Monday, January 28, 2008

Graffiti Pics from Bear's Den

The graffiti shown is within 50 feet of Bear's Den Cabin. These are just a few of the examples to be found here. Approximately 15 are in this immediate area and more are farther downstream from the Cabin.

This piece is well over 3x5 feet and is within view of Bear's Den Cabin.

This very expressive piece, rich in emotion and drama, incorporates the use of Fluorescent Chartreuse spray enamel over moss, lichen and raw stone. It is 3x2 feet.
This is an unique piece amongst the works at Bear's Den as it incorporates a Living Tree! How original! Bravo!

This piece, modestly placed in a crevice, appears to be the latest work on a boulder that has been sandblasted. It seems those anti art park caretakers have removed previous works! It is well that they did for it allowed this talented young person to leave his artistic statement for future generations.

This piece is truly the coup de' tat of the Bear's Den Graffiti Collection. It is a large work well over 4x10 feet. Multiple colors are used and appears to be the cumulative work of several artists. One can see the anguish, joy, fears, and spiritual electricity that pulse through the veins of our youth. Those old cave painters of Lascaux have nothing on this bunch!

Gallery in the Fellows Riverside Garden

Last week a friend of mine visited me from Chicago and he insisted we have lunch at the cafe' in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center at Fellow's Riverside Garden in Mill Creek Park. Once again he was jaw droppingly amazed at the view from the cafe' with the new fallen snow clinging to tree branches and Lake Glacier glistening like polished silver. We had the soup, mine being vegetable and his potato. Needless to say it was delicious and perfect for a cold winter day.

When we finished we strolled into the Andrew and Carol Weller Art Gallery within the Visitor's Center where my friend Vallene Hardman-Weeda is having a solo exhibition. The show is entitled "Meltdown: Beneath Thin Ice" with over 11 large pieces on display.

Vallene works with found natural materials (animal bones, leaves) combined with traditional materials such as ceramics. In this show she introduces modern materials such as stainless steel hooks and epoxy resin as visual elements of design rather than merely structural supports.
This show addresses issue of time, history and our place within them. Science and mythology get equal billing here, and are in fact carefully combined to present 2 sides of the same coin. Vallene even goes so far with her work as to suggest that one cannot fully experience the Mythic without embracing Science and vice versa.

My favorite work is the "Drying Specimens" series. These are mixed media pieces which feature Ginkgo leaves and various natural materials adhered to sheets of ragged paper with a glaze of golden-brown epoxy. They are suspended from the walls with stainless steel specimen clamps and underneath sheets of Plexiglas. This presentation is truly unique and I am certain I have not seen one quite like this. On a certain level these works seem mundane and distant, much as science specimens are, but due to the compositions and the compelling nature of the found objects, a haunting feeling is conjured.

Vallene is truly a professional artist and her work is very sophisticated. If you are in any way involved with the sciences such as Paleobotany, Archeology or Geology you will find this work to be provocative. Should you be a Theologian, Priest or Minister you will find plenty of spiritual material on which to meditate. I would think this show would put a smile on the face of even the most jaded Historian.

In addition to Vallene's show in the Art Gallery, there is also an informative exhibit in the John C. Melnick Mill Creek Park Museum downstairs dealing with the major renovations of the Silver Suspension Bridge. There are photos documenting the deterioration and renovation and large blueprints of the bridge.

Make sure you stop by the gift shop on your way out and check out the Easter display and gifts featuring a large rabbit tureen (rabbit soup anyone?). All very humorous and prone to get one thinking about Spring.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

This Art Sux!!

Today, Sunday, I found Mill Creek Park to be astonishingly gorgeous. She was like a beautiful bride in a shimmering pearlescent white gown. There was a wonderful silence as the snow muffled much of the sounds except for the caws of a flock of crows harassing an unlucky owl.
As I made my way through the Bears Den area I was greatly dismayed to find a large amount of graffiti spray painted on the rock faces and tree trunks. I counted over a dozen large designs scrawled throughout the immediate area. There are more I am sure, but I was getting too ticked off and upset to keep counting. Having gone through this area in the late fall , I saw some graffiti but not to the extent of what I saw today. I assume it was done since then, perhaps during the brief warm spell we had early in January.
After carefully examining this graffiti, I came to the conclusion that it was NOT gang related. As far as I could tell, it was not even classic "tagging". Instead there are pot leaves and names. All in all very mundane and cliched.
I also could see where park caretakers had attempted to remove some of the graffiti by what appeared to be sandblasting. This method not only removed the paint but also the natural, dark patina of the rock, as well as the moss and lichens, leaving large, scoured areas of tan sandstone. In one of these scoured areas some half baked "arteest" had spray painted fresh graffiti.
I talked to a man who said that he saw a group of white teenage boys spray painting the rock faces in the middle of the afternoon last fall.
Allow me to speculate about why this graffiti is appearing in the rugged, forested areas where it had rarely appeared before: There are places in the park where teenagers have traditionally congregated. Hiawatha Flats near the Silver Bridge is a classic place where we have all hung out in our early years. Over the past 2 years I have seen a dramatic park police presence in these areas and I've seen park police putting the smack down on teenage activity here. The majority of the kids seem well behaved and after I'd spent some time chatting with them I found they were not involved in gangs or other serious criminal behaviour. In addition many responsible adults such as some of my friends in the local justice system spend time there, essentially keeping an eye on these kids(without the kids knowing who they are). I have never heard a complaint about the behaviour of the teenagers. I am not saying these kids are angels, far from it. What I am saying is that the park police are driving them deep into the areas of the park where it is much easier for them to get into some serious criminal behaviour. Personally I would rather have these kids out in the open, "sedate" and in a good mood, where it is easier for concerned people to keep an eye on them rather than having them lurking in the deep woods with cans of spray paint and pissed off because they were run out of their favorite, traditional park hangouts.
It is important to remember that no matter how difficult kids can be they deserve good treatement when they visit the park. They are not doing anything that we haven't done at that age. Lets not make thier lives more difficult than they already are. For many of these kids, the one decent thing they have in their lives is the time they spend in the park. The park is known as the Green Cathedral for a reason: it connects all of us with the Divine and the Mystical. When our Youth are confronted with oppression in a sacred place they will will respond accordingly. And it will be ugly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

71st Area Artist Awards

The 71st Area Artist Annual Exhibition was a great success. The turnout, as usual, was extraordinary and everyone had a great time. It was wonderful to see so many people from all aspects of the community coming together to celebrate the Arts.
Best of Show was awarded to Amy Kreiger of Youngstown for her work entitled "Adam Sullivan" done in colored pencil. It measures 48 x 72 inches and is very large for this medium.
First Prize went to Chris Leeper of Canfield for his large acrylic painting entitled "Into the Night". Richly colored, this painting depicts a forest in the glow of the setting sun.
Second Prize went to Don Williams of Youngstown for his acrylic painting entitled "Sofa and Phish", a whimsical trompe l'oiel.
Third Prize went to Ann Miller of Warren for her oil painting entitled "Apple Branch", a very traditional image done with great skill.
The Mahoning Valley Water Color Society Award went to William Perry of Harmony, Pennsylvania for his painting entitled "Cannery Row", a brilliant, highly developed rendering of glass canning jars in dramatic light.
The Honorable Mentions went to William Danielson of Yougstown; Heesung Sung of Hubbard; Ellie Stiens of West Middlesex, PA; Donald Nelson of Beaver, PA; Carol Begley of Beaver, PA; and Don Pedecini of Beaver, PA.
Congratulation to the winners and all who were accepted into the show. Your hard work and dedication were recognized and awarded.
I would also like to thank the Butler, Dr. Zona, Kathy Earnhart and all who were involved in bringing this years' Area Show to fruition. It has been a great addition to our community as a whole and more specifically to the art community. Personally I have gained great benefits from the opportunities that the Area Show has provided.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

71st Area Artists Annual Exhibition-Butler Institute of American Art

The Butler Institute of American Art will hold the 71st Area Artist Annual Exhibition opening on Sunday, January 13th from 1-3 pm. There will be light refreshments by Winslow's Cafe'. This is FREE event but reservations are required. Call 330-743-1107, ext. 210. The show will run through February 3rd, 2008.
The "Area Show" as it is affectionately known, is perhaps the most prestigious show in the region, second only to the Mid Year Show (also held at the Butler). It is a difficult show to gain entry as the competition is stiff and only a relatively small amount of work is accepted. Artists over 18 years of age who live within a 40 mile radius of Youngstown are eligible to enter.
This year the juror is Thomas McNickle, a nationally recognized artist from our region. He is realist painter of landscapes, and his work is of the highest skill and vision.

Should you be looking to purchase the very finest of regional artwork or to network with artists of our community, the Area Show presents some excellent opportunities.