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.

 

Apr 032024
 

Julia Schenkelberg, “Blue Ocean”, 2020, Blue dye, resin, rusted metal from Detroit factory floors, plaster chips, vintage china, glass from Brooklyn beaches

Malone University Art Gallery’s exhibition Healing Spaces features work by Northeastern Ohio artists Julie Schenkelberg, Chen Peng, Yiyun Chen, and Emily Bartolone. Although the mediums differ, the work flows together in the room. Below are some selections and more about each artist from the gallery’s documentation.

Julie Schenkelberg, “Modern Memorial”, 2020, Found screen, plaster, acrylic paint, vintage leather and fabric, jewelry box interior, glass gathered from Cleveland and Detroit auto and steel factory abandoned floors, vintage glass slide of the Parthenon Frieze

Julie Schenkelberg grew up in the post-industrial landscape of Cleveland, Ohio. Her mixed-media installations start with furniture, dishware, textiles, and marble, combined with concrete, resin, and construction materials, to transform notions of domesticity, and engage with the American Rust Belt’s legacy of abandonment and decay. Using the home as a playground for formal and conceptual subversions, the work aggressively disrupts cohesion within the physical sphere. Familiar furnishings rekindle memories or premonitions of collapse, suggesting both the utter destruction of war, calamities, or urban decay, but also the uncanny juxtapositions of fragile substances such as cloth and china, with industrial materials such as rusty metal, heavy concrete, and tool-made marks such as drilled holes and chain-sawed indentations.

Chen Peng, Paintings from the “Mountains at Night” series, 2023, gouache, acrylic, and oil on canvas

Deriving from a desire to find stillness and grounding as an immigrant, Chen Peng explores the connection between landscape and the complexities of identity and belonging. She creates foreign landscapes from a combination of past experiences, memories, and imagination, delving into the disorienting sense of not knowing where home is. The moon, particularly in its fullness, becomes a symbol encapsulating emotions and metaphors associated with loneliness, reverence, and even terror. Her ceramic pieces extend this exploration of landscapes, featuring textures and marks that convey the essence of mountains, clouds, and the moon.

Photographs from from Yiyun Chen’s series “Velleity”, 2016-2018

Yiyun Chen, “Velleity”, detail

Yiyun Chen, Handmade photobook, 2018

The photography of Yiyun Chen is about the process of self-reflection and self-discovery as an Asian immigrant, exploring the relationship between people, environment and society, turning its personal experience and empathy into gentle conversations between humans and nature, capturing the poetic and distance of the environment around us. Through photography, we can take the essence of life seriously again and treat the people and things around us tenderly. Through his lens, they often have similar structure, people look tiny in nature scenes, creating an intimate visual experience. Most of his photographs are captured outdoors, with soft light and harmonious colors often used.

Painting by Emily Bartolone

Painting by Emily Bartolone

Stemming from her infatuation with the formal elements of painting, the work of Emily Bartolone pairs down simple, anthropomorphized shapes in an effort to explore paint and color theory while simultaneously creating tension and humor through color, edges, and texture. The playful, human qualities of painting are incorporated into the work through the use of amorphous shapes animated within the picture plane. Further informed by ideas of the mundane, the awkward, and the jovial that surround everyday life, the complexity of human relationships are mimicked by the shapes interacting on each painting’s surface. In acknowledging that life is not always cordial, moments of tension are placed within the satisfying surfaces in the form of an abrupt mark, a disparate color, or a shift in scale. These ideas are used to take viewers outside of themselves for a short period of time, hoping to offer a break from the bombardment of distractions, notifications, and news we encounter so often on a daily basis.

This exhibition closes 4/9/24.

 

Mar 182024
 

Moses Soyer’s oil painting, Young Girl, is one of the works on view in A New Deal: Artists of the WPA from the CMA Collection at Canton Museum of Art. The exhibition is a reminder of one of the best social programs ever created by the US government and the positive impact it had on the country during one of its hardest periods.

From the museum about the exhibition-

Against the backdrop of severe economic strife caused by the Stock Market Crash of 1929, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which put roughly 8.5 million Americans, including more than 173,000 men and women in Ohio, to work building schools, hospitals, roads and more. Within the WPA was The Federal Art Project (FAP) which provided employment for artists to create art for municipal buildings and public spaces. The FAP had a non-discrimination clause that meant it attracted and hired artists of color and women, who previously received little attention in the art world. The only guidance the government offered about subject matter was to depict the “American scene” and stipulated no nudity or political issues. The goal was for artists to help the United States develop its own distinct American style of art, especially as artists in other parts of the world were forbidden freedom of expression and ordered to create artworks that projected the beliefs of their governments.

Though the WPA artists in the United States shared the common goal of capturing life in all its variety and promoting national pride, they each had different approaches, and many modified their typical subject matter to fit whatever project they were assigned. The arts before and after the New Deal relied on private patronage and the philanthropy of wealthy and elite institutions: galleries, museums, dealers. But during the WPA, art wasn’t a luxury good, it was seen as an essential part of our democracy. Artists were seen as professional workers who were making important and significant contributions to American life. The artworks made under the WPA became the collection of the American people and were put in public collections – hospitals, schools, post offices, housing projects, etc. – ensuring they were part of communities. The arts were seen as an important part of a democratic society and the American way of life, with a richness of experience and accessibility to culture.

While artists were offered opportunities through the WPA, they were far from immune to the distress caused by the Depression, and many still struggled to make a living. Will Barnet detailed a bleak scene he came across, saying:

“It was like a war going on. There were bread lines and men lined around three, four, five, six blocks waiting to get a bowl of soup. It was an extraordinary situation. And one felt this terrible dark cloud over the whole city.”

Moses Soyer also described the hardships artists experienced, saying,

“Depression–who can describe the hopelessness that its victims knew? Perhaps no one better than the artist taking his work to show the galleries. They were at a standstill. The misery of the artist was acute.”

The FAP supported the creation of thousands of works of art, including more than 2,500 murals that can still be seen in public buildings around the country. The FAP also supported art education and outreach efforts, including traveling exhibitions and art education programs for children. The WPA and FAP had a significant impact on the American art scene, and many of the artists who participated in the program went on to become important figures in the art world.

A New Deal: Artists of the WPA from the CMA Collection highlights the lives of artists from our Permanent Collection who worked for the WPA, and in doing so, fostered resilience for a struggling nation. You will learn about the projects they worked on, the subjects they were interested in, and how their own lives were affected by the Depression. Each of these artists helped to foster the nation’s spirit and prove that even in the darkest of times, art serves as a uniting force to collectively lead people into a brighter future.

And about Moses Soyer and his painting from the museum-

The Depression set the mood for most of Soyer’s art expression, and his portraits of people seem to be preoccupied with a sad secret. His portraits were often of solitary figures, using professional models or his friends, capturing in these paintings the spirit of his sitters, their dreams or disillusionment. He is best known for his introspective figure paintings of weary, melancholy women in muted colors, matching the mood of his sitters with the pigment in his paint. He was inspired by artist Edgar Degas, who used color expressively.

On the museum’s website you can find both the artwork on display for the exhibition and also a gallery of the museum’s entire collection organized into several categories.

 

Feb 272024
 

Jo Westfall, “The Queens Astronomer”, 2023, Mixed media

Christine Mauersberger, “Kates Bouquet”, 2022, Digital print on Japanese Kozo paper, of loom weaving

Cat Mailloux, “Rose Window”, 2023, Quilted appliqué on found fabric

Suzi Hyden, “If the Sun Could Kiss Me”, 2023, Toned cyanotype on vintage linen hand-stitched onto metal fencing

Above are a few of the works from Common Thread, the current exhibition at Malone University’s art gallery. It is on view until 2/29/24.

From the gallery about the show-

Although quite different, all artists in this exhibition are united by the idea of textiles. Suzi Hyden’s work celebrates the environment by combining elements from nature and repurposed materials to create cyanotypes on vintage fabrics.

Cat Mailloux’s textile practice is focused in quilt making, pursuing connections between the visual language of churches, cathedrals, and domestic spaces that slowly bleed their way into imagined and limitless landscapes, exploring questions of the infinite through material.

Christine Mauersberger’s body of work is aesthetically eclectic. Hard and soft. Digital and analog. Some pieces fill a room, others can be held in your hand. The common thread is that each piece attempts to make the invisible visible.

Jo Westfall creates visual work considered resource art. It is portraiture, fiber art, and assemblage made with local materials that were discarded, overlooked, or unused. It reclaims the aesthetic capacity and utility of these items by integrating them into fresh renderings.