Ohio Art League 2019 Fall Juried Show

The Ohio Art League holds two juried shows a year, in Fall and Spring. Both exhibits are highly competitive so it’s always a thrill to be included. Art making is a lonely and often unrewarding enterprise, so opportunities like these are always received as reassuring victories.

I was out of town and missed the opening but it’s better to see the art on your own anyway. Receptions are for schmoozing and making the scene, not for savoring what’s on view. Today was my day to do the latter.

An amazing range of styles are on view in this show. Here are just a few of them.

Roger Williams, a local art luminary, dependably delivers top-of-the-line, accomplished work. I have little to no art history background and don’t really know what deconstructionism is, but anyone with eyes can see a tension between delight and confusion in this work. When I reverse-engineer the consciousness underlying his ouvre, I see a brave and honest acknowledgment of a world which is constantly spinning away from our ability to understand it. There’s a subtle humility to Roger’s work which isn’t immediately obvious but which is there nevertheless.

“After the Funeral” by Tim Murphy

This medium-sized piece won first prize, which strikes me as notable. Ohio is such a populous state, with literally thousands upon thousands of art school graduates of considerable skill and experience. Folk-inspired work can get lost in such a crowded field and often goes unrecognized. The addition of the three-dimensional heads in the foreground of this piece pushes it away from the usual flattened planes of most naive art. A triangular design draws the eye toward the center, yet leads it outward at the same time. I prize psychological resonance and this piece has it in spades.

“Blue Mood” by Ronald Mlicki

Bright color is what first drew me to this one, but there’s more here than meets the eye. The standard model-like pose works to negate the central figure, turning it away from a real person into more of cypher, a theme reinforced by the flowers on the skirt and the wallpaper-like design behind it. The addition of a black shadow gives the piece visual punch but it also seems slightly sad. The overall effect seems to be a portrait of someone with no access to herself, only patterns and shadows constructed by someone else. There’s either no one on the line of the phone or no one present enough to answer it.

“Red Sea, Silent Sea” by Robert James

Color is also the most obvious attractant in this piece as well, but what really calls out to the viewer is a visual rhythm enhanced by restricted color palate. A lovely, insistent drumbeat rises all the way from the bottom to the top. I gravitate to art which is superficially attractive but strange and unsettling underneath. It’s a mistake to think we’re capable of really understanding this life and the art I like always reflects this.

Evangelia Phillipidus

Evangelia Phillipidus displays technical brilliance served up with equal parts of pleasure and mystery. I admire the armature of delta-like triangle forms crowned by the saucily feminine castle and gate. If you look closely, there are actually two interlocking triangles in this work, like a Star of David or the Sanskrit symbol for the heart chakra. There’s a nice visual confusion between feather and wave in the lower part which is in harmony with Evangelia’s usual densely-packed pieces, but the design is somewhat simplified in this one. I adore it.

I always note how curators handle the wall space between the public restrooms at the Cultural Arts Center. This pairing strikes me as interesting and a bit provocative. A pistol for men and candy colors for the ladies? I await interpretation by others.

Large shows are always a crap shoot when it comes to placement but I find this grouping particularly advantageous. My work always benefits from loads of light and time for contemplation so the addition of a bench is most welcome. The colors of these four works hang together beautifully and the conversation between them is funny and sweet. Note the X-like form which ties all of these paintings together. A green plane with subtle reference to nose cone art, boats, an over-the-shoulder backward feminine gaze, a green clad bathing beauty on the beach…yikes! It doesn’t get much better than this. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in hanging this show. What a treat!

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Fun With Beasts: Riding Your Vahana

I’ve been painting steadily for months, often for hours at a time. The hands are stiff and weary but the mind remains open and reflective as ever. I’m continuing with the theme of women riding animals. The latest, “Virgin With Alligator,” is an example.

Ganga, Hindu Goddess of the Ganges

I began by returning to this little image of Ganga Ma, the Hindu Goddess of the sacred river Ganges. I’ve used this image before, most notably on the Hindu Map of Europe which graced the cover of Hinduism Today Magazine years ago.

Goddess detail “Hindu Map of Europe” by Lynda McClanahan

The addition of Ganga Ma to the magazine project was unasked for and formed the tiniest part of the project, but how I enjoyed its inclusion!

“Hindu Map of Europe” by Lynda McClanahan Cover Art for Hinduism Today

The new piece was at least partly inspired by a couple of small sturdy frames recently collected from thrift stores. Frames often determine the work which goes inside them. In this case, a compact image was required and the water goddess seemed not only interesting but doable.

“Virgin With Alligator” by Lynda McClanahan In Process

Once I’d decided on the general idea of a figure riding an alligator, one thing led to another and the piece pretty much designed itself. Since alligators live in Florida, I began researching what a native American Floridian lady might look like. To my surprise there were probably over 40 different pre-conquest groups in our southernmost state, some culturally related and some not. Many seem to have sported intricate tattoos and worn skirts made of Spanish moss. With the addition of crops grown by the more settled groups (sunflowers, pumpkins, beans and corn), it was off to the races. Here is the final result.

“Virgin With Alligator” by Lynda McClanahan

This painting is small, 7″Hx9″W, and almost broke my hands. It also has provoked a huge amount of unforeseen interest, inspiring the idea to do another, much larger version.

I’ve thought quite a bit about why these female/animal pairings have such resonance for myself and others. Perhaps we intuit that the animal nature which forms the foundation of everything else we are is also somehow holy.

Just like Hindu goddesses, we are all riding our own private mounts or “vahanas.” And just like them, every inch of us is sacred, from the very bottom of our lizard brain to the very top of cosmic consciousness. The animal nature deserves love, not amnesia. It is worthy of contemplation and neglected to our peril. Ride on!

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