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Annual Fresh Art exhibit opens at Summit Artspace

3/13/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Maggie Duff’s “Found Sign V” won the Best of Show award in in Summit Artspace’s Fresh Art exhibition.
Photo: Bradley Hart
DOWNTOWN AKRON — This year, 49 regional artists who had a total of 57 works of recently made art are part of the newest exhibit at Summit Artspace — the 10th annual Fresh Art exhibition, which will be on display through April 19.

Alexandra Nicholis Coon, the director of the Massillon Museum of Art, served as juror and worked with newly appointed gallery Director Rob Lehr in mounting what is an impressive showing of Akron area art. There must be some formula that covers the degree of good selection of what to hang, and then how to hang them, that makes for an effective display. Whatever it is, it seems to have been put into play for this show, for it is overall visually impressive.

Artists were to submit their “freshest ideas” according to exhibit officials, with the emphasis on searching for novel thinking about subject matter and technique, as well as incorporation of new or different materials into their art.

Although there is an unusually abundant array of some very striking three-dimensional objects (made of concrete, glass, earthenware or wood), two-dimensional works — paintings, prints and pastels — took the prizes.

The announced winners of the monetary prizes that go along with the recognition are:

√ a Best of Show award ($500) for Maggie Duff’s print, “Found Sign V,” a work depicting what seems to be a beggar’s cardboard sign with his plight etched on it, but redone into a compositionally interesting print;

√ a Fresh Air award ($200) to Nathan Mayfield for his painting of a flying pig with the title “Stick a Fork in It”;

√ a second-place award to Andy Dreamingwolf ($150) for his painting, “Sister Ray”; and

√ a third place prize ($150) for Frances Lehnart’s pastel, “Driving Miss Daisy,” showing a nude sitting in the back seat of a car, done in a broad, hip kind of style.

Coon also felt recognition should be given to five people as Honorable Mention awardees, including: Eric Ford (who had two pieces represented in the exhibit) for his sculpture, “Untitled”; Seth Madden for his painting, “LA Alhambra”; Erin Miller, for her mixed media work, “Effectiveness of Modern Medicine”; Michael Swaisgood for his piece “Pull”; and Sharon Wagner for her sculpture “Migraine,” which showed a head in anguish being crushed by a vice tightening two pieces of wood.

Wagner also had another earthenwork and found object piece in the show called, “Out of the Dark,” illustrating a man’s head and hands trying to climb out of a small opening beneath a cryptic sign written backward across a placard that had wooden spindles looking like spikes stuck into it. All the details spoke to struggle. This piece easily could have been a winner or worthy of mention, too.

Aside from the noted artists, there were many, many indeed that make the trip to the gallery worth the travel and time. Among them are Amber McElreath’s, “It Can’t Rain All the Time,” which includes some found objects (empty wasp nest, clothes pins as kind of ribs, a little beast statue and others) as part of an arresting art object.

Mark Jaroszewski’s watercolors, “Audrey” and “Circus Ringmaster,” depict some unusual alien looking figures in such a way the viewer likely is going to spend considerable time staring at them and pondering their artistic interest.

Alyssa Klauer’s large oil painting, “Permission,” has immediate eye-catching appeal to anyone wandering through the gallery. It is bold in strokes and color in its depiction of a young looking couple.

There always seems to be a concurrent exhibit on the third floor at Summit Artspace. In this case, it is the Artists of Rubber City Members Exhibit in the BOX Gallery, which will be on view through April 19. Be sure to go up, head straight for the door and see Joe Dick’s amazing photographic digital print called “Galactic Floral Explosion.” At the opening, Dick mentioned someone who saw the print actually helped to give it its name, for he said the image looks like a new world being created through an explosion in space.

Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., is open Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Parking is adjacent to the building. Admission is free.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and an avid art enthusiast. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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