In a neighborly gesture, Wash Park Art at 1215 Elm Street welcomes the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to its new location half a block away with “Midsummer Dreams,” a show inspired by the Company’s first offering there, Midsummer Night’s Dream. More than a dozen artists, many with Cincinnati ties, are represented in this engaging exhibition.

The gallery is housed in a 19th century row house and utilizes the space in its original proportions, lending a nice sense of intimacy to its showings. Entry is into the largest of the three areas, a narrow, longish room that can accommodate the most sizable work in the exhibition and a dozen small watercolors hung as a unit as well as a number of other works.  Interestingly, both the large painting (6 feet x 8 feet) and the group of small ones are the work of Cincinnati-based Thomas Hieronymous Towhey.

Towey’s large work here is a crowded canvas, bursting with woodland symbols – blooms, branches, tree trunks, a clutch of vari-colored birds’ eggs, lots of reds, yellows – it pulses with life.  He calls the work “William’s Writing Room” and turned to As You Like It for inspiration, a quote from Orlando which includes “You should ask me what time of day. There’s no clock in the forest.”  The small works are all the same size, rectangles, some hung vertically and some horizontally, nature invoked but no people. Size is the artist’s preoccupation in them; his choice of reference is from Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, who says “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Everage King, another Cincinnati-based artist, is well represented in the exhibition; an example is his painting (acrylic on paper) called “Gritty Streets.” It shows exactly that, and is accompanied by a quotation from King Lear which includes this cry: “O gods! Who is’t can say I am the worst. . .”

Shakespeare’s “sermons in stones and good in everything. I would not change it” is a neat tie-in for New Jersey-based David Hartz’s “Pareidolia (RockFace Series)”. The series includes three color pencil drawings and three photographs, all scenes from the Valley of the Goblins in Utah. The goblins themselves may not be readily apparent but stones are strongly in evidence. Hartz is an interesting artist, with his easy swing between art forms.

I neglected to make note of the Shakespearean reference for Sam Hollingworth’s watercolor “Preposterous Rhinoceros,” but it is in fact preposterous.  We see the rhino from the side, squarely in profile, and on his back are three young girls, two at opposite ends of a jump rope and the third jumping.  The moon is large and white at one side, birds walk in the foreground and reds and yellows predominate. Everybody is having a good time including, one would think, both the artist and the viewer.

Norberto Sandoval Malaver, working traditionally in oil on canvas, shows us a young woman at the keyboard in “La Pianista” and uses as his reference the familiar plea from Twelfth Night: “. . .if music be the food of love, play on. . .”  Yellows and blues predominate in this large and rather handsome work and the stroke of the brush defines shape.

My favorite of the two or three photographs by Michael Stoyak in this exhibition is a gelatin silver print (35mm film) showing a figure seen from the rear, seated on the ground, wearing white clothes and holding a white umbrella. The umbrella acts as shield from sun and also, of course, shield from eyes. Multiple layers of meaning can be read into the line from Hamlet given by Stoyak as his reference: “The chariest maid is prodigal enough if she unmasks her beauty to the moon.”

The moon, that handmaid to romance, turns up in Sam Hollingworth’s watercolor with its reference to  “. . .the moon sleeps with Endymion. . .” depicted by a graceful figure half reclining low in the composition and a grandly full moon against a sky charged with purple.

The exhibition, which includes work from sixteen artists in all, extends through the three ground floor rooms of Wash Park Gallery. It is a pleasant summertime excursion, tickling memory with its Shakespeare associations and including a variety of artistic approaches.  Prospero has told us that “We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” certainly a suggestion this exhibition underlines.

Wash Park Art’s version of Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through September 23 and is open 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.  On Thursday, August 17, a gallery talk is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. and hours will be extended to 8 p.m.

–Jane Durrell

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