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Artlink 2015 Members exhibition: Good and Plenty

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Annual exhibitions tend to ebb and flow over the years as groups of artists develop, move, and grow. They are subject to all of the normal pressures seen in the art world and which are felt by the artists themselves. Of the few annual exhibitions in Fort Wayne, the Artlink Members exhibition is one of the oldest and continuous. The 2015 Members exhibition is a particularly excellent version, providing the viewer a wide range of incredibly diverse works of art. Artlink’s Members show asks artists who have chosen to become members to submit one piece of original work in any media each, and it regularly has over 200 pieces submitted each year. This snapshot of the arts is an excellent way of understanding our arts scene and finding newcomers.

As Artlink has evolved over the last 40 years, so has its artists. Remarkably, there are a large number of artists who have multi-decade long relationships with the organization and have been in the members exhibition off and on throughout that time. The 2015 Members exhibition included a number of these artists like Terry Ratliff who has become synonymous with the Fort Wayne art scene, and Norm Bradley, who has an amazing legacy within Fort Wayne’s art scene and whose roots go far back into the Fort Wayne Art Institute which produced the original spark of an arts community to allow for an alternative space which was the origin of Artlink, on Broadway near what is now the Brass Rail and The Phoenix. Other members exhibition regulars included in this year’s exhibition are Suzanne Galazka and her amazing watercolor nudes, Theresa Thompson, known for her photography and mixed media creations, Rebecca Stockert’s watercolor monsters, and Alexandra Hall’s colorful characters.

Each year there are usually a small number of stand out pieces, and 2015 was no different. Artists like Marcy Albridge-Adams, David Seculoff, George Morrison, Justin Johnson, Michael Hamlin, Elly Tullis, Don Osos, Lizbeth Yager, and John Gruse. Seculoff and Hamlin included beautiful abstractions, reminding the viewer that Fort Wayne is just as much a home to the abstract as it is to the more traditional and representational. Johnson included a subtle and sleek work on paper that harkens Diebenkorn and Cathedral stained glass. Tullis reminded us just how great of a painter she is with “The Admirable Admiral”.

Don Osos’ “Still Life with Ukulele” was a standout piece in its simplicity and it's fresh but also anachronistic cubist collage method of creation. Osos uses a large variety of textured papers and an excellent sense of spatial awareness to construct a flat image which bursts out of the picture plane. The cut paper linework that is produced from piecing everything together allows for a high definition of each form, making the eye hone in on the exact colors and shapes making each object in the picture plane. Living somewhere between Braque and Liechtenstein, Osos’ still life reminds the viewer of the vitality in art forms which sometimes seem lost like the use of collage to complete an entire image.

Lizbeth Yager’s “Lanterns” was another stand out image which this writer found captivating. Yager’s name is somewhat familiar in the Fort Wayne art scene having been around for a while as a teacher and artist who exhibits, but not too often. “Lanterns”, a gorgeous cacophony of simple, hand drawn, geometric shapes which are layered and aligned to produce a relatively flat and incredibly heavy feeling image of japanese lanterns. The electricity in colors chosen, as well as the heavy repetition give “Lanterns” a hot steady breath, keeping the viewers attention, and the perspective falls into itself, like a kaleidoscopic image.

Of the standout pieces in the 2015 Artlink Members Exhibition, John Gruse’s “Cameo” was easily the most impressive. Gruse, known mostly for his paintings and collages which have a prominent role for dominant women and high eroticism brings something very new, reserved, and refreshing in “Cameo”, an image of a woman looking over her shoulder and surrounded by a mysterious abstract cloud which intertwines with her red hair and what appears to be her clothing as well.

In “Cameo,” Gruse brings in elements made popular by modernist artists, both abstract and representative. The more curious viewer will find a bit of Tamara De Lempicka in the female form, and some Francis Picabia in the organic hard shaped abstraction in the foreground and background. All of this culminates in an enthralling piece that captivates the viewer. Much more accepting, and open to a broader audience than some of Gruse’s other paintings, “Cameo” presents a potential new avenue for this artist to gain a new following. Not to overshadow or redirect from the rich history of his other work, Gruse is now presented with an opportunity to gain a wider audience and potentially bring more people into the work he is better known for by drawing them in with more traditional forms of beauty.

The 2015 Artlink Members exhibition has a large array of talented artists, and like it has done each year, has afforded them an opportunity to find new audiences and attempt new approaches to their work. Without more quality venues like this, Fort Wayne’s art scene will continue to grow at conservative rates. With more spaces and more opportunities, all of the artists mentioned in this article will finally have the room to spread their wings and show us what they can really do.

For More Info:
2015 Artlink Members Show
July 24-Sept 1

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