Many Ways Up the Mountain: How to Hang a Show Without Losing Your Mind

Joel and I spent an interesting morning helping Charles Bluestone hang the new “Art 360:  Contemporary Paintings From Across Ohio” show at the Cultural Arts Center.  Artists Barb Vogel, Janis Wunderlich, Ardine Nelson, Debra Joyce Dawson, Betsy Defusco and Sophie Knee were on hand, bringing with them years of experience and their own ways of doing things.


Art scattered around the perimeter of the floor at the Cultural Arts Center

The first steps seemed pretty much the same for everybody:  unpack the pieces, set them on the floor and start moving things around.


Packing Material With First Wall Complete

My piece came into conversation with some others pretty early on.  This wall went up in a hurry.

With many artists’ opinions available, there were some disagreements.  The assembly quickly separated into two respectfully different camps:  those who like to measure and those who don’t.


Left to Right:   Charles Bluestone, Janis Wunderlich and Joel Knepp

Joel and I are denizens of the latter country and naturally found ourselves in the company of those with a similar bent:  put it up, step back, make your adjustments and move on.


Janis Wunderlich & Barb Vogel

It was wonderful to work with such generous, seasoned professionals.


Ardine Nelson (with ruler) and Sophie Knee

The careful measurers really shone when it came to organizing smaller works on the opposite wall.


Sophie Knee

This grouping strikes me as particularly successful; rational, intelligent and sweet.

There were the usual unexpected snafus.  On a whim I brought my gallery hanging case full of wire, hangers, hammers and tools….which is good because nothing else was available.  It was shocking how many pieces weren’t wired up and ready to go, but it all came right in the end.


Janis Wunderlich Sculpture

Almost all the work is 2-dminensional, so Janis Wunderlich’s sculpture is a nice addition.  Evidently, the piece she’s putting into the show is different from the one above, which is just being used as a placeholder.


Roger Williams

Roger Williams’ delightfully hostile light box wouldn’t light up.  It’s always something.


At least we had donuts.  Mr. Bluestone always brings treats for the artists.   Thanks, Chuck.

At the end of the day, it seemed to me that both approaches, the measuring-levelers and the intuitive-hang-it-ups-and-walk-away had achieved the same thing.   I prefer fewer cooks in the kitchen and a simpler approach but, the truth is, the show looks great.  The only difference between the two camps (intuitive/rational) lay in our different inner experiences.   Some of us felt better one way, and others felt better another, but the results are exactly the same.  God bless us all I guess.


The Virtue of Paradox

The latest painting, “Good Dog” is resting in the attic pending a final decision on whether it’s done or not.  I’m thinking over the idea of adding upholstery tacks to the collar but will probably take it to the scanner as is.   The final piece might be kicked up a notch with a playful bit of 3-D bedazzling, but experience teaches that prints will look better without it.


“Good Dog” by Lynda McClanahan

The piece is inspired by a recent interest in medieval illustrations of hunting dogs.  These often include fairly realistic figures set against ornate backgrounds of grids and flourishes, presumably done by specialists.   My version looks more like a couple of Mexican tablecloths, but the effect is similar.  I admire the strangeness of the medieval visual vocabulary.  The workmanship and care lavished on illuminated manuscripts seems excessive, foreign and frankly alien to modern sensibilities.  There is a commitment to beauty in these backgrounds, yet the central figure is often strange and creepy to an extreme.   The visual tension between the beautiful and the grotesque has a perverse appeal and forms the source of the recent fascination.


“Good Dog” Head Detail

Photographic realism tells a lot more about how things seem to be than how they really are.   Perhaps the medievalists painted from a visual laundry list of attributes not because they didn’t know any better, but because they recognized and prized this paradox.   Surrounding a strange-looking dog with elegant, repetitive figures strikes me as a devotional gesture to the impossibility of ever knowing anything for sure.   The world can’t be seen as it really is, only respected, admired and loved.


Seedlings, Art & Music: The Joys of a Full Life

A few bumps in the road notwithstanding, Spring has come early this year.  I’ve already planted beets, carrots, potatoes and a couple of  “test lettuces” outside, but most things remain safely nestled in their warm basement beds.

Seedlings & Geraniums

Warm Weather Seedlings & Geraniums

I like to start my plants from seed and have over-wintered the same geraniums, calla lilies and tuberous begonias for years.  I think I only spent around $200 on the garden last year, and am hoping to make this mark again.

elephant ears

Elephant Ear Tubers in Peat Moss

I always start elephant ears early and have tried various methods.  Pea construction gravel and aquarium gravel works as a sub-strata but the water tends to get stinky.  Placing the tubers in an old concrete mixing container full of peat moss lets the tubers sprout without the stink.  Much preferred!

As the garden sputters to life, a parallel life of art & music continues.

CAW Cultural Art Talk participantsenter

Left to Right: CAW speakers Megan Evans, Christine Guillot Ryan, Allison Spoohaltz and Lynda McClanahan

I joined these three lovely ladies at the Cultural Arts Center for a gallery talk on the current exhibit.  As usual, I was nervous and something of a pill, but there doesn’t seem to be any help for it.  The world has to take me as I am I guess.

DavidRoth& InSpirit Band

David Roth With InSpirit Band

I also played with Bill Cohen at the InSpirit Band’s regular First Saturday April Chant.   Bill was great and moved us all with his clear sweet voice, while national folk artist David Roth made a guest appearance toward the end.   I’m always glad for a chance to break out the accordion so this was pure pleasure.

Life seems full to the brim, yet spacious and calm at the same time.  For once, the mind and emotions are working at just the right speed.

After months of preparing for India and then recovering (two weeks of jet lag), I’m finally free to get back to the drafting table.  I’m working on the background of a plywood piece provisionally entitled “Good Dog.”  There will be an eccentric “steam-punk” treatment around the edges but here is the progress so far.

Good Dog

Initial Background Painting for “Good Dog”

The image is inspired by medieval depictions of hunting dogs, which for some reason has become an obsession.  The idea is to contrast a lovely background with an in-your-face portrait of an angry hound.  I envision it as a centerpiece book-ended by “Lady CrowDiva” on one side and “Lady GoatDiva” on the other.   All three paintings are what I’d consider minor works, but as a group, maybe they will become more than the sum of their parts.   Smaller things bask in the glory of the more ambitious show-stoppers and almost always sell well.