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Continuum Gallery's Grand Opening

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Friday, July 30th, the Continuum Art Gallery (CAG) officially opened its doors for the first time, making it the first of many new arts and culture offerings to come to the newly deemed Fort Wayne Cultural District, downtown.

The opening reception, which lasted from 6-11pm was literally packed, wall to wall on each floor, making it clear that Fort Wayne has been waiting for this kind of gallery development for some time. Located next to J.K. O'Donnell's at 125 W. Wayne Street, Continuum Art Gallery is situated in the core of what is becoming downtown’s busiest area. Because of this advantageous location, Continuum Art Gallery will be well situated to absorb some of that traffic and contribute to the over all feel of an active street culture downtown.

Continuum Art Gallery is the brain child of a group of IPFW Visual and Performing Art Alumni including Julie Wall, Natalie McChessney, Al Martin, Brandon Furniss, Fett, April Fettinger, Greg Schalet, Peter Lupkin, and Said El-Dajani. Chuck O'Connor, the dean of Visual and Performing Arts at IPFW, says, "It is our goal to engage our community in a meaningful way while instilling entrepreneurial and civic skills in our graduates." This diverse board will oversee the day-to-day aspects of the gallery including the curation and promotion of its exhibitions. Plans are for the exhibitions to be updated regularly and feature both local emerging and established artists, as well as artists from around the world.

The first exhibition, "One" features each board members’ work as well as a collaborative installation "Lighting is Everything" which inhabits the basement space. As far as the general exhibition was concerned, two artists' work stood out immediately — Al Martin's ceramics and Julie Wall Toles' prints.

Al Martin's work, which is primarily crystal glazed, organic forms, skirts the line between functionality and aesthetic presence. The sometimes mesmerizing glazes of his work cover the fact that most are fairly simple vases and vessels. These crystalline glazes have been a part of ceramics for centuries, but were usually seen as flaws; yet they are responsible for infinite colors and shapes which appear to "float" on top of the objects surface and which wrap around the contour of the object. This practice of glazing in ceramics, when done effectively like Martin's work, demonstrates a great skill and experience of heating and cooling the ceramic piece to produce a desired crystal pattern. Because it utilizes phase separation and other unique chemical processes, it is deceivingly complex for creating such a "pretty" and patterned effect.

Julie Wall Toles, whose stunning senior exhibition of last year was certainly memorable, did not disappoint, with a small display or her print work like "Branching Out", a collage piece which depicts three moths, each larger than another resting on an exquisite wood grain print. Toles' use of collage permeates her work, either adding her original prints to other prints, or by attaching her pieces on large boards. This practice is reminiscent of current NYC art star SWOON's work by disregarding the picture plane, which was once a printmakers guiding light. While Toles' work is much more conservative than SWOONS, it is great to see a Fort Wayne artist "playing" with her medium in a rather liberal sense, and not being afraid of the results.

In addition to these artists' work, there were also some great pieces by Cortney Fettinger, AKA Fett, a local tattoo artist and graphic designer, Peter Lupkin and his romanticist paintings, and Natalie McChessney's haunting and perplexing surrealist paintings often displaying neutered bald figures in a pastel palette. All in all, "One" does exactly what a survey group exhibition should — it gives a taste of each artists' work, while making you interested to see a little more. As Continuum Art Gallery develops further, we should expect to see these artist's work fleshed out further.

While Continuum is working on limited hours currently, it is a great addition to the downtown art scene and provides an much needed outlet for the large number of visual artists which currently call Fort Wayne their home. Hopefully this will be seen, instead of as competition to the established arts spaces, as an opportunity for all of Fort Wayne's exhibition spaces to find a more fine-tuned or filtered means of exhibition, allowing for a unique experience in each space. This growth of gallery space will allow a whole new set of artists exhibit their work, as well as allow more frequent exhibition by some of the more established Fort Wayne artists. While it is a small step, gallery development is the first true step to the creation of an art market within Fort Wayne's art scene.

‘One’ will run from July 30 through Sept. 2, 2010 and is free and open to the public. Continuum Art Gallery and its retail consignment space is open Wed. – Fri. from 4 – 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon – 8 p.m.
For more information, Continuum Art Gallery can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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