“Art 360: Contemporary Art Hatching Across Ohio” opened a few weeks ago at the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth, Ohio. We spent an entire rainy day traveling to and from the artists reception via a chartered bus engaged by Sharon Weiss, of Sharon Weiss Gallery. Chuck Bluestone, curator of the show, rode along, sharing many home-made goodies, reading material and water along the way.
The Southern Ohio Museum is a lovely building and just the right size for viewing and appreciating art: not too big!
Once inside, an egg house of delights awaited. The eggs were beautifully lit and displayed.
Mark Chepp, artist and Executive Director of the Southern Ohio Museum, did this egg and also served wine. What a guy!
Long-time friend and art maven Barb Vogel contributed the thoughtful, dreamy egg on the right. Ms Sunami accidentally broke hers in process but managed to turn tragedy into triumph. The addition of car glass from an accident scene is a funny, arch touch and a nice insider’s comment. Well done, Ms. Sunami!
Barb Vogel’s art is always a contemplative tool for exploring the the human condition. Both the sweet and the bitter are mined and embraced, partners in beauty. Her egg is no exception: decorative from a distance but in-your-face strange close up.
Unintentional themes sometimes spring forth after a show is actually put together. Human nature always tends toward narrative, so a collection of works often morphs into a conversation once an exhibit is up and running. No matter how hard a curator tries to defeat this impulse, it almost always appears.
In general, there is tension between outstanding craft and creepiness in the show. All the eggs in this case are graphically-inspired and beautifully done, but the rabbit nudges the assembly into what-the-heck-is-going-on-here territory. I adore it.
Levent Isik, folk artist extraordinaire, did the demon cartoon cat on the right. Even when organized by theme, like this group of faces, the eggs can’t stay quiet once they’re put together. I particularly admire the way Roger Williams’ manga red imp on the right manages to stay interesting all the way around, despite the problem of frontal weight of eyes and mouth. Each artist who chose the face route solved the problem in their own way.
Some pieces were so strong they literally couldn’t share space with anything else. This Heronymous-Bosch-like eruption by Rondle West is an example.
Other pieces shimmied together like partners glad to have finally found one another at a dance.
My egg is on the lower left. I designed it to be slightly creepy but it seems pretty tame next to the vicious vagina-monster at the top right. I really like the push-pull between the conventional and the risky in this display.
My piece didn’t excite much comment but water-colorist-egg-artist Cody Heichel sweetly obliged when asked to pretend interest for this photo.
Another unexpected addition to the show was a series of egg-themed paintings by Clarence Holbrook Carter.
These really helped to flesh out the show, amplifying the theme but also lending visual interest and philosophical weight to some of the more decorative impulses in the show.
Afterwards, we attended a private artists reception at the home of Mark Chepp and Charlotte Gordon, Executive Director and Artistic Director of the Southern Ohio museum.
Their studio and loft apartment is right across the street from the museum in downtown Portsmouth.
A quick walk in the rain brought us to one of the many fine, underused retail establishments downtown, in this case a former department store and tailor shop. There used to be a lot of money in Portsmouth. It’s comforting to know people used to walk around in nice suits.
The new owners have filled the old shop windows with a quirky collection of primitive craft pieces, plants and vintage items.
The studio space was full of art-in-progress and completed pieces.
Upstairs, the living quarters were spacious and filled with collections of folk art and vintage kitsch.
…folk art carvings….
….and these Ronnie and Nancy slippers. Our host said they were uncomfortable, which seems just about right.
It was a delightful day all round: full of interesting sights and new people.
This show is better, more diverse, edgier and more beautiful than I had imagined possible. What a thrill to be part of it!