Review, Collector’s Art Group Holiday Show

By Jane Durrell

A cheerful holiday exhibition lines the walls at Collector’s Art Group, second floor at 225 Sixth Street, downtown, conveying all sorts of interesting ideas without a Santa Claus to be seen.  That is to say, this annual holiday show is a gathering of the work of nineteen area artists, the only unifying theme being an admirable level of skill and invention, shored up by neither Rudolph nor holly.

It’s a crowded gallery, which seems right, suggesting that everybody has gathered to show everyone else what they’ve been doing. Many works are small; an exception to that are two large watercolors by Sam Hollingsworth. One, Lords of the Dance, is as holiday-ish as we get here. A trio of elephants, in party hats and boleros, are kicking up their heels against an orange/red background. The other, It’s Turtles All The Way Down, shows a column of turtles, one on top of the other, as sole support for a globe that looks very like the one we live on.  There’s a moon off to one side.  Hollingsworth has elbowed into the genteel purviews of watercolor painting to give it heft and to tickle our curiosity, aims in which he succeeds,

Another globe is not far away, surprisingly both egg-shaped and egg-sized. The pale seas and green continents are immediately recognizable, though, and perhaps make you wonder what it would be like if our world actually were egg-shaped. This artist, Scott Gibbs, who spent useful time in New York City but moved back home to Dayton by choice, also shows a handsome run of egg shapes individually decorated in black and white and a series of layered paintings on panel, small but of varied sizes, each incorporating letters unreadable by most viewers but not unreadable, I understand, by the artist.  These works function handily as abstract designs; one is painted with expresso in a technique, so far as I know, unique to Gibbs.

Rich Bitting, a musician as well as visual artist, shows a series of small boxes, wall mounted, each displaying assemblages of oddments beneath the transparency of a sheet of mylar.  The surprise here is the cd mounted on the back of each box, a musical interpretation of its individual  contents.

For Construction #1 and Construction #2 Lou Kroner has assembled found pieces of wood and metal, all in quiet shades of brown,  into wall hangings that become art through their echoing shapes and reward a long look. Someone else besotted with shape, in his case geometrical ones, is Stuart Holman. His Six Strings is an immensely complicated painting of a built landscape, portions still under construction. Three horizontal panels perhaps half an inch thick are mounted against the body of the work; all surfaces are put to use. This is not a restful painting. Something is going on in every square inch.

Leslie Shiels is fond of hound dogs and strong color and can put the two together in striking works that demand attention. One such painting was on view the day I saw the show.  I might note here that, this being a holiday exhibition, anything may be sold at any time. Specific works I discuss could  be already wrapped and beneath a Christmas tree before you get there. When something goes out, however, it will likely be replaced by another work by that artist. Price range for the exhibition is generous, $75 to $10,000.

Two handsome landscapes by Kevin Muente still were on the wall when I was there. In both, the sky sets the tone for the painting. Cows Near Keswick, England is a decidedly horizontal work, a tranquil landscape beneath a light-shot sky. The brilliant sky in Fox Run Winter has somehow turned the snowy land below to varying shades of blue, a perhaps momentary happening here preserved.

Anna Marie Pavlik, an artist new to me, is represented by three prints that have little in common with each other but suggest an active mind.  Another artist I’m unfamiliar with, Sharon Sellet, shows three small, square landscapes that veer toward abstraction and one other, same size, in which abstraction is accomplished.

An artist widely known, Cole Carothers, is represented here by a characteristic painting called Scrim Curtain, in which his interest in shapes centers on vertical rectangles (the window through which we see a neighboring house, equipped with its own architectural vertical rectangles). All this geometry is softened by the curve of a chair back within the room and by the scrim curtain itself, hanging half way down the sash. Carothers is extraordinarily aware of where we live, the rooms and the houses themselves. Inhabitants seem almost beside the point, except that from their surroundings we know more about them than might be expected.

Fred Zigler has fun morphing icons into something else, and the other way around.  His paintings include American flags that have somehow become butterflies and in one work an odd arrangement of shapes without religious significance suggests a standard portrayal of Madonna and child.

Although paintings and other wall-displayed art dominate here, a particular three-dimensional work should be mentioned. The Escape by Julie McCraney-Brogdon is a fine bronze figure perhaps a foot high that appears traditional in concept except that the lissome nude, a woman, is stepping over a railing and leaving behind – what? To go to – who knows where?

Of the nineteen artists on view, these were the most interesting to me. Their skills are apparent and their ability to engage in dialogue with the viewer is engaging. Art can – should – be part of one’s life in ways beyond decor. The Collector’s Art Group Holiday Show contains works that will take on such a challenge without flinching. The exhibition, on view through January 31, may be visited  Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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