. -Matthew 17:2

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. -John 1:4-5 

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…  - Malachi 4:2

For the Lord God is a sun and shield… -Psalm 4:11

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Attitudes and Latitudes - An Alluring Equipoise

 

 Attitudes and Latitudes - An Alluring Equipoise


A Union - by Romy and Marcy

By Marcy Axelband

Marcy Axelband

Marcy Axelband

Color Response, By Romy Anderson

Class, by Romy Anderson

70 - by Romy Anderson

By Tom Wachunas 

It's those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes /Nothing remains quite the same / With all of our running and all of our cunning / If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.   Jimmy Buffet

Ooh, spare your heart. Everything put together sooner or later falls apart.  -Paul Simon

EXHIBIT: All The Colors in the Crayon Box – works by Romy Anderson and Marcy Axelband / THROUGH APRIL 5, 2024 / at Cyrus Custom Framing and Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton, Ohio / Viewing hours: Monday - Friday 10am – 6pm / Saturday 11am - 3pm /Closed first Saturday of the month and on Sundays / (330) 452-9787

From WIKIPEDIA: “In the manufacture of cloth, warp and weft are the two basic components in weaving to transform thread and yarn into textile fabrics. The vertical warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a loom (frame) while the horizontal weft… is drawn through (inserted over and under) the warp thread…” 

   Romy Anderson’s tantalizing woven wall pieces explore juxtapositions of very colorful grid configurations in varying scales, wherein warp and weft form intricate patterns and micro- textures. In her statement for the show, Anderson tells us that these works reflect her love for organization, mathematics, and creativity. She describes her methodology as “… working with double weave and introducing hand woven techniques such as supplementary weft in combination with a loom-controlled structure. The use of hand-woven techniques allows me to play with color interaction and disruptions in the pattern. When creating disruptions in the pattern I can keep the viewer intrigued in my work through the order and disorder of pattern.”

   I was intrigued indeed by the confluence of apparent opposites. What Anderson calls “disruptions in the pattern” are subtle fusions of formulaic structures with unpredictable interruptions, or stasis counterbalanced with undulating movement. Formal visual harmony and symmetry are conditions most impactful when woven into a context of unexpected mutation. So here’s art as a metaphor, perhaps. Consider it an intricately constructed symbology of tactile lyrics, so to speak, about the warp and weft of …change. You might well think of them as evoking the shifting rhythms and rhymes, regular and interrupted, comprising the ethos of human life itself, sung with a truly tantalizing polychromatic effervescence.

   Complementing Anderson’s distinctive grid geometries are the riveting figural abstractions by Marcy Axelband. They too are invested with a compelling lyricism, as well as an attention to repeated, colorful rhythmic patterns of connected and free-floating shapes, sometimes suggestive of grid motifs. But it’s always human faces that are front and center here. In Axelband’s statement, we read, “Having always been enamored by faces, my work characterizes what they say, what they do not, how they portray their stories of joy and difficulty, peace and sadness, delight and thought. They are playful and serious. They fill me with wonder for the creative process…”

    I first encountered large paintings by Marcy Axelband more than 15 years ago and always admired the facile expressionism of her style. For this series of smaller-scaled pieces on raggedy-edged handmade paper, she chose to use markers, colored pencil, watercolor pencil, graphite, and pen, noting in her statement that “…paint is much more forgiving than markers – which was both frustrating and a challenge.”

   And now? Challenge met, with electrifying results. Her mixing and layering of different drawing media – all the colors in the crayon box, as it were – imbue her pictures with a variety of subtle patinas and saturations that make the surfaces seem to breathe and have a pulse.

   Axelband’s mark-making possesses all the vigorous immediacy and quirky simplicity you might find in a child’s drawing. Eschewing any refined artsy illusionism, it’s just this sort of robust, unfettered naïveté that has the uncanny effect of making her figures, ironically enough, all the more real and relatable.  

   So I read the faces as representing a sprawling diversity of people and their possible narratives, immersed in a stunning panoply of psychic and emotional states we associate with simply being alive.

   And those eyes. Their eyes. Some tranquil, others troubled, some mirthful, others melancholy, some wise, others dumbstruck. Wide or narrow or shadowed or bright. For as much as they look in at themselves or each other, they look out. At us. Or beyond. We look back at them. And see…us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Insightful Incisions

 

Insightful Incisions 



Every Year They Grow From Nothing

When I Become A Tree

When I Become A Tree In Fall (detail)

When I Become A Tree / Taking Off

Lying In Red

When I Become A Tree Aflame

I Thought I Was Supporting You #3

By Tom Wachunas 

“… Woodcut is incredibly physical and energetic, but also requires a level of intimacy and care in carving each mark. The resulting work is subtle, careful and rash, reflecting my own state of being as the artist…”  - Meryl Engler

From Merriam-Webster: Catharsis (kə-ˈthär-səs)

a: purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art

b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension

 

EXHIBIT: I Had Been Young Vol. 2 – woodcut prints by Meryl Engler / THROUGH MARCH 1, 2024,  at The Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, in the Fine Arts Building at Kent State University at Stark, 6000 FRANK AVENUE NW, NORTH CANTON, OH / Gallery hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 

About the artist: Meryl Engler grew up in Huntington Beach, California and moved to Akron, Ohio in fall 2019.  Meryl attended Syracuse University where she studied sculpture, printmaking, religious studies and history, while also competing on the women’s rowing team.  Next she went to graduate school at University of Nebraska-Lincoln for studio art with an emphasis in printmaking.  This is where she developed her love of colorful woodcut prints, often using pattern and repetition.  She is inspired by hidden landscapes in our environment and the relationships we form to it and each other. In 2022 she started working at the Morgan Conservatory and learned Eastern and Western papermaking techniques and now incorporates papermaking into her print work.  She has shown both nationally and internationally...

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   In her statement for this exhibit, Engler writes that in this latest series of prints, “…I felt compelled to delve into my personal narrative…using self-portraiture, herons that symbolize messengers of change and transformation, quilts to portray nurture and caring, and one very peculiar tree…”

   That tree had been growing through a few seasons in, of all unlikely places, a parking lot - a location, she surmised, annoying to “most people” - near her Akron residence. Yet she came to see it as a unique symbol of her own growth and change.

   Mesmerizing in their complex patterns and linearities, Engler’s images are at once crowded and airy. Breathtaking and breath-giving. Lines of varying densities harmonize and seem to breathe as they rise and spread outward from tight clusters of foliate shapes. Her mark-making has a calligraphic sort of elegance about it, as if the imagery wasn’t carved so much as written in cursive style. Further, Engler’s incorporation of color imbues many of her images with a diaphanous light you might well call palpable magic. Nowhere is all this dazzling intimacy and intricacy more commanding than in the sheer ambitious scale of several monumental prints mounted on the gallery’s longest wall. They’re eight feet tall! Talk about wild grace…

   The marvelous fluidity and exactitude of these meticulous renderings is absolutely entrancing. Insightful. Insiteful. They’re incised with all the skilled precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.  And so they do indeed cut to the heart, as it were, of a beautiful personal catharsis.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Making a list, checking it twice - PART 2

 

Making a list, checking it twice…


What was...what could've been...now" by Christine Janson

Dream Crusher, by Emily Orsich

Cathedral, by Steve Ehret

Salt and Peppa, by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker

Polaron II, by David L. Kuntzman

Momma Remembers, by Judi Krew

Windows from the Ukraine, by Lou Camerato

PART 2

by Tom Wachunas

 

“Judging art is like caging a bird. Instead of seeing it soar, you can only watch it flutter.” — Ron Brackin

“Taste is the best judge. It is rare. Art only addresses itself to an excessively small number of individuals.” — Paul Cezanne

 

EXHIBIT: Stark County Artists Exhibition / at Massillon Museum Aultman Health Foundation Gallery, THROUGH JANUARY 14, 2024 / 121 Lincoln Way East, downtown Massillon, Ohio / Phone: 330-833-4061 / Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am - 5:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

https://www.massillonmuseum.org/home/exhibits/current-museum-exhibits

   Shall we make like jurors and play a game of favorites?

   I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the artworks I submitted for this annual contest – er, uhm, exhibition - were not accepted by the jurors. I didn’t make the team, as it were, of 52 artists who were selected, and I certainly congratulate them. As one of 91 rejects, I can only guess as to why exactly the jurors deemed my work unseeworthy.

   As it is, I never gave much if any credence to establishing a hierarchy of monetary awards in group shows such as this -  Best in Show, 2nd place, 3d place, then down to a few “Honorable Mention” certificates. Why not simply consider having art chosen for exhibition as sufficient-enough award?

   To engage the practice of tiered prizes is to dive down a rabbit hole of questions and motives. As a society in the 21st century, for better or worse, we have no indisputably true map or absolute rule book for navigating that most complex of human terrains we have come to call subjectivity. Or better yet, in this context, aesthetic taste.

   With only a few days left to see this show, here’s a reminder that Massillon Museum has provided ballots for viewers to cast a vote for the “People’s Choice Award.” It will be announced shortly after the exhibit ends. Meanwhile, I offer here some pics of works I found to be particularly compelling, and indeed honorable, as I fluttered through my rabbit hole of opinion.