Art Review by Emily Dressler
The 11th Annual Fresh Art Show is on display at Summit Art Space on East Market Street through June 27, 2015. For a refresher course on what Akron area artists have been up to, definitely visit this exhibit. It’s always a nice reminder to see that Akron artists are creating, doing, painting, and singing or dancing or whatever, while you’re at home binging Netflix in your sweats.
The last time I wrote a review for Curatorial Collective it was for the Akron Art Prize exhibit at Summit Art Space. So here I am again, but this time, I’m writing with my friend, Marissa. Don’t worry, you’ll like her. We’ve each signed our separate contributions so as to spare you any confusion.
An aside: I (Emily) accidentally went to two art shows on June 6—one was FRESH at Summit Art Space, and the other was to see my husband’s band, Radar Secret Service, at Icehouse gallery on N. Summit. So you probably won’t hear from me for a while—I’m at my night-out quota for a few weeks.
The crisp layout of this gallery invites visitors to dwell on each piece without feeling rushed or pressured to keep moving. At Summit Art Space, it never feels like there’s a specific, pre-ordained path visitors need to take to view the artwork. You can if you want—you can walk in, start at the left and circle your way around the room, then view the center pieces, then visit the adjoining room. Or, you can meander and zig-zag your way through without feeling like you’re going out of order or messing anything up. You’re not going to get in trouble. And, it cannot be said enough that this gallery is so welcoming for artists and non-artists alike.
Fresh was juried by Liz Maugans, Executive Director of Zygote Press and Founder of CAN Journal.
Michael Kraus: Common Cards (Mike Schmidt) & Schmidt Variations
It’s not that I love baseball so much, it’s that I love all things about baseball so much. To an outsider, my love edges on nonsense, but to me, it’s one of the only things that makes sense–IN THE WORLD. Yes, I know this sounds dramatic, but deal with it. I enjoy going to major and minor league games alike (I’ll even crash the occasional community game), but I like the idea of baseball much more than the actual sport. I am a sucker for all things baseball: baseball movies, baseball novels, and now, baseball art. There’s something romantic and magical about the game, and Common Cards embodies this. The smooth and rich colors in Michael Kraus’s baseball card screen printing make me feel that everything is a possibility, everything is within reach. Mike Schmidt, that American bastion of studliness and third-base perfection, is depicted here in warm, inviting earth tones and I just want to linger. Baseball’s my kind of weather, ya’ll.
Erin Miller: Perfection Salad
Really, what better thing to see when you walk into an art show than a replica of a Jell-O mold? I wasn’t sure what to expect at Fresh, but I was pleased when I saw Erin Miller’s Perfection Salad. Complete with a 4-stack of “jello” molds, with slices of cucumber, lemons, limes, a pickle, and even some sardines encased in resin (plastic? wax?) this Jell-O replica is indeed perfection. It even looked jiggly, which is surely difficult to do in the art world. It reminded me of the hilariously disturbing Jell-O salads that were popular during the TV dinner heyday, except, Miller doesn’t force us to eat her treat. Instead, she captures our appetites with these nice green-yellows and a texture that screams for attention and closer inspection. As you peer in closer, you think “is it Jell-o? Maybe?” and you want to touch it but you don’t because this is an art show and people don’t touch the art at an art show. THEY DON’T. If I were to dream about Jell-o molds and picnics, they would look like this.
Don Parisson: Unshaven
Unshaven is in the “risqué” room at Summit Art Space, and though this photo is not the possible offender to which the warning applies, it is stark and dangerous, but in a different way from the pornographic tapestries. It is haunting, seeing this man in profile, post-shave. It makes me nervous to stare at someone like this, in a photograph that conveys such a strong sense of privacy. Each time I look at it, I have to look away shortly after. If you want to know the truth, sometimes I look at a photograph and don’t know what the big deal is. I look at it and think “Okay, that’s a photo of a person/object/place. Cool, I guess.” But I look at this one, and I’m like “Oh. That’s scary and kind of wonderful.” I bet that after Parisson took this photo, he had a sharp intake of breath because he realized he had captured a strength beyond our understanding.
Kathryn Shinko: Vignettes
The other piece that caught my attention was in a room that was branded with a warning to parents with children that they might want to screen the content before taking their offspring inside. When Emily and I entered the room, however, I didn’t find walls covered in genitalia or anything that was outright objectionable until I did a little reading. In Kathryn Shinko’s artist statement, she states that Vignettes is a piece that features large tapestries that examine “…the language of pornography and its effects when juxtaposed with non-pornographic images.” The Objectionable content is generally fed to people through images, so when it is the written word that is scandalous and placed against a background of nature and its beauty, the offensive material isn’t immediately detected. The idea behind this work is that one can take any person on a wild ride–what do words mean without room for imagining their visual counterparts, and how might that meaning change when a person is supplied with a non-connected image? For me, this piece is a question of how values are assigned to words, to images, and how those values intersect when combined in a way where they do not directly reflect one another. I appreciate art that makes me think, and Vignettes certainly does that–but parents and guardians, you really may want to drop your reading-abled kids at the doorway and have a look for yourselves. But is that safe? Are you allowed to just leave them unattended? I don’t know. Maybe just cover their eyes? Do whatever you’re supposed to do.
(Marissa already said some pretty smart stuff about the intersection of words, values, and images in Vignettes, so I just want to add that I generally do not care about what is keeping me warm, but I might actually feel uncomfortable covering up with this tapestry, which speaks to its power. This might be a moot point, because I’m not even sure that people cover up with tapestries.)
Craig Wargowsky: The Crimson Crutch
I’m sorry, but this is cute. I know I’m not supposed to say that about things in real life because I’m an adult woman, but I can’t help it. Even after listening to an interview with Craig Wargowsky and learning the somber story behind this video, I still think it’s cute. His grandfather was born with polio, and later became paralyzed, and Crimson Crutch is a re-telling of his story. Really, this video is a celebration of the triumph of human achievement, and we should all strive to have such a sturdy “inseparable friend.” We all have crutches anyway, and we should really expect more out of our crutches, instead of letting them hold us back all the time. Take them out for a night on the town, buy them a college education, send them to law school. Damnit, expect more out of your crutches.
I also really like animated construction paper, as it turns out, especially when it is giving life to an inanimate object. Like everyone else in the world, I always like to think of the inanimate objects in our lives being livelier when no one is looking. And, boy, this crutch is lively, you guys. In this 4 minute 13 second video, he does so much: plays, loves, goes to the big city, studies, writes, and seemingly achieves other milestones. This video is a family endeavor, which is heartwarming. In my family, it would take at least twenty of us to figure out how to make the construction paper move at all.
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.