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By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
It is never easy to build a community, even within the art world, which prides itself on connections and shared experiences. While the construction of a community is many times mediated through a geographic space or a specific piece of architecture, Mariah Knight has found a unique way in “Pique: Fort Wayne Art and Culture,” an arts publication which attempts to catalogue and observe the many diverse forms of art and culture represented in our City.
This project began as an extension of Knight’s senior project during her time at the University of Saint Francis’ School of Creative Arts earning a degree in Communication Arts and Graphic Design, which was a smaller format magazine. The successes and general appeal of this project lead to the construction of Pique as a full 100 page, perfect bound, biannual, beautifully designed magazine. Knight explains, “The magazine aims to establish a sincere connection with members of the community and inspire them to take an active role in the cultivation of Fort Wayne’s future.” Ultimately, this project is meant to support Fort Wayne’s creative talent and give it a spotlight, asking others to take interest in its growth and development.
Knight began this process by recruiting her friends to help round out the team responsible for Pique. This includes Sierra Disch, a photography team lead at Heritage Food Service, Kayla Meyers, an instructor at the Fort Wayne Center for Learning, Audrey Clark, an independent writer and editor, and Benjamin Dehr, an interactive media assistant with DeBrands Fine Chocolates. Together, this team of young creatives combined their talent and efforts, and images and words, into Pique.
In addition to the publication, Knight organized a corresponding exhibition, entitled “Pique” to highlight the artists further. This exhibition includes a large number of the artists working within all media like Andrew Dubach, Trevor Rush, Bob Storey, Justin Lim, Emma McCarron, Julie Wall Toles, Molly Stronczek, Nick Ferran, and Erik Howard. It also includes “Catch 22”, the published juried group exhibition included in Pique, printed out in a poster format.
The artists in this exhibition represent a cross section of what young artists in Fort Wayne are doing and it allows us to see common trends and shared concepts among them. While artists like Julie Wall Toles and Molly Stronczek are more regular names, most of the artists in “Pique” have either never exhibited their work, or have done so rarely. Others, like Bob Storey and Justin Lim have large and fully developed followings, but mostly in areas adjacent to the art world like the music and tattoo communities.
Andrew Dubach, a senior at IPFW pursuing a fine art degree, includes “Reaper,” a sculptural piece including modified found objects to create was seems to be a drone like flying device hung on top of two mirroring American flags. This object differs from most of Dubach’s other sculptural pieces which end up being highly abstracted and without pattern, and highly intuitive design elements. Being the only piece of sculpture in the exhibition, Dubach’s “Reaper” shows a new emphasis on both the hand made and the mechanically produced.
The formally “newness” of Dubach’s sculpture is countered by Nick Ferran and Erik Howards much more traditional forms of illustration and drawing. Ferran’s “Pique Cover Piece” is an incredibly detailed illustration of downtown Fort Wayne and its courthouse using micron pens. Howard’s pieces, use charcoal and ballpoint pens to produce beautiful figures. In “With Wisdom Comes Death,” Howard depicts a young female figure in a hoodie wearing a photorealistic mask of an owl’s eyes and beak, and holding a skull. Allegorically, the owl has always been an image of intelligence or wisdom, and in many cultures it was a guardian of the underworld, or of the dead. Howard’s interest in classical concepts and traditional creative styles is unique among contemporary artists as well, and gives his images a fresh but relatable feeling.
Emma McCarron offers a small installation of embroidered works, each being a sewing hoop and cloth with embroidered words and embellished designs. Words and phrases like “Breaking Necks, Collecting Checks” are delicately produced by overlapping thread. McCarron’s work, like Howard’s, blends the old with the new effectively producing a contemporary piece.
Also notable in this exhibition is Trevor Rush and his pieces “Nike” and “The One Percent.” Rush has been a notable artist since his sophomore year in college when he because creating what sometimes seem to be traditional oil paintings. Rush pushes the meaning of traditional still life through contemporary meanings, like “The One Percent” being an image of a roman bust.
The two artists in “Pique” with the most striking work are Molly Stronczek and Julie Wall Toles. Stronczek’s blown out, figuritive, embroidered images are always breathtaking. For “Pique” Stronczek included two pieces which interact almost like a diptych of figures in nature and seemingly floating through space, bound by thread which has been woven through the printed paper. “With the Earth” is an image of a landscape with cropped arms entering from the left side of the image which thread hanging down from each fingertip, as though this figure were playing space like instrument.
Toles never fails to impress with her printmaking and her relatively recent introduction of found natural objects in her work. In “Untitled” Toles includes a cicada, painted gold, laying on a piece of bark. Toles turns such a simple collection of items into a beautiful piece of art through her mastery of design.
More than anything, Pique: Fort Wayne Art and Culture and the work of individuals in our community like Mariah Knight are testaments to the strength of the work being made here and the ability for that art to bind groups of people, some of whom may not seem complimentary, together produces a more rich dialogue and experience of our city. We just encourage young talent like to stay and express itself in new ways and find a way to learn from as well as teach this talent so that they can grow and become the future leaders of the art scene we have inherited.
Now through May 17