May 222024

Artist and activist Andrea Bowers is based in Los Angeles but was born and raised in Ohio. This provides the connection to the work in Exist, Flourish, Evolve, currently on view at moCa Cleveland, which advocates for environmental protections for the area. The educational material informs the viewer, while the artwork reminds us how much beauty there is to lose.

From the museum-

LA-based artist Andrea Bowers bears witness in her work, drawing attention to and inspiring movement around the most urgent issues of our time. Her drawings, sculptures, installations, and films chronicle and preserve history as it occurs, documenting collective action and amplifying the labor and lived experiences of activists dedicated to socio-political change.

Developed through an ongoing partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and activist Tish O’Dell, Exist, Flourish, Evolve is a new, multi-site, multimedia campaign that builds awareness and action around the dangers facing Lake Erie and all of the Great Lakes ecosystems. It features a monumental neon sculpture installed on a waterfront balcony of the Great Lakes Science Center; a documentary investigating the impact of factory farming on Lake Erie’s ecosystem; and a presentation in moCa’s Lewis Gallery that includes a newly-created drawing of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, first-of-its-kind legislation protecting an entire US ecosystem that is part of the global Rights of Nature Movement.

Bowers was raised in the small town of Huron, Ohio and spent her childhood on the shores of Lake Erie, connecting to the lake itself like a member of her family to be cared for, cherished, and protected. Yet, Lake Erie and its watershed are abused and endangered by corporate practices such as contaminant dumping, toxic runoff from industrial farming, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Exist, Flourish, Evolve demands justice for the Great Lakes, urging us to prioritize the preservation of our natural ecology over industrialization and capitalism.

Within moCa’s gallery, a timeline connects Bowers’s new and recent artworks with historical facts and archival materials using two catastrophic climate events as bookends to Bowers’s life thus far: the 1969 fire on the Lake Erie-connected Cuyahoga River (a result of oil slicks covering the water) and the massive 2014 algae bloom that blanketed Lake Erie and invaded Toledo’s water systems, preventing residents from using tap water.

From the Maumee to the Cuyahoga, the works in Exist, Flourish, Evolve come together to share the histories of our water, demonstrate the interconnectedness of ourselves and our natural world, and remind us, as Dr. Vandana Shiva states, “nature is not out there; we are a part of it.”

This exhibition closes 5/25/24.

May 222024

The amount of detail in Manabu Ikeda’s pen and ink drawings is astounding. You could spend hours, if not longer, looking at the many works currently on view at moCa Cleveland for his exhibition Flowers from the Wreckage.

From the museum-

Manabu Ikeda, from Saga, Japan, specializes in highly technical and detailed pen-and-ink drawings. He grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a period when Japanese anime gained wide spread popularity. Using a nib pen, Ikeda creates imagery on paper reflecting his interests in outdoor activities, pop culture, civilization, and nature, thereby bringing a unique perspective to his work.

Ikeda’s art often incorporates insects, animals, rock climbing, and fishing, allowing him to explore nature from various angles. His creations seamlessly blend daily life, spiritual beliefs, and cultural insights, creating a mix of truth and fiction that might resonate with viewers.

Central to Ikeda’s practice are metaphors of grief and the undeniable aspects of life that are often beyond society’s control, such as the fundamental forces of Mother Nature. Ikeda’s drawings also reveal human resillience and the ability to rise above devastating situations even when it seems impossible.

Flowers from the Wreckage is Ikeda’s first solo retrospective in North America. Showcasing over sixty artworks, the exhibition highlights the complexity of Ikeda’s artistic endeavour, introducing viewers to this master artist’s pictorial allegories and immanent messages about the interconnected world.

Many of the works also reference specific landmarks and events. Pictured above is Rebirth, created from 2013-16 at the Chazen Museum of Art in Wisconsin. Inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, it depicts a cherry blossom tree in bloom. On closer inspection the flowers are made up of artificial objects, and amidst the branches objects and landmarks that have been destroyed by disasters appear among the wreckage.

Meltdown (2013), pictured below, was inspired by the glaciers and lakes of the Canadian Rockies, and also references the Japanese nuclear power plant that was damaged in the 2011 earthquake.

The museum also reproduced History of Rise and Fall (2006), seen below, which depicts a tornado sweeping away a whole town and its history- from samurai battles to World War 2 and beyond.

This exhibition closes 5/25/24.

May 222024

Pictured above is Frank Stella’s 1986 work, La vecchia dell’orto, on view at Columbus Museum of Art, part of New Encounters: Reframing the Contemporary Collection of the Columbus Museum of Arta reinstallation of the museum’s contemporary galleries.

About the work from the museum-

In the 1960s Frank Stella began creating paintings with a composition of lines that closely followed the shape of the canvas. These works often resisted any sense of depth, but in the following decade, Stella would go on to create exuberant works like this, composed of brightly painted cones and other shapes that extend beyond the surface of the rectangle behind it.

The title of this work, like others in his Cones and Pillars series, is taken from an Italian folktale in which a mother’s only daughter is kept by a witch as payment for a cabbage she stole from the witch’s garden.

Stella’s practice was always evolving. In his most recent large painted sculptures, currently on view at Deitch in NYC, you can see how he expanded on the concepts he was working with here.

May 042024

Ewuresi Archer’s Indescribable Charm was created for Land Studio’s rotating space The Art Wall in Cleveland’s Public Square. Archer is a Ghanaian American artist who is based in the city and graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

From the artist about this work-

Indescribable Charm is a piece about capturing the indescribable feeling of tranquility through a vibrant landscape. With exaggerations in the textured grass with natural shades of green contrasted with bright oranges and distorted landscapes, this piece provides a space for people to stop, think, and reflect. Within this charming scene, a figure stands front and center with features associated with African Americans. My art is about celebrating myself and my culture; with this piece, I’m celebrating the beauty of black people. Putting an African American figure in a field of grass that calls for admiration gives a viewer no choice but to also admire the figure’s aesthetics. This piece puts them in a place of admiration. His strong yet ethereal presence adds depth to the piece as a whole. The serene landscape, in contrast to the figure’s beauty, creates a wonderfully harmonious composition that invites viewers to contemplate the majestic charm of the grass and the mysterious beauty of the figure.

You can also find Ewuresi Archer on Instagram.

May 032024

In March, Strauss Studios hosted Diane Belfiglio: An Artist’s Legacy, an exhibition celebrating the late artist. The Ohio artist and educator’s exploration of light and shadow give her subjects a unique graphic quality.

Here Belfiglio discusses her acrylic paintings-

My paintings prominently feature closely-cropped, sunlit architectural forms. Although realistic in their presentation, I rely heavily on their underlying abstract qualities to give to the already imposing images an even greater sense of power. Shadows, ethereal by nature, take on a rigid structural aspect in these compositions. Colors range from brilliant to subtle in an effort to reproduce the strong sense of sunlight streaming through each piece. Although these images are visually powerful, the delicate details in the architecture—and often in the surrounding vegetation–are also prominently featured in my work. The resultant blend produces a heightened, stylized reality. I work 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.

And here she talks about her decision to work with watercolor, like in the pair above-

Never say never. For the majority of my life, I have not taken to watercolor as a medium I ever wanted to use professionally. But in 2015-16, the Canton Museum of Art had a spectacular show of Joseph Raffael’s watercolor paintings. The colors and luminosity in his work were so amazing that I just couldn’t get the images out of my head. A couple of years later, I was called upon to teach Watercolors at Walsh University, a class I normally don’t teach. So there was another toe in the water (pun intended). Fast forward to 2020, when I finally had the urge to vanquish my demons and give it a try. I started slowly, making plenty of mistakes, but soon realized that I could create the luminosity that I crave in my work in this medium.

Tomorrow (5/3/24), Strauss Studios will be open late for Canton First Friday and showing the new exhibition Exploring Light and Darkness featuring artists Emily Orsich, Heather Bullach, Jo Westfall, Joe Ostrowske, Mary Crane Nutter, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, and Susan Wilkof.


May 022024


Emil Robinson’s paintings for Interiors, on view at Abattoir Gallery in Cleveland, are a meditation on space. The doors, slightly ajar, closed, or allowing glimpses of the outside world, invite the viewer to think about their own interiors.

From the press release-

The work stems from conversations about the history of interior paintings which serve as both records of domestic spaces as well as vessels for psychological profiles. Robinson, a classically-trained painter from Ohio, spent the past year studying local spaces, ranging from abandoned university buildings to the personal spaces of home and studio. With this show, the artist has focused his virtuoso brushwork onto smaller scale compositions in order to capture the essence of place.

Robinson has exhibited in institutions and galleries throughout the Midwest as well as in San Francisco, New York, and London. He is the recipient of grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council, among others.

Interior spaces invite a range of associations. Their open spaces welcome reflection and their spatial interludes are indicative of the various thresholds we encounter throughout our lives. The function and formal simplicity of the built environment is synonymous with psychological complexity in my paintings. I want the viewer to recognize my subjects while simultaneously losing a grip on the comfort of utility which rooms doors and all other functional spaces invite.

– Emil Robinson 

This exhibition is on view until 6/1/24.

May 012024

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen created Free Stamp, the 70,000 pound sculpture, pictured above, in 1985.

Cleveland Historical, which has detailed numerous historical sites in the city, provides a detailed history of the sculpture. They also have an app to simplify exploring the city.

Below is a section from their website about Free Stamp

…Commissioned by the Amoco Company in 1982, the Stamp was designed and fabricated in 1985. At the time, Amoco owned Sohio (Standard Oil of Ohio) and the building now known as 200 Public Square, and the piece was intended to reside in front of the building. But in 1986, before installation could happen, Amoco, Sohio and the building were acquired by BP America. The new owners refused to mount the sculpture—perhaps believing that “Free Stamp” was a metaphoric aspersion. Art historian Edward J. Olszewski has also noted that, in England, Pop Art is viewed more cynically and politically than in the United States, where it is considered primarily whimsical. Oldenburg is on record as saying that “free,” references the emancipation of American slaves during and after the Civil War—a plausible explanation given the piece’s planned proximity to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

So instead of adorning Public Square, the Free Stamp was denied its freedom: imprisoned instead in a warehouse in Illinois. There it gathered dust for five years before then-mayor George Voinovich invited Oldenburg and van Bruggen to Cleveland in hopes of selecting another site.

It eventually was decided that the Stamp should be located in Willard Park on Lakeside Avenue just west of East 9th Street; and BP agreed to gift it to the city of Cleveland with all installation and maintenance expenses covered. However, disagreements arose about how the sculpture would be positioned. The original intent was for the Stamp to stand face down on Public Square. However, Cleveland city planners felt that this approach was not right for Willard Park and the Stamp ultimately was mounted angularly, with the faux-rubber “FREE” proudly visible. According to Oldenburg, it was as if “a giant hand picked up the Free Stamp and angrily hurled it several blocks to its current location at Willard Park.” Not surprisingly, the Stamp—formally dedicated on November 15, 1991—aims directly at 200 Public Square “It’s pointed on a diagonal to the 23rd floor, which were [BP’s] corporate offices,” notes Olszewski. “It leads the viewer back to the original site.”

Apr 252024

Alyssa Lizzini, “Industrial Valley”, Ink and acrylic on paper on panel

Alyssa Lizzini, “East 41st”, Ink, acrylic, and found object on paper and panel

Alyssa Lizzini, “Unraveling City”, Ink and acrylic on paper mounted on 2 panels

Akron Soul Train is currently showing two exhibitions by Ohio artists. Alyssa Lizzini’s The Universe Between Here and There, pictured above, expands upon scenes from daily life using a mixed media approach. The works take the viewer into her expanded sections of the city, and encourages them to think about what may be unobserved in their own daily life.

From the gallery-

In The Universe Between Here and There, Alyssa Lizzini explores the interwoven connection between space, time, and memory through large-scale, multi-layer drawings. Lines, grids, maps, and data become the stars, black holes, and supernovae of an ever-expanding universe of memory. Using ink, acrylic paint, and collaged paper, Lizzini creates overlapping images that seem to compress space and time yet simultaneously fly apart or implode. Her drawings suggest that memory unravels in much the same way and investigates the almost inseparable connection between person and place.

“Drawings explore both my own personal histories related to remembered places and broader histories recorded through archival, ethnographic, and visual research of city spaces…The scale of [my] drawings allow the viewer to feel immersed in each piece, surrounded by swirling and morphing cityscapes, memory objects, and natural elements. They ask the viewer to consider the many layers of context not immediately visible in our urban world, and give a new language for understanding the ever-changing nature of memory.” – Alyssa Lizzini

Akron Soul Train Artist-in-Residence Melih Meric’s uses traditional Middle Eastern patterns to explore identity.

From the gallery-

Meric uses a traditional approach to their imagery through sacred geometry and explorations of Islamic geometric abstraction. Challenging traditional presentations of print editions, Meric’s print work crosses the borders of the paper. It highlights an expansion of patterns like Middle Eastern tiles. It also speaks to queerness without being explicitly queer. Stitched Editions: Exploring the New poses integral questions surrounding erasure and identity in Middle Eastern communities. Meric’s craft lies in creating wall-hanging objects that play between the realms of dimensionality while still being unmistakably paper. Their work acknowledges and is proud of its dimension, speaking certain truths to multiple minority groups.

“My work deals with making peace with a part of my culture that drove me to leave it. Finding beauty in design and simplicity, then creating systems to complicate those principles. I fell in love with printmaking and the idea of multiplicity when I first made the connection to tiles from the Middle East. It suddenly became a tool to create and expand patterns that challenge traditions in crafts.” – Melih Meric

Melih Meric, “I Think I Remember Something, Nevermind”, “Stitched Edition” of 12 linoleum prints

Melih Meric, “Carnation”, “Stitched Edition” of 36 woodblock prints

Melih Meric, “Carnation”, “Stitched Edition” of 36 woodblock prints (detail)

Melih Meric, “Swept Under”, “Stitched Edition” of 8 silkscreen prints

Both of these exhibitions close 5/11/24.

Apr 192024

Meryl Engler, “Lying in Red”, 2023, Woodcut

Work by Michael Loderstedt (left), Eva Pozler (center) and Lori Kella (right)

Work by Lori Kella, Maria Uhase, and Meryl Engler (right two pieces)

Lori Kella, “Mudslide and Forsythia”, 2022, Inkjet print (left) and Corrie Slawson, “Amalgam 4”, 2022 (top) and “Amalgam 3”, 2022 (bottom), Oil and screenprint on plywood

Today (4/19/24) is the last day to see Life Out of Balance at the Emily Davis Gallery at The University of Akron. The group show show includes work by Maria Uhase, Meryl Engler, Lori Kella, Benjamin Lambert, Michael Loderstedt, Eve Polzer, Ron Shelton, Ariel Bowman, and Corrie Slawson.

From the gallery-

When a tree falls in a forest, we may see it as the death of the tree. It stops photosynthesizing, growing, feeding its mycorrhizal symbionts, flowering, developing fruit, dispersing seeds, taking in carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen. But in the ecosystem, it begins a whole new life in decay. It feeds the soil and microbes through the decomposition of its tissues; it provides a place for fungi, mosses, and lichens to grow; and it becomes a protected habitat for a myriad of insects, mammals, and birds. This same tree, therefore, can be both dying and living at the same time, depending on perspective. It can be dead if considered separate from its surroundings, or it can be alive in its continued relationship within its ecosystem.

Humans can feel more alive by being integrated with the rest of the natural world. We are not living to our full potential, or allowing nature to be its full potential, when we consider ourselves as separate from it.

If we are to have hope for solving the complex environmental issues that are facing us today, we need to work with, rather than against, the forces of nature.

Below are a few more selections.

Ron Shelton, “Yellow Mosaic”, 2021, Plastic and wire

Ariel Bowman, “Wall Trophy Series”, 2019, (Cave Bear, Antique Bison, Early Horse, Saber Cat, Dodo, Brontotherium, Parasaurolophus), Unglazed, high fired porcelain; Maria Uhase, “Splitting Headache”, 2022 Ink on paper and “Softly”, 2023, Graphite on paper

Ariel Bowman, “Wall Trophy Series”, 2019, (Cave Bear, Antique Bison, Early Horse, Saber Cat, Dodo, Brontotherium, Parasaurolophus), Unglazed, high fired porcelain

Benjamin Lambert, “A pint for a gallon”, 2020 and “I Found Your Damn Lost Shaker of Salt”, 2020, Stoneware, underglaze, glaze, epoxy

Corrie Slawson, “Stage Set Tapestry 1, for Feast: a ballet. Of Bats, Blue Footed Boobies, Penguins and other threatened fauna and flora. Pastoral landscape after Rubens”, 2020, Oil and mixed media on muslin

Corrie Slawson, “Stage Set Tapestry 1, for Feast: a ballet. Of Bats, Blue Footed Boobies, Penguins and other threatened fauna and flora. Pastoral landscape after Rubens” (detail)

Michael Loderstedt, “Snakehead”, 2023, “Thistles”, 2023, Cyanotypes on fabric, embroidery, fabric collage

Lori Kella, “Mayflies in the Grass”, and “Yellow Irises”, 2024, Framed inkjet prints

Maria Uhase, “Encircled”, 2023, Oil on linen panel, “Worm”,2023, Oil on linen and “Conglomeration in the Spiders’ Ghost Town”, 2020, Oil on canvas

Eva Polzer, “Gift from a Cat”, 2024, Ceramic, underglaze, velvet jewelry box, and “Gift from a Rat”, 2024, Ceramic, underglaze, petri dish

Meryl Engler, “Waiting”,2023, Woodcut Block


Apr 182024

There’s an unsettling tension in the room that houses Mel Chin’s installation Spirit (1994), at the Columbus Museum of Art. Is the rope strong enough to support the barrel? What will be its breaking point?

Some details from the museum about the work-

The rope that seems to carry the weight of Spirit’s enormous cask is made from tallgrass. This native plant was once central to a vast prairie ecosystem spanning over 170 million acres of North America. By 1930, most all of this was decimated as a result of agricultural and industrial settlement, and what remains is protected habitat (Chin received special permission to harvest a portion for this sculpture).

Wooden barrels are traditionally used to measure and transport dry goods like grain, beans, as well as beer, oil and wine, and were central to the process of European settlement and trade in North America. Here, the image of this rope bearing such a massive weight suggests the precarious status of nature in a world of outsized human development. Even the gallery walls, which curve inwards on all sides, seem to respond to the strain.