Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sweet Fruits of Inspired Labors






 Sweet Fruits of Inspired Labors
by Tom Wachunas


    “…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
 -Galatians 5:22-23

    “…Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things…”  - Philippians 4:8

    EXHIBIT: Unveiling the Beauty of Spirit – work by Deborah Woloschuk, THROUGH JULY 11, 2015, at The Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton, Ohio

    NOTE: Deborah will be in the gallery from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, June 24, July 1 and July 8, using it as a public studio, letting the gallery serve as a space for live art-making and education.


    I’m fairly sure that many of my fellow visual artists would agree that sometimes (perhaps many times?) formulating an edifying “artist statement” can be a frustrating process. As for me, it’s one that often stirs up a temperament so adversarial that the very idea of issuing a written statement about my art feels like an absurdly unnecessary exercise. After all, shouldn’t I respect the intelligence and sensitivities of viewers enough to let them see the work on their terms, without spoon-feeding them a guide to meaning? Or am I being too grouchy and presumptive?
    Probably. By that I mean that there is no consensus as to what constitutes a necessary function or content of artists’ statements. Some can be replete with artsy jargon, arcane terminology, and/or obtuse philosophizing, others too unsatisfying in their generalizations. So be it. That said, I enjoy those statements that employ simple, direct language along with a certain degree of ellipsis, calling on readers to fill in the blanks once they view the artist’s work, not unlike movie trailers that entice without giving away too much of the story.
    Deborah Woloschuk’s statement for this show is largely comprised of biographical information. But it’s the disarmingly honest opening sentence that proffers a meaningful summary of her motivations and intentions: “By faith and prayer, Deborah’s calling by the Master Artist is to appreciate beauty, to know compassion, and to seek truth through creativity.
    Most of you who read these missives of mine shouldn’t be surprised when I say that for all of its concise brevity, the sentence runneth over with implications that resonate deeply with me. Starting with “By faith and prayer,” and “…calling by the Master Artist,” it becomes clear enough that for this artist, making art is a way of honoring God, the Creator, the Author of the truth(s) she seeks.
   The gratifying significance of her statement is in how it sets up a contemplative context - without being overly didactic or preachy - for viewing her oil portrait, still-life, and floral subjects. These are traditional compositions, many of them exquisitely rendered, as in the superb detailing of Ornate Olive Jars, the stunning illusory textures of Vintage Iridescence, or the mystical light of the floral Moonlight Serenade.
    Mystical light indeed. The metaphorically titled In the Son is a portrait of a sports coach who I take to be a modern-day disciple of Christ. Sitting at his desk, his form is bathed in rhythmic stripes of sunlight pouring in through the blind on his office window. For sun, read Son.
     The marvelous suite of paintings under the collective title, Fruit of the Spirit, depicts a woman adorned and bejeweled with symbols of virtuous living. It’s a compelling homage to the spiritual transformation, promised in the New Testament, to those indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit.
  Woloschuk’s best paintings take me back to the realization that all art-making is (or should be?) a conscious response to what I have in the past called the remnant, or latent spark of Divine creative energy still extant in the human soul. This desire to create, to call something into being “from nothing”, is a vital part of our spiritual DNA. I believe that whether they know it or not, artists have been summoned to be stokers of a preternatural flame. In its warmth and light, Woloschuk’s answer to the call is an excellent and praiseworthy one.

    PHOTOS, from top: Ornate Olive Jars; Moonlight Serenade; Vintage Iridescence; Moonlight Madonna; Fruit of the Spirit (top row, left-to-right, Joy, Patience, and Goodness: bottom row, Peace, Kindness, Faithfulness

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Communal Kniticisms






 Communal Kniticisms

By Tom Wachunas
 

    EXHIBIT: Crochetral: Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef – a collaborative project by faculty and students of Malone University Departments of Visual Arts and Mathematics and Computer Science, on view THROUGH SEPTEMBER 21, 2015, at Malone University’s McFadden Gallery (located in Johnson Center) and Art-in-a-Case, in the Cattell Library / 2600 Cleveland Avenue N.W., Canton, Ohio – open for viewing Monday-Friday during regular business hours

    “Mathematics is not scary when you can touch it.”   - mathematician   Dr. Daina Taimina

    The Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.” -  from the website for Crochet Coral Reef, a project originally created and curated in 2005 by Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring.


    Also from the same website, the following:
   The inspiration for making crochet reef forms begins with the technique of "hyperbolic crochet" discovered in 1997 by Cornell University mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina. The Wertheim sisters adopted Dr Taimina's techniques and elaborated upon them to develop a whole taxonomy of reef-life forms. Loopy "kelps", fringed "anemones", crenelated "sea slugs", and curlicued "corals" have all been modeled with these methods. The basic process for making these forms is a simple pattern or algorithm, which on its own produces a mathematically pure shape, but by varying or mutating this algorithm, endless variations and permutations of shape and form can be produced. The Crochet Reef project thus becomes an on-going evolutionary experiment in which the worldwide community of Reefers brings into being an ever-evolving crochet "tree of life."


    Consider ALL of the above as a necessary introduction to fully appreciate the scope and intent of this exhibit. I strongly recommend clicking on the web link. And wait, there’s more. The statement posted with the show tells us that as part of the crocheting process, the contributors “…explored the math of hyperbolic space.” To that end, I give you this additional link to a 1997 video of Dr. Daina Taimina explaining her application of hyperbolic surface theory to the art of crochet. It’s highly entertaining, and despite the somewhat arcane content, you need not be a math savant to get the essentials. 

      Further, from Merriam-Webster.com, here’s a definition of Hyperbolic Geometry:  geometry that adopts all of Euclid's axioms except the parallel axiom, this being replaced by the axiom that through any point in a plane there pass more lines than one that do not intersect a given line in the plane.”  Everyone got that? And just for good measure, let me add that (according to my less than exhaustive online research) hyperbolic surface theory addresses, among other things, the geometry of “saddle surfaces” (i.e., surfaces/planes curved or bent into saddle-like shapes) with a “constant negative Gaussian curvature.”  Well now, that explains everything, right?
    Perhaps knot. But the overarching point here is that this intriguing exhibit, while not an official "satellite reef" of the Crochet Reef Project, can nontheless be seen in solidarity with a growing world-wide movement that effectively merges science, mathematics and aesthetics to illuminate the ongoing threats to such precious and spectacular locales as the Great Barrier Reef. By extension, consider it in the context of a colorful global call to elevated planetary stewardship.
    The installation at the McFadden Gallery is comprised of several discrete works mounted on pedestals (with one wall-mounted piece suggesting fish trapped in floating plastic detritus), representing clusters of “reef citizens” (corals, fish, plants, etc). While some of the individual components of these pieces are clearly more sophisticated in their construction than others (these aren’t, after all, your grandma’s scarves, hats, or afghans), each of the crocheted communities exudes a naturalistic cohesiveness.
    For this project, Malone’s Li Hertzi required a short paper from her 3D Design students. One of the optional topics she proposed was to discuss how “…the social impact of yarn bombing and performance art…can change people’s thinking.” “Yarn bombing”?  Sometimes called “guerilla knitting,” it’s a growing form of street art that began appearing in various urban settings roughly around 2003. Think of it as impermanent graffiti. And proposing a kinship with performance art isn’t such a conceptual stretch, either. Can we think of crocheting as a metaphor for exploring potentiality, or possibility? In this context, while the act of knotting and stitching entailed repeated, meticulous motions in real time, the resultant forms evoke something well beyond themselves as representational static objects, and something outside the present moment of seeing. I think that they speak eloquently of something yet to be thought about, something yet to be done, something yet to be performed.
    So in as much as this project asks us to be proactive performers in protecting what we find so ineffably beautiful about our natural environs, it’s also a potent reminder that all of us are indeed… reef citizens.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

At 64, Still A-Mused


At 64, Still A-Mused

By Tom Wachunas
 

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” - William Shakespeare
 

    Pictured here is Blue Pas de Deux, a recent work of mine that was accepted into the annual May Show at the Little Art Gallery. Juried shows such as that one, along with the annual Stark County Artists Exhibition at Massillon Museum, are welcomed seasonal lubricators of my creative process. Not being what most folks would consider a highly prolific art maker (beyond writing this blog, perhaps), I nonetheless enjoy throwing the occasional new hat in the ring, so to speak.
   For weeks prior to making the piece, I was a paralyzed captive of my own doubt and anxiety about the direction of my work as a visual artist. I had been seriously questioning my motives, desires, intentions, indeed the very purpose of making art at all. I thought that my muse, who for me, you should know, is Christ, was being evasive if not silent.
   A crossroads? Surely. But as it turns out, it was also an epiphany. One morning I was given a flash of insight from reading in Jeremiah, “…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  The words compelled my surrender to, and renewed gratitude for…my muse. And so the piece speaks of a dance. It’s a lyrical symbol of my faith in an intimate bonding or duet with an eternally loving partner.
   Sadly, I’ve been known to often abandon trust in my Lord’s – my muse’s – words  (to be out of step, as it were) and exile myself for a while to the aforementioned captivity. On this, the occasion of my 64th birthday, and not to be too flippant about my lapses in faith, I offer my re-writing of a few verses from The Beatles’ “When I’m 64.” Dedicated to my muse, here we go. A one, a two, a three, a four:

    I’ve gotten older, still losing hair,… how the years have flown.
Will you still be sending me your valentines, inspirations, just like old times?
If I refuse your well-meaning cues, please don’t be too sore.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, after I'm sixty-four?

   You'll be older too.
And, if you say the word, I will dance with you.

   …Be in my dreams, give me a sign, stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say, yours sincerely, I’m here to stay.
Give me your answer, in legible form, mine forever more…
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, after I'm sixty-four?


    Today I know most certainly that he will. May it be so always.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Novel Approach






A Novel Approach
 

    “To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear! To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse—the cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory! This at least is one joy that must have been known by almost every living creature.”

Richard Adams, from Watership Down

   “…I like to think that, along with my synopses of the story, this collaboration is not unlike a bunch of rabbits using their skills to find a new home.”  -Craig Joseph, from his curator statement
 

    EXHIBIT: Watership Down – new work by Joseph Close, and themed jewelry by Jess Kinsinger of Sassyfrass, at Cyrus Custom Framing, 2645 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, THROUGH AUGUST 1, 2015

    www.cyruscustom.com   (330)452-9787


    I really can’t recall a local gallery exhibit that has engaged me more, on multiple levels, than this one. In that respect I’ve seen comparable shows and most of those, interestingly enough, were at Translations Gallery, formerly located on Cleveland Avenue in the arts district. So it’s not surprising to see the continued curatorial role of Translations director Craig Joseph in this collection of new pieces (2D and 3D) by Joseph Close.
    This time around, Close presents some 50 works (and an additional 17 preparatory drawings) inspired by English author Richard Adams’ 1972 novel, Watership Down. It’s the allegorical tale of a group of rabbits fleeing the imminent destruction of their warren and their tempestuous adventures in establishing a new home. Their world has an elaborate culture, language and mythology all its own, and the book often brings to mind the epic quest themes we encounter in the classical writings of Homer and Virgil.
    The act of “illustrating” a written story can be a daunting and certainly subjective business, calling for an artist to generate imagery that hopefully harmonizes with the narrative zeitgeist. The challenge is in how best to  “bring the words to life” - to support and, ideally, enhance their credibility. Curiously enough, one example of an unsatisfying outcome is the 1978 animated film version of Watership Down, written and directed by Martin Rose, and wisely provided for viewing in this exhibit. You’ll notice that the renderings of the rabbit characters have all the cartoony punch of vintage movies like Bambi, which I find to be strangely disconnected from the edgy nature of this particular story. That said, it’s worth noting that that nature is effectively present in the stylized moodiness of the film’s static background shapes and colors.
    Mr. Close’s 2D interpretations might have taken a few cues from those backgrounds in terms of his extensive employment of brooding analogous colors, as if misted twilight or darker night has befallen most of the scenes he depicts. I can understand how some viewers, initially unfamiliar with the story while imagining fluffy rabbits romping through lush green meadows and sun-dappled woodlands, might find his treatments a bit on the dark side.
   Yet for all of that, Close’s fluid and expressive drawing style (bolstered by a dazzling variety of mark-making techniques), his observational acumen, and his eye for activating a picture plane with well-placed accents of light and texture, all combine to imbue these visions with dramatic depth. Eschewing the formulaic, Disneyesque pleasantries of anthropomorphized animals, Close’s creatures are efficacious renderings of palpable vivacity and real volatility, whether as pictures or sculptures, as in “Attempted Truce.” It’s an imposing, even startling totem, comprised of found objects and materials (including an ornate head covering that suggests a kind of armor), representing a rabbit fiercely standing his ground.
    Two other elements of this exhibit contribute significantly to appreciating its collaborative aspects. Curator Craig Joseph has written a sequenced synopsis, his astute texts mounted on numbered (1 through 49) placards that accompany each piece. Viewers who haven’t read the book can easily grasp the gist of the story. And then there’s the matter of overall presentation. The framed works under glass take on a spectacular, elegant dimensionality thanks to the brilliant design sensibilities of Cyrus Framing owner Christian Harwell. His unusually contoured (“carved,” in a way) matting treatments give the pieces a sculpted feel, angling the pictures within their frames to heighten their sense of energy and motion. Clearly an art in itself. 
    Watership Down has an uplifting finale. The last two works in the sequence leave us on an optimistic note of both tenderness and apotheosis. One is a soft portrait of the farm girl, Lucy, cradling the heroic Hazel after saving him from being killed by a cat. The end piece, “The Black Rabbit Comes for Hazel,” is a free-standing, wide arch of curved metal pieces – thin and sleek despite their rusty patina, as if soaring through the air. It’s a wonderfully distilled abstraction symbolizing Hazel leaving his tired body to be welcomed into the spirit realm.
    Of all the shows by Joseph Close that I’ve seen through the years, this one is quite simply the most compelling to date. And you don’t need to have first read the novel that prompted his marvelous interpretations to savor the sheer thrill of looking at them.

    PHOTOS (from top) courtesy Craig Joseph: Fiver’s Vision at the Sign Post (#1 in the synopsis); Holly Arrives in the Night (#2); Bigwig Reports to Kehaar (#34); El-Ahrairah and Rowsby Woof (#40); Attempted Truce (#42)   

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Persistent Appeal of Tradition






The Persistent Appeal of Tradition

By Tom Wachunas


    “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.” ― T.S. Eliot, from The Sacred Wood

    “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” ― Gustav Mahler


    EXHIBIT: ALLIED ARTISTS OF AMERICA – 100 YEARS, at the Canton Museum of Art (CMA), 1001 Market Ave. N, Canton, THROUGH JULY 19, 2015


    As a student of both art history and studio painting in the early 1970s, I was intrigued to learn that somewhere along the labyrinthine journey of 20th century Modernism, the subject matter of visual art had become liberated (some would say rudely so) from representations of the visible or natural world. My studio classes had become increasingly less instructional in the actual craft or technique of painting as our critique sessions had morphed into heady discussions (at times diatribes) about aesthetics.
    One significant result of my collegiate painting experience was not so much learning how to paint per se, but rather how to see, which in turn evolved into my own explorations of non-objective abstraction. Along the way, I confess to “going through a phase” of real disdain for the formal conventions of rendering “irrelevant” subjects such as landscape, still life, and portraiture. Mea culpa. But time wounds all heels, and my youthful disparagements of “old fashioned” art were eventually quelled by a renaissance of favorable attitude regarding traditional contents and techniques. Suffice to say I can appreciate a Rothko and a Rembrandt, a Pollock and a Poussin, a de Kooning and a da Vinci with equal fervor.
     I tell you this not as part of a critical “review” as such, but rather as a subjective backdrop to my deep appreciation of the overall scope of this stunningly mounted CMA offering.  It was conceived by Gary Erbe (see my review of his concurrent show posted here on May 5), president emeritus of Allied Artists of America, among this nation’s most prestigious visual art societies now celebrating its 100th year. While appropriately subtitled “A Dazzling Celebration of Contemporary American Art,” it would be a mistake for viewers to expect a comprehensive state-of-the-American- visual arts survey. There are simply too many trends and bold, complex experiments (many of dubious worth) afoot in today’s art milieu to make that claim.
    I do find it interesting that of the more than 60 member artists represented here from around the country, there’s nary a piece that could be called wholly non-objective, though there are works in varying stylistic degrees of abstraction.  That said, the reigning spirit in this impressive gathering of paintings, drawings and sculpture is one of sublime, even jubilant homage to accessible (i.e. recognizable) realities. Think of it as a spectacular tribute to representational imagery by a group of eminently accomplished artists. They’re clearly engaged in an elevated remembrance of, and dialogue with, historic – indeed precious - values of superior craft, exquisite formal and compositional sensibilities and, yes, remarkable beauty.
    Allied Artists of America. Here’s to their next 100 years of upholding such traditions.

    PHOTOS, from top: Absolutely Free, pastel by Peter Seltzer; Portrait of Autumn, graphite, by Yuka Imata; Vases and Vessels, pastel by Leslie Lillien Levy; Last Light of Day, oil by Thomas Valenti; Mixed Emotions, watercolor by James Toogood   

Monday, May 18, 2015

Amazing Grace


Amazing Grace

By Tom Wachunas


   “… a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God…” –Victor Hugo, from Les Misérables

    Considered among the greatest literary works of the 19th century, Victor Hugo’s 1862 historical novel, Les Misérables, is a philosophically and spiritually rigorous examination of a society caught in the throes of revolution that culminates in the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris. The beloved musical adaptation is a monumentally dramatic landscape of poverty and despair, of wrecked hearts and shattered dreams, of moral turpitude and the transformative power of forgiveness, compassion, and love.
    This towering sung-through narrative presented by Canton’s Players Guild Theatre was directed by Jonathan Tisevich, who has also taken on the daunting role of the central character, Jean Valjean. The production features a remarkably skilled cast and ensemble. In conjunction with the polished musicality of the live orchestra directed by Steve Parsons, the expressive lighting and sound design by Scott Sutton, and robust scenic and costume design by Joshua Erichsen, the entire evening crackles with all the panache of a Broadway encounter.
      Tisevich delivers a riveting portrait of a man at first rancorous and destitute after 19 years of unjust imprisonment, but who ultimately finds purpose and redemption even as he must face the ceaseless pursuit of police inspector Javert. In that role, Matthew Horning is a scary and rigid presence, effectively conveying a vengeful self-righteousness and annoyance at Valjean’s goodness.
    The caliber of vocal prowess demonstrated by the cast members is remarkably high - at times operatically nuanced - including commanding  performances from  Jimmy Ferko as the young revolutionary, Marius, who is in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette (Carly Ameling); Daryl Robinson as Enjolras, the people’s leader; and young Zachary Charlick as Gavroche, a delightfully scrappy boy-provocateur. Miah Bickley plays the hapless Eponine. Her powerful rendering of the wrenching ballad, “On My Own,” is a compelling embodiment of sadness over her unrequited love for Marius.
    In a particularly endearing interlude during Act I, eight year-old Corrin Smith as Little Cosette sings “Castle on a Cloud.” As she imagines a happier life and a loving mother, there seems to be an old, hurting soul resonant in her plaintive, crystalline voice. Earlier on, an even more gnawing hurt and vulnerability comes through with heart-piercing impact when Keitha Brown, as Cosette’s mother, Fantine, condemned to a cruel (and fatal) life on the streets, sings “I Dreamed a Dream.”
   Fear not, there is some comic relief from all this woe. Micah Harvey and Maureen Thomas are deliciously crude, rude and conniving as the Thenardiers, thieving innkeepers from whom Valjean must purchase the abused Little Cosette. “Master of the House” is a show-stopping emsemble romp around the tavern executed with rabid glee. Who knew that such insouciant criminality could be so hilarious?     
     That said, the most emotionally and spiritually potent passage of the evening transpires nearly midway through the second act when Valjean sings “Bring Him Home,” a soul-searing prayer for the life of Marius. Mr. Tisevich doesn’t just rise to the occasion. He defines it. Throughout this gripping anthem that declares all of Valjean’s hope and faith and pain, his voice progressively soars as if driven by a preternatural force. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.
    And how could it be otherwise? For it was in that mesmerizing moment of bittersweet supplication that I appreciated Tisevich not only as the astonishingly gifted actor and singer that he is, but also for his indisputable strengths as a director. Clearly he’s been blessed with the ineffable capacity to channel his impassioned reading of the story into his ardent cast and ensemble. They in their turn return the favor and pour it generously into us, the audience.
   Their cup runneth over, as it were. And we’re all the better for it.

        Les Misérables, Players Guild Theatre (Mainstage), 1001 Market Ave. N, Canton, Ohio / Performances THROUGH MAY 31, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM / Single Tickets $25; 17 and younger $19; Seniors $23 / BOX OFFICE - 330.453.7617 or  www.playersguildtheatre.com

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Come What MAY, Remember the Rest of the Best






 Come What MAY, Remember the Rest of the Best

By Tom Wachunas
 

EXHIBIT: 73rd Annual May Show, at the Little Art Gallery THROUGH MAY 30, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton / Gallery Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 1 to 5 p.m.

    I love the idea of juried art exhibitions. I hate the idea of juried art exhibitions. That’s the long and short of it. A love-hate affair.
    This is not to say that I love the idea only when my work is accepted for exhibition (as indeed it was for this particular show), and hate the idea when my work is rejected. Generally, I’m not strictly opposed to the notion of being “validated” or “accepted” by “art professionals” (jurors) even if they’re not practicing artists themselves. After all, there are still remnant criteria used today in assessing artistic excellence which were established centuries ago by “academicians” who never made a drawing, painting, print, or sculpture –  philosophers, historians, curators, and later, pesky critics.
    Like many artists, I can identify with those in the film industry who, standing in the shadows of the big winners at Oscar time, sincerely cite what an honor it was just to be nominated. Yes, it is an honor when qualified authorities and/or an artist’s accomplished peers deem his or her work worthy of public viewing.
    But designating prizes, especially the “Best in Show,” can be particularly problematic if not plain silly. Art exhibit as dog show. Last year the Beagle got top honors. I hope the Poodle gets it this year. Sheesh.
    It’s not as if there exists a magic formula or universally accepted canon of standards for determining the last word on aesthetic superiority. Such awards are necessarily declarations of opinions (albeit educated ones, one would hope) – a decidedly subjective exercise – on the part of the jurors. That said, I heartily congratulate all this year’s awardees.
    Relative to other May Shows of the past several years, this one, with works by 47 Stark County artists, is largely a bit on the tepid side. Most of the pieces that garnered prizes seem to exemplify the jurors’ conservative leanings toward traditional subjects. Case in point: Best In Show honors went to Lee Ann Novotny for her pristinely rendered colored pencil still-life, Nice Jugs. Verynice” indeed, but…
    There are other more electrifying entries, highly commendable in their respective media. Ted Lawson’s 30 Rock II (First Place in Watercolor) is among the finest I’ve seen in his series of New York Cityscapes. It’s a glowing, spectacularly fluid night scene and, whether intentionally or not, a vaguely topical reminder of the urban confrontations between police and public so prevalent these days.
     There’s a palpable charm and intimacy about Bruce Humbert’s oil, Joy in the Garden, bathed in diffuse light. And it’s a light dramatically sharpened in the bold watercolor just above it on the wall, Spring Light by Jerry Zelinskas.   
   Eleanor Kuder’s mixed media Butterfly Jar is at once an elegant and frenetic abstraction. Its intricate, meandering organic markings are a compelling counterbalance to the simpler, more muscular and tactile lyricism of Tina Meyers’ Bonsai (Second Place in Acrylic). The appearance of these works adjacent to each other, as with the aforementioned Humbert-Zelinskas combination, points to curator Elizabeth Blakemore’s astute placements of diverse content throughout the exhibit. Look carefully and you’ll sense unity – sometimes subtle, sometimes clearly defined. It might be from piece to piece, or one grouping of works to another, sharing subject matter, or palette, or concept, or combinations thereof. 
    Whatever you do when viewing the exhibit, please DON’T be like the four individuals who entered the gallery during my recent visit. I love watching people watch art. This particular group was on a mission, with a rigid agenda to spot only those pieces that had the colored tags of award winners next to them - the “bests.”  Ignoring all the other works, they were gone in 15 minutes.
   I’m sure I speak for all of the exhibitors here when I say…I hate it when that happens.

    PHOTOS (from top): Welcome to Dementia, acrylic on clear acrylic, by John B. Alexander; Joy in the Garden, oil, by Bruce Humbert; Butterfly Jar, mixed media, by Eleanor Kuder; 30 Rock II, watercolor, by Ted Lawson; Nice Jugs, colored pencil, by Lee Ann Novotny