The Kaleidoscope exhibit represents a singular accomplishment in the visual arts. It’s an annual show put on by the Alliance for the Visual Arts in Akron, a group that represents more than 500 local artists from four organizations: Akron Society of Artists, Cuyahoga Valley Art Center, Artists of Rubber City and Women’s Art League.
Not many places the size of Akron, a city of more than 198,000 people according to the last census, can boast of such numbers. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the number of art schools in Northeast Ohio (four), but still, it’s impressive.
This year’s Kaleidoscope exhibit, on view at Summit Artspace in Akron, attracted 103 entries, with 68 selected for the show by jurors Marina Mangubi and John P. Smolko.
As the jurors noted in their statements, the quality of the work is uniformly high, which is to be expected, given the constant state of activity in which the four organizations keep their members.
Also to be expected is the range of approaches to making art that’s found in this exhibit, from traditional to contemporary, conservative to cutting edge.
The jurors, in their wisdom, chose to award the works that were less traditional than most of those in the show.
First-place honors went to John Frieman for his mixed media Anatomy #64. John Sokol took second place for his mixed media Crows in the Thicket. Kimberly S. Moore won third place for her pastel titled Twilight, Silver Creek.
The judges also gave honorable mentions to Vibrations Under Glass, photography by Marita Bitans; mixed media called The Coordinates Forgone by Shirley Ende-Saxe; an acrylic painting called Watching the Shadows Dance by Carol Klingel; and aqua media piece Reprieve by Susan Mencini.
One of the special features of this exhibit is the People’s Choice Award, which is selected by the votes of gallery visitors. It will be presented during the First Night Akron celebration Dec. 31. The winner will receive a kaleidoscope created by Akron glass artist Bob Pozarski.
The jurors noted that several of the works reflect the quiet beauty of Northeast Ohio, noted for not only its industrial landscapes but its tidy farmlands and the serene vistas found in abundance in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Smolko noted that he would have preferred seeing more three-dimensional works. I wonder if he counted all the mixed-media works hanging on the walls, which could certainly be regarded as three-dimensional.
Frieman’s winning Anatomy #64 qualifies as three-dimensional, what with its driftwood assemblage of found objects, from planed wood to bark to sheets of unknown metals arranged in such a way that it undoubtedly resembles a shapely leg.
At any rate, I would imagine that now the gauntlet has been laid down, and next year will see a plethora of 3-D works.
Sokol’s intensely expressive Crows in the Thicket is a wonderfully tactile mixed media painting that fairly oozes mastery, not only of form and materials, but in its ability to catch and hold our gaze, our imagination and our deepest reflections. This work patently manifests the inexorable fact that all great art is at its core also great poetry.
Much the same can be said for Kimberly Moore’s pastel “nocturne,” Twilight, Silver Creek. I say “nocturne” because her work is in the spirit, if not the medium of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s famous Nocturnes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when he did a series of Tonalist impressions depicting scenes that evoked the night or subjects as they appear in a veil of light, in twilight, or in the absence of direct light.
That the jurors picked works to award that are not representational, naturalistic, nor in any way “realistic” should serve as a guide to area artists.
The skill level of all the artists in the show is impressively high. Letting go of the material, concrete, traditional way of thinking is their next challenge.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.