Article by Emily Dressler
Fall in Ohio always makes me feel dreamy, ethereal, and full of crisp hope. I was pleased to discover that this year’s installment of the Akron Art Prize at the Summit Artspace Gallery has a similar sensibility. This venue cleanly displays more than 30 pieces submitted for the annual competition. In its 3rd year, Akron Art Prize is one of the most intriguing and diplomatic art exhibits to take over the downtown. To learn more about Akron Art Prize venues and voting, read the previous Curatorial Collective article. Hurry, you only have until October 4th to vote!
Now that I’ve provided the proper introduction, I should warn you: I am not an artist. I am analytic, though; probably because I’m a virgo/libra cusp; but also probably because I have a history of boredom and anxiety. But nonetheless. I fought off my self-alienation and made my way to see this year’s installment of the “Art for the People.” (Just so you know, this was my second attempt. I thought the opening was the day before. Whoops.) I appreciate that non-artists and art experts alike can feel included in this exhibit. In fact, I’ve never felt more welcomed at an art opening.
Sometimes I look at a piece of art in a gallery, begin to settle on a feeling, and then I look at the didactic tag to read the artist’s intention. I guess I’m hoping for confirmation that I’m correct in my interpretation. Usually after reading the tags, I think, “Oops….That’s not what I got from that at all. Oh well.”
So my opinion may differ from yours, but that’s the entire point. You get to decide and you get to vote for what you fancy. Don’t forget to vote.
Here are my top picks from Summit Artspace:
The layers of this piece draw me in. The colors, an engaging blue-turquoise and a light wood brown are calming. The piece feels deceptively simple, which seems difficult to do as an artist; to make something so normal-feeling that people forget how wonderful it is simply because its natural grace allows it to exist peacefully in our world. And I love that the description of the piece reminds us that the box is “in fact, a living organism.” YES. I like being reminded of all the living things around me—all those molecules and atoms taking up space. This piece calms me.
6 coops, 6 chickens each: Maggie Duff
This is gorgeous. The strong expression of pain and suffering is beautifully executed. I’m not familiar with encaustic but I know it has something to do with wax. The autumnal colors are like a late September sunset, and my brain can’t help to indulge in Shakespeare’s sonnet #73: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, / Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.” The speaker goes on to say that he is ‘in the autumn of his years’—it’s not a very uplifting sonnet, but it’s beautiful. Serious artwork discussing food politics often makes me feel like a guilty slob for eating and enjoying chicken. Fortunately, this slob can appreciate the sheer splendid magic of this abstract without too much guilt. At times, art like this seems “holier-than-thou,” but Duff’s approach is not preachy or judgmental.
This may sound basic or superficial but sometimes I just enjoy the gimmick of artwork. Here’s the deal, if you want me to vote for your piece: I gravitate to large objects that are supposed to be small. I also like miniature sculptures that are representing something larger. You do the math. Obviously, I like Paul’s Swiss Army Knife XL with its fully functioning bottle opener and sharp edges. Even without my bias of size ratio envy, the craftsmanship of this piece is impeccable. I couldn’t imagine transforming rods into this complex of a form. Did he learn this in college? How did he do this? Is that what they teach in art school? SIGN ME UP.
Daydream: Matthew Deibel
I was drawn to this gritty and sobering sculpture. It is placed in a corner so you are encouraged to get close and personal in order to understand what you have found. Then when you do realize what you’ve discovered, you take a step back. Yep, cow manure. Don’t worry, weary reader, there isn’t a smell, but the mental image of poo does come to mind when you realize the unusual use of material. I grew up next to a farm, so I’m a total nostalgic sucker for cow dung and pig intestine. With its back turned to the viewer, Daydream seems a bit shy (like me), even uncertain of its place in war or peace, but luckily in my world, it triumphs. Cow dung and all.
Fruit: Brian Parsons
This is another really well constructed piece. I can’t even imagine the time, planning, and precision that goes into creating something on this scale. Each skeleton is handcrafted out of metal and positioned in animated poses reaching and reacting to small lights. I couldn’t help but read the artist’s description which proved to be worthwhile: “These skeletons will risk it all for a little taste of life.” Okay, that’s cute. Well, not really that cute but still, I dig it. We wanted to buy this to hang above our piano but figured we couldn’t afford it. Also, we didn’t know if it was for sale.
My final words of wisdom: you have to be in Akron at a participating gallery to vote with the smartphone app. I tried to vote while pumping my breast milk in Cleveland and guess what? The app wouldn’t let me vote because I wasn’t actually in downtown Akron. What can I say, a young mother has to make every moment count, but there is no cheating the Akron Art Prize. You have to get up from your computer chair, maybe stretch a little, and make your way to downtown on or before October 4. Visit the Summit Artspace Gallery and the other Art Prize Venues, you won’t be disappointed. There is even a trolley that escorts you from gallery to gallery. You have no excuse. Go vote. It’s fun.
When not tech-writing in Cleveland and being a mother in Akron, Emily Dressler enjoys writing opinion articles for Curatorial Collective. Emily holds an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction from the Northeastern Ohio Master of Fine Arts program (NEOMFA). She has written for several publications, has copy edited for NASA, and is an associate editor at Barn Owl Review. You can contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.