Visual art

Black Swamp Arts Festival has been music to the ears of Best of Show winner Chris Plummer

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For Kentucky printmaker Chris Plummer, a change of scenery shifted his gaze to the landscape. About two years ago Plummer quit his job at the Kroger bakery and moved with his family from the outskirts of Cincinnati to a more rural part of Kentucky. “I do a lot fields and barns because that’s what I see around me now.” Before he focused on woodprints that depicted slices of stories that reflected the angst of folks on the edge between the country and suburbs. Now he creates colorful monoprints, abstracted color landscapes, all inspired by scenes within a few miles of his home. “With woodcuts, for whatever reason, I tend to focus on what is wrong, and with monoprints what I’m looking at is the beauty around me.” Plummer had started to experiment with monoprints, as well as painting, before he moved. Now that has taken hold. Those prints were praised by the jurors at the 2015 Black Swamp Arts Festival when he won Best of Show honors. He also took the top prize at the festival in 2013. Plummer said he’s heard a lot of positive reactions to the newer work, though some people have said they prefer his older work. Still others noted that they like that he’s continuing to change as an artist. “I know a lot of people find what works and stick to that,” he said. “To me that would be boring.” Though he’s done as many as 20 shows a year, Plummer has settled into doing about a dozen. He particularly likes college towns with their bookstores and coffee…


Arresting images portray intersection of policing & art

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ben Schonberger’s art installation, “Beautiful Pig,” at River House Arts in Toledo couldn’t come at a more fraught moment coming as it does in a time when our reactions are color coded. The heart-felt cry of Black Lives Matter giving rise to the reaction of Blue Lives Matter. Schonberger collaborated with retired Detroit detective Marty Gaynor to create a portrait of the cop and his community and the relationship between the cop and the artist. “I think it’s an incredibly fragile moment,” Schonberger said. “I don’t think it’s ever been more relevant.” He sees the exhibit as an opening to an “alternate” conversation about policing and community, one “that doesn’t begin with a charged reaction.” In every incident, “everybody has an alternative story,” he said. This isn’t work, he said, that someone will see in the gallery and buy to hang in their home. “The best part about this work isn’t the art, it’s to be able to have an alternative conversation about people and process. If you can have a conversation about humans and feeling, identity, empathy, survival and history, if you can understand someone’s brain for a minute, that’s when contemporary art is so powerful.” Fittingly this is the first collaboration between the gallery’s owner Paula Baldoni and the nascent group Contemporary Art Toledo. Brain Carpenter, the founder, said the group is interested in exactly these kind of shows that are more about generating debate than displaying objects. The River House walls are lined with the pictures of suspects, and cryptic symbols, documentation of Gaynor’s 31 years on the streets of Detroit….


Life of a cop turned into art in “Beautiful Pig”

From RIVER HOUSE ARTS The life of a Detroit police officer is the focus of “Ben Schonberger: Beautiful Pig,” an exhibit that opens with a reception Friday, Aug. 12, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the River House Arts and Contemporary Art Toledo, 425 Jefferson, Toledo. The reception immediately follows the artist’s 7 p.m. talk in the GlasSalon of the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion. Centered on a trove of photographs and ephemera collected by a former Detroit police officer during the latter part of the 20th Century, purposefully assembled and augmented by the artist, Beautiful Pig offers a provocative, timely, and unflinching look at cultural identity, self-perception, and the realities of racial disparity in law enforcement. The project began when Schonberger, while working in Detroit, acquired a box of photographs from Marty Gaynor, a retired police officer. Gaynor had documented the entirety of his career through thousands of images, including countless Polaroids of individuals he had arrested. Intrigued by the scope of the collection and the man responsible for amassing it, Schonberger embarked on a years-long collaborative process with Gaynor. The result is in an intensely personal yet culturally and historically revealing archive. Beautiful Pig appeared in 2013 as a self-published book to overwhelming critical acclaim. It was shortlisted by both the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Award in 2013 and the Anamorphosis Prize in 2015. Today the book can be found in the New York Public Library, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MoMA, the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, The Arts Library at Yale University, and nearly a dozen other cultural institutions. While portions of the collection have appeared in group…


Diana Bibler wins People’s Choice Award as NowOH exhibit closes at BGSU (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Diana Bibler’s “Heart Breaking” got some love from visitors to the annual NowOH art exhibit at Bowling Green State University. Bibler’s acrylic painting won the show’s People’s Choice Award. The honor was announced Sunday after the last day of the show’s two-week run. Artists arrived at the galleries in the Fine Arts Center to collect their work. More than 100 ballots were cast for People’s Choice. “Heart Breaking” was an outgrowth of a family calamity. Bibler’s family had a house fire. In the aftermath, a 90-gallon fish tank was neglected and just kept freezing and thawing. They finally just “shoved it outside” where the bright plastic plants froze inside ice crystals. That was the image that inspired Bibler’s vivid abstraction. The title “Heart Breaking” refers, in part to the fire, but was as much inspired by viewer’s reactions to the art. “It reflects the mood you get from the painting,” Bibler said. Bibler, a graduate of Bowhser High School in Toledo, will be in her third year as a 3-D art major at BGSU. Having been encouraged to be creative by her mother, Bibler has known since age 5 that she wanted to be an artist. She’s already won awards for her felted sculpture “Hero.” She entered the painting into NowOH as a way of getting more visibility for her work, and winning People’s Choice, she said, gives her confidence as she moves forward in her career. BGSU Gallery Director Jacqueline Nathan said that was more than in the previous eight shows, and in line with what she saw as an uptick in attendance….


Medium has a message about the complexity of delivering the news

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s hard to get away from the gaze of the four-sided column of mirrors planted in the entryway of the Kuhlin Center. The artwork, Medium, will have students and professors reflecting on their vocations. Medium is a four-sided pillar with two-way mirrors on each side, and a projector as a hidden presence within. The mirrors will capture on the buzz of activity in the lobby of the center, and scrolling down the center of each mirror will be a randomly selected statement starting with either “we” or “they.” Recently artist Erik Carlson, who created the piece, was in the lobby putting finishing touches on the work in the new home for Bowling Green State University’s School of Media and Communication.  At this point what’s reflected is the mess of construction, ladders, buckets, drop cloths, packing boxes and the like. Assisting him is Nicholas Hanna, a Los Angeles computer programmer. Carlson, whose studio Area C is in Rhode Island, said the concept is to mediate the media experience and have students consider what their role as future professionals is in the process of gathering, disseminating and consuming information. The “we” is those who produce and deliver the news. And the “they” are those who are the subject of the news and the consumers. Smack in the middle will be the “I,” the students and faculty learning and teaching about this process. As they read the statement they can consider themselves on both sides. All the while they will be staring themselves in the face. Carlson said that the concept came about as he thought about…


Northwest Ohio gets its close up in NowOH art exhibit

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A portrait of Northwest Ohio is now on display in the galleries in the Bowling Green State University Fine Arts Center. Friday the 9th Northwest Ohio Community Art Exhibition exhibit opened featuring work by 56 area artists. Entry into NowOH is open to all artists who live in 12 Northwest Ohio counties. “Everything that got sent in got included in the show,” said the Detroit artist Sarah Rose Sharp, who served as the exhibit juror.  “Something that’s really beautiful about that is it paints kind of a collective picture of a community which is great to see.” Art, she said, is “subjective” and when so many works are brought together “you can get kind of an aggregate of a community’s experience.” Roxanne Shea’s “Ariel View,” which Sharp selected for Best of Show honors, reflected that vision. Sharp praised the work for its blend of an archaic printing technique with references to geo mapping. Shea’s portrayals of the trailer park where her grandfather lived are rooted in the Rust Belt experience. Shea, who received her Master of Fine Arts in 2-D Studies this spring from BGSU, said her grandfather died right before she started these prints. Shea, who grew up in a low-income family in Grand Rapids, Michigan said: “I was trying to understand where I came from, where I’m at now and how I feel a little distance from my family because I’ve gone through college.” The winning work is an overview of the park, while another print shows a few trailers. She used the collagraph technique that involves employing found materials. In her case that was…


Toledo Museum exhibit dissects the emotional manipulation of political ads

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News As someone who began his political education at the family dinner table, walking through the Toledo Museum of Art’s exhibit “I Approve This Message: Decoding Political Ads” is like strolling through a chapter of my autobiography. Politics made an early entry into my consciousness, and even the few election cycles beyond my actual memory – pretty much the Eisenhower campaigns – had a certain resonance. The elegantly dressed housewives with their crisp East Coast collegiate accents could have been sisters of June Cleaver, the mom on “Leave It To Beaver.” That Lena Dunham, the creator of “Girls,” pops on the screen right after in an ad built on a double entendre about losing her virginity and voting for the first time only highlights how much has changed. In a way. Listening to the issues – guns, poverty, crime, unemployment – that run through the discourse, a viewer would be right to despair about whether we’ve made any progress at all. But for exhibit creator Harriet Levin Balkind, the issues aren’t what matters when it comes to convincing voters how to cast their ballots. It’s all about emotion. Television advertisements are carefully crafted works of art intended to evoke those emotions. The same tools used by artists, are used by political hucksters. That’s why, TMA Director Brian Kennedy said, the exhibit belongs in the museum. “We’re a museum that’s has always been predicated on art education. We’ve been about educating people to see through works of art, and political ads are works of art of a kind. It’s really important we understand them.” With the…


Black Swamp Arts Festival art show taking shape

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News The final touches are being applied to the visual art shows at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The shows, both the Juried Art Show on Main Street in downtown Bowling Green and the Wood County Invitational in the lot at the corner of Clough and South Main streets, will feature a mix of new and familiar artists. The festival gets underway Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. with music on the Main Stage. The art shows run during the day Sept. 10 and 11. About 20 percent of the 108 artists in the juried show are new this year, said Brenda Baker, who chairs the festival’s visual arts committee. That’s down a bit from previous years, she said. Notably some regular vendors missed the April 1 application deadline. This year 245 artists applied for the juried show which has space for 108 artists. Since award winners from the previous year are automatically accepted, that means they are vying for 100 spots. The majority of the applicants “heard about the festival through word of mouth,” Baker said. “That shows we have a strong reputation in the artistic community.” While artists often rave about how they are treated in Bowling Green, the key element to attracting them to the festival is sales. They want to be assured there’s a market for their wares. Those sales at the Black Swamp fest have rebounded to about $2,600 since the depths of the recession. That’s good enough for the festival to place 67th in Sunshine Artist magazine’s ranking of fine arts and crafts shows in the country. While other area…


Glass mosaic would add sparkle & shade to Community Center lobby

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Gail Christofferson’s community mosaics are made from thousands of bits of glass, and by thousands of hours of work by hundreds of community members. Some will trim and sort thumbnail-size bits of glass. Some will glue those down in preordained patterns. And some to create those designs. When all is done, Christofferson hopes to have as many as 50 20-inch-by-20-inch glass mosaic panels. Those panels will provide an artistic solution to a problem at the Bowling Green Community Center’s lobby. Now, explains Kristen Otley, the director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, at certain times of day in certain seasons, the staff members working at the main desk are blinded by the sunshine.  That makes it difficult for those trying to serve the public during those times. Right now there are shades up. But Otley envisioned something else. She knew Christofferson from the workshops the artist has presented for Parks and Recreation. In 2011 and 2012 Christofferson facilitated the creation of a mural at the new Otsego Elementary school. Since then she’s turned to glass work full time and worked on about more 10 mosaic projects, as well as smaller work notably her mosaic guitars. Otley said they talked about it for a couple years. It always came down to where the money would come from. They decided to team up with the Kiwanis Club, and working with Alisha Nenadovich, they requested funds from the Bowling Green Community Foundation. It’s the kind of project the foundation likes, Otley said. Something that involves the whole community. The mosaic project was awarded a $5,000 grant….


Toledo Museum of Art Names Halona Norton-Westbrook Director of Collections

From TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART TOLEDO – The Toledo Museum of Art has named associate curator of contemporary art Halona Norton-Westbrook to the newly created position of director of collections. In this role Norton-Westbrook is responsible for overseeing the Museum’s curatorial staff, exhibitions and art conservation. A native of California, Norton-Westbrook became a Mellon Fellow at TMA in 2013. The fellowship program, underwritten by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, enables participants to gain first-hand experience in institutional management and affords them the opportunity to take a leading role in curatorial endeavors. “We considered Halona’s experience and research background as uniquely preparing her for a successful career in the art museum world when we chose her for a Mellon Fellowship. She has proven us right through her leadership of innovative curatorial projects and programming. We are delighted that she has accepted our offer to become director of collections,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. Norton-Westbrook became associate curator of contemporary art and head of visitor engagement at TMA in 2015. As such she oversaw exhibitions and hundreds of art activities, among them a new monthly program created in partnership with Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts. Called EAR | EYE: Listening and Looking at Contemporary Art, the performance and discussion series explores the relationship between contemporary music and art through music performances in response to specific works of art in the Museum’s collection. Norton-Westbrook also co-curated last summer’s popular Play Time exhibition that included the Red Ball Project and served as point curator for two touring American Federation of Arts exhibitions, Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the…


Jaume Plensa’s sculptures are in just the right place at Toledo Museum of Art

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For sculptor Jaume Plensa, the placement of one of his sculptures is as important as the work itself. That’s especially true of his outdoor works. Still he described his visit to Toledo to consult about where to situate the work on the grounds of Toledo Museum of Art almost as a play date. He walked around with a few friends and two gardeners carrying flags. “I loved those guys with the flags.” Amy Gilman, the museum’s associate director and one of those in the group, asked him Thursday night why he decided to place one work, “The Heart of Trees,” up on a hill, instead of on the flat, where the museum had suggested. The world renowned artist said: “A kid loves to change things. If you say ‘down,’ then I say ‘up,’ and it’s not more complicated than that.” “You know my son,” Gilman quipped. The exchange was part of a public conversation held Thursday at the museum as part of the ongoing exhibit Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape, which continues outdoors and in the Levis Galleries through Nov. 6. In his introduction, Museum Director Brian Kennedy called Plensa “a most distinguished art practitioner in our world today.” “A very significant part of Jaume’s practice is public sculpture, creating moments for public engagement,” he said. Plensa’s work is on display around the world, including “the most extraordinary work he’s made,” the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Plena said, in placing a work: “You are not thinking about the object in itself but what energy this object is spreading about. … The space is…


The cosmos is ready for its close up in Eric Zeigler’s exhibit

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The universe is on view in downtown Toledo. Or at least photographer Eric Zeigler’s vision of the universe, which includes: Galaxies of 100,000 stars, compressed into one small frame the size of a computer monitor. One of Pluto’s moons, the smear of light as good as anyone will likely ever see it. The rust on a meteorite in an image blown up 36-times its natural size. A computer image of neutrinos – subatomic particles so small 65 billion of them fit into a square centimeter – interacting. The exhibit “Under Lying” is now on view at River House Arts, 425 Jefferson St. The exhibit is open through July 30. For hours call 419-441-4025. The show will be part of Art Loop on July 21. The work, Zeigler explained, comes from his interest in astronomy that was sparked by a class he took at Bowling Green State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Photography in 2008. He’d been taking photos since his early teens, inspired by his grandfather. Above the television in his grandparents’ home was a landscape photo his grandfather had taken. And scattered around the house were copies of Popular Photography magazine. His grandfather, Zeigler said, was interested in optics, and during World War II maintained sights on bombers that flew missions over Germany. Young Eric was fascinated by the data included in Popular Photography. What did the shutter speeds and aperture opening numbers mean? “I was totally addicted to figuring all this stuff out,” he said. He set his family’s new digital camera on manual. That helped him…


Plensa’s mythic monoliths invite visitors to explore Toledo Museum’s grounds

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For the next six months “Paula” will preside at the Monroe Street entrance of the Toledo Museum of Art. The sculpted head stands 22 feet tall, weighs 35,000 pounds, and if you listen closely enough she may whisper to you. Jaume Plensa’s work needs room to speak to viewers. Space for viewers to stroll around and quietly commune with the large structures. The human forms reflect back to viewers something, maybe secrets, about themselves. The Toledo Museum of Art has given the Plensa’s art the room it needs both inside in the Levis Gallery and spread across the museum’s 36-acre campus. The Spanish artist’s work has already found a home here. At a recent press preview, the museum’s associate director Amy Gilman said that when Plensa’s “Spiegel (Mirror)” was installed at the intersection of Collingwood and Monroe a few years ago, museum officials weren’t sure what the response would be. “We didn’t know what would happen when we put something at such a prominent intersection of the museum and the city. … The public doesn’t always like the public part of public sculpture.” Even before the installation was complete, she said, “it became beloved. It became a touchstone.” Since then people have picnicked, played, and wed near the sculpture. So when the opportunity to bring this show, which was organized by the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, to Toledo, “we didn’t hesitate.” The installation of “Spiegel” also made people realize how far the museum’s campus stretched. Gilman said the museum wants to extend its programs into that 36 acres, and…


Now OH show open to all regional artists

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green State University Art Galleries is hosting the Ninth Annual Northwest Ohio (Now OH) Community Art Exhibition. Now OH celebrates the talents of regional artists in a professional setting. The show will open on Friday, July 15 at 7 p.m. with a gallery talk by the award juror Sarah Rose Sharp, followed by the opening reception with light refreshments. Located at the BGSU Fine Arts Center, the exhibition is free and open to the public. A Detroit-based writer, activist, photographer and multimedia artist, Sharp writes about art and culture for Art in America, Hyperallergic, FlashArt, Knight Arts, and others. She was named a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Arts Criticism, and was a 2016 participant in the Art Writer’s Grant Mentorship Program. Artists who display their work at the exhibition are eligible to win up to $1,500 in cash prizes and gift certificates. Among these awards, are a Best of Show award, the Kiwanis Young Artist Awards, Toledo Federation of Arts Societies Award and a People’s Choice Award. Artists of all skill levels 16 years of age and older are encouraged to enter. Online registration is open until July 1. Further information regarding how to enter can be found atwww.NowohArtShow.org Artists from the following counties are eligible: Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams and Wood. For artists ages 16-18 the entry fees are $15, and for artists 19 and older entry fees are $30. All entrants are able to submit up to three entries. Volunteers are needed to assist with the set up and take down…


Sun sets the stage for Art in the Park

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News All kinds of artists turned out for Bowling Green’s second annual Art in the Park in Simpson Garden Park. Artists were drawing, painting, doing needle work. Adult and budding actors staged shows. Performer Nick Zoulek blew saxophone; Michiko Saiki blew bubbles. And, of course, there were those who expressed their artistic inclinations by snapping photos with their smart phones. Jacqueline Nathan, president of the Bowling Green Arts Council, said the Art in the Park was a success, drawing at least as many attendees as last year’s inaugural event. Sunny weather in the 80s certainly helped. Aaron Pickens, of Grand Rapids, was painting a line of arbor vitae. Painting outdoors is way of taking a break from his highly detailed and realistic paintings of toys. Those can take 500 hours to complete. But if painting outdoors is fun, it’s serious fun. Painting outdoors is a challenge. There’s so much detail, he said. “You have to learn what to leave out. The landscape taught me how to paint.” Denise Carter was working on a rag rug that will serve as a wall hanging. She pulled brightly colored fabric through the weave of a coffee bean sack. The fabric became flowers, but Carter wasn’t depicting the blossoms in front of her. For her working outside was enjoyable because the colors were so much brighter in the full sun. Nearby in the amphitheater the sun served as stage lighting for theater. The Black Swamp Players offered the all-too-topical political satire “The Spot” about the filming of a candidate’s television commercial. The one-act play cast light on a process…