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By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
The Summer of 2010 is turning out to be a very active time for the arts, and is consistently providing some very high quality exhibitions and events. Even with a substantial lack of gallery square footage throughout the city, Fort Wayne artists are getting decent representation through group shows like "Self-Constructions" at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, as well as Artlink's "Members Show," and the University of Saint Francis' "Three Rivers Invitational," both of which are annual. Even further, artists are taking matters into their own hands more effectively and are curating group shows through non-traditional spaces downtown as well as beginning a small circuit of house shows, popular in Chicago and throughout art history in various larger scale cities. With the addition of social media to promote themselves, Fort Wayne art scene and artist community is beginning to get large enough, and vocal enough, to begin a next level of competition and sophistication.
A great example of the Greater Fort Wayne area's continually growing art scene is this year's Three Rivers Invitational exhibition, at the Weatherhead Gallery in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Saint Francis. Not only does the exhibition contain a large number of great pieces of art, it was successfully curated as a large group show without being a chaotic mess.
Curated by Justin Johnson, Gallery Director and Art Coordinator for SOCA, the Three Rivers Invitational has large range of works, including traditional painting, sculpture, photography, and drawings, as well a installations, eclectic mixed media, and rare forms of classical art forms like scagliola (a process of making faux marble out of plaster). Some highlights include Katrina Stolarski's piece "Confined," an intimate drawing of a seated cloaked figure which evokes a vital stillness, as though, if one viewed the piece long enough, they would see the representation of the model take a small breath.
Art Cislo delivered an interesting watercolor piece, "Psalm 30-Thanksgiving for deliverance from Death," which seemed loose and more expressionistic. This becomes more intriguing when it is accounted for that Psalm 30 is traditionally known for the day of Hanukkah, and it ends with a 180 turn from melancholy supplication to joyous praising and giving of thanks. The onlooking portrait and bed of flames with figure, with the introduction of the title, would seem to suggest a cremation, which makes "Psalm 30" both an elegy and an effigy. As part of Cislo's long body of work using scripture as a basis, "Psalm 30" is a great piece which further shows his range and ability to translate words into images effortlessly.
Scott Ziegler's piece, "Optimist," is also very interesting. This porcelain sculptural ceramic work takes the form of a spindly, skeletal, near robotic disembodied hand flexing its fingers independently. While Ziegler's art is generally meant to be a "talking therapy" catharsis of and meditation on the topics of addiction, trauma, and recovery, "Optimist" is ambiguous. Formally, Ziegler's work is impeccable. Known internationally for his work, Ziegler is a welcome addition to the SOCA faculty as the new ceramics professor, replacing Karen McArdle who the Fort Wayne arts community lost to a car accident during the last Holiday season. With Ziegler being based out of Fort Wayne, we can expect to see a great deal of his superb ceramic work in the coming years.
Tommy Frank another recent addition to SOCA, whose piece "Stock Pile," made of porcelain, takes the form of a stack of piggy banks standing approximately five feet in the air. The piggy banks at the bottom are cracking and crushed, seemingly under the extreme weight of those on top of them. Known for his extremely realistic constructions made of ceramics, "Stock Pile" is more humorous and superfluous than others, which are usually juxtapositions of super-realistic ceramic objects that carry some psychological significance.
Katherine Rohrbacher, a former Fort Wayne artist now living in Venice Beach, California was a surprise member of the Three Rivers Invitational with "Nancy,” a mixed media painting with glitter. Because of the glittering effect, and the combination of two and three dimensionality, "Nancy" nearly becomes an installation in itself, changing with each angle, while ultimately being a formal pattern painting of blue flowers and a lace pattern. Dennis Hettler, another recent SOCA graduate, has a prominent display of his installation "His Own," a combination of painting and sculpture that further explores the dichotomy between abstraction and figurative practices. Other great artists with work in the Three Rivers Invitational exhibition include Stephanie Fenstermaker, Audrey Riley, David Carpenter, George Morrison, Justin Henry Miller, Tom Keesee, and Suzanne Galazka.
Galazka is blessed with have a behemoth body of work in the form of figurative drawings — mostly portraits and nudes — and is currently flexing her prolific might, with the exhibition of her works at SOCA, Artlink, and Club Soda simultaneously. Galazka's current exhibition at Club Soda, a "Summer Set" exhibition of Wunderkammer Company, contains nearly two dozen large portraits and figures and is the first solo exhibition of Galazka's work in the last few years. Most of Galazka's pieces are titled after the names of her models, or the days they were produced. This mix of the two tinges her drawings by either giving them an incredibly personal feeling like pieces titled "Sweet Sue" or "Handyman," or very objective like "Easy Pose" and "Gesture II." Ultimately, this speaks to Galazka's practice and process. With literally thousands of hours of figure drawing under her belt, Suzanne Galazka has become a master draftswoman, capturing poses in a hand full of lines.
With all of these amazing artists taking up residence in a community the size of Fort Wayne, we are incredibly lucky. With the addition of Scott Ziegler and Tommy Frank, as well as others, our art scene will continue to grow, and allow for even more elegant annual exhibitions like the Three Rivers Invitational and Artlink Members Show in the future.
"Three Rivers Invitational Exhibition"
University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts
"Summer Set: Suzanne Galazka"
Hosted by Wunderkammer Company at Club Soda
235 East Superior Street, Fort Wayne, 46802