The Shirley-Jones Gallery presents in June and July an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by six artists from central and southwestern Ohio. The shared subject matter is the rural midwestern landscape. The work ranges in concept and approach from direct observation to recollection and reflection; from literal description to stylistic interpretation and rarified abstraction. Two of the artists, Rachel Sherman and Rod Bouc are from Columbus; Jean Koeller and David Leach reside in Dayton, and Lee Funderburg and Robert Whitmore are current or past residents of Yellow Springs.
Rod Bouc studied drawing and painting at the University of Nebraska and Ohio State University. His work, executed with paint stick pigment on board, ranges from coarse pointillism to crisply articulated images. The subject matter, though drawn from photographs he takes in Ohio, Kentucky, or Nebraska, all key into memories of the land he came to know and understand growing up on a farm in Nebraska: "I am very interested in the way light and shadows evoke emotions in the landscape. Nature works both as an image and as a metaphor for my everyday life. The mood that is set sometimes reminds me of my ancestors and their history with the land. Sometimes it expresses inner emotions. I am always amazed at the way it either interprets the way that I feel or lifts me out of myself. I came to realize that paintings do the same thing. You can look at either repeatedly and come away with a different reaction each time. My subject matter was no longer a representation of my visual surroundings but a pursuit of how I would express the feeling of what I saw."
Rachel Sherman, now 98 years old, draws and makes watercolors as a way to remember places she has visited in her travels around Ohio, as well as to California and the Southwest. In college, she studied music at the University of Missouri. In the late 1920s, while working at Ohio State, she met and later married Hoyt Sherman, a distinguished professor in the Art Department there. She began sketching as a way to keep a record of the places they visited in their various travels. Though untrained in the visual arts, she absorbed his insights on theories of composition and the visual unity of imagery.
Jean Koeller, of New Carlisle, studied painting and drawing at Wright State University and Parsons School of Art in NYC. An astute colorist, her paintings generally explore that area where direct observation and literal description are overtaken by the inclination many artists experience to celebrate the possibilities of paint and color in their own right. And so, her works
develop a quiet tension between description and abstraction.
"As a landscape painter I owe much to the tradition that has occurred before me. I have chosen a view that is not the grand and dramatic vision that the Hudson River School ascribed to. By taking mundane realities such as brush piles, fallen logs, and rotted trees, I am forced to rise above familiar and everyday occurrences to create something from nothing. I like to explore through my painting process the tensions between the human perception of time, usually marked by painting, and the rate of nature through its processes of deterioration, by continuing to return to the same areas to work and to see the seasons, light and growth evolve. I am also interested in the illusion of order punctured by the realities of chaos."
In this exhibition, Koeller will show a body of pleine air paintings being shown for the first time.
David Leach, of Dayton, studied at Bucknell and Ohio University and is recently retired from Wright State University where he taught printmaking and drawing. In contrast to the other artists in this show, Leach consistently uses the landscape as a point of entry into a much more completely abstract exploration. In the show, he will present a body of drawings and chine collé works which use abstraction to explore the zone between the known and the unfamiliar.
"What we tend to look at or look for has a personal meaning in and of itself, and that we want to find connections between seemingly diverse preferences may have a broader implication. I continue to explore the relationship between familiar, personal space and the world apart from this space. Images depicting the outside from the inside are a metaphor for this relationship, as well as for the making of art in general. More recent work uses this vantage point. Some of my current images are drawn from the imagination, that is from a remembered perception. As such they are perhaps a more central restating of this metaphor. I enjoy being in between the familiar and the unfamiliar; between the known and the unknown – the seen and the unseen. Like the earlier renderings of the landscape, these works confirm a link between the two."
Lee Funderburg grew up in Yellow Springs, studied at Ohio University, was a master printer for Tyler Graphics in New York, and since 1997, now resides on the edge of Yellow Springs where he maintains his studio. His work, like that of Bouc, is immersed in the feeling of the landscape with which he has deep associations. Fundamentally descriptive, his paintings employ a modified pointillism to invoke a hint of the magical and quietly fantastic.
"I moved back to Yellow Springs in 1997 and have been rediscovering the beauty of the open spaces in the Midwest. As a painter, I always try to keep in mind that I am a manipulator of liquid color that conveys information to the eye in two different ways: 1) through its illusion and 2) directly on the senses. My penchant for detail and a startling effect are sometimes more of a burden than a blessing in this pursuit. Nevertheless, I try to create a surface interesting to the eye independent of the illusion. My subject matter is all Midwest. The landscapes are of southwestern Ohio, including the plants and wildlife."
Robert Whitmore (1890 - 1979) was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. He was trained as an artist at the Chicago Art Institute (1913-1917) and then at the Cincinnati Art Academy (1919). In the early 1920s Whitmore taught at the Dayton Art Institute. He settled in Yellow Springs upon becoming Antioch College's first professor of Art in 1924, a position he held until 1955. Though a lifelong resident of the midwest, Whitmore's works are quietly cosmopolitan.
In an essay for a 1973 retrospective exhibition of Mr. Whitmore's work, curator James Jordan offered the following: "(Whitmore's) paintings executed in and around the Miami Valley, chronologically paralleling those done elsewhere, have a slightly different character; generally more serene, more studied, they are a part of the artist's homeland, an environment that he has cherished and painted all his life. Yet Mr. Whitmore is not a true 'Regionalist' like Benton or Wood; his work belongs to a much more fundamental stream in American Art. Whitmore's prints and paintings are deeply embedded in a community. Instead of the sweeping generalizations of the Regionalist we are confronted with a phenomenon more akin to the life and work of the 17th Century Dutch painter, Vermeer. In each case the viewer is presented with a lifelong study of the world in microcosm, an incisive and insightful view of a larger reality developed through the medium of the artist's intimate and deeply understood portrayal of his mundane, immediate surroundings."
The exhibition runs from June 24 through July 30, 2005. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday 2-6pm and by appointment. For further information call (937) 767-1711.