Home > Features > Six area artists look back on 2006

Six area artists look back on 2006

By Jack Cantey

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-12-20


For those of you who are regular readers (Iíll buy all five of you a pint at Henryís), you by now have realized that I am passionate about talking with people. I love talking with artists and those who appreciate, celebrate, and promote the arts. I love mining their complex personalities for private and communal beliefs, doubts, and ambitions.

With this final Fort Wayne Reader of 2006, I am handing my space over to six of this cityís most influential, talented, and articulate voices from the visual arts community. I asked each of them to reflect on the year that was in the local arts scene and to look forward to the untapped possibilities of 2007.

Charlie Cummings, artist and owner, Charlie Cummings Clay Studio

FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
Cummings: First, Iíll say Iím not going to try to be unbiased. The Muse of Fire: The Ceramic Figure (here at CCCS) is the best exhibit I attended this year in Fort Wayne. The exhibit featured figurative ceramics by 11 contemporary artists from across the US and Canada. As a ceramic artist, I was amazed by the technical prowess these artists brought to the making of the figures in this show. They pushed the limits of what clay can do. The life-sized figures were light enough that one person could carry them Ė a real achievement using a medium that is also used to make bricks.

FWR: Which local artist most caught your attention this year?
Cummings: Three local artists caught my attention this year. They are Nathan Abels, Kat Rohrbacher, and Eric Tarr. Individually their styles are very different, but all three are extremely talented young artists. Nathanís work conveys a strong sense of austerity and isolation. Katís paintings draw us in to the world of the artistís mind Ė a world of curiosity, self examination, and hopefulness. Eric Tarr uses repetitive symbols like red balloons, windmills, and the human figure in his paintings. Viewing his paintings one feels the importance of relationships in the artistís life pitted against the irresistible drive to make art.

FWR: What was the most powerful single artwork you encountered in 2006?
Cummings: Two pieces come to mind: a jar by renowned ceramic artist Ron Meyers and a painting by Eric Tarr. Ericís painting entitled Reserved has a nude woman holding an apple with the word ďReservedĒ stenciled across the bottom of the canvas. The woman is the epitome of average beauty. The expression on her face is happy and inviting, but somehow withdrawn and distant. Ron Meyers has been making pottery for decades. He recently retired from teaching at the University of Georgia. Ron throws very fluid and rough pots and decorates them with incised images of animals. The jar I find so appealing has fish on it. Not just fish; these fish are quite possibly the ugliest and most frightening denizens of the deep. I purchased both of these pieces. The power they have over me comes from living with them.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
Cummings: My favorite venue is my gallery. Every exhibit, I have the nearly unique honor of living with a whole body of an artistís work. If you walk through the gallery once, you will come away with an impression of the work. If you walk through the gallery every day for a month, your impressions will change every time. My gallery is my favorite venue because it allows me to spend time with art every day.

FWR: What one change would you like to see occur in the local arts scene in 2007?
Cummings: All I really want for Christmas is more participation by the art appreciating public. I find it disappointing when I go to an art event (like say, a reception at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art) and find the same 150-200 people who attend every art event in Fort Wayne. Donít get me wrong, Iím happy to see this core of dedicated art lovers. The question is, where is everyone else? Attending an exhibit is casting your vote for similar exhibits in the future. Support the things you like, and you will see more of it in the future.


Fred McKissack, writer

FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
McKissack: Both wood exhibits at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (Connections) and Artlink (Wood Ė Sculptural and Functional). At least for me, itís an important reminder that the word ďartĒ encompasses many mediums and traditions. And yes, something that is primarily utilitarian can also be an expression of the artists-designers philosophy, especially in the age of mass production where objects have no story, no ďsoul.Ē

FWR: Which local artist most caught your attention this year?
McKissack: Mee Kyung Shim. It was an honor to spend a couple of hours with her in her studio, talking about her work and life. Her work is incredible, and her perception and perspective is refreshing as evidenced in her work. However, Iíd like to add someone else: George McCullough. I recently interviewed Betty Fishman, and she was gracious enough to give me a tour of her home. In her living room rests a most remarkable painting of New York done by McCullough. Iím new to Fort Wayne, and I wish I couldíve at least met the man. Again, Fort Wayne is lucky to have Shim, McCullough, and many other talented artists who call this place home.

FWR: What was the most powerful single artwork you encountered in 2006?
McKissack: Iím a fan of independent film, especially with microcinema. Iíd have to say that John Commorato, Jr.ís "Valentine" was both a fine example of filmmaking at the local level, as well as well-structured narrative, with good actors, that didnít romanticize Midwestern values. When I was a tween/teen in St. Louis, the local PBS channel had a weekly show dedicated to local and regional filmmakers. This was way back when people had to send out Super-8 and 16 millimeter film to get it developed and editing was, at least for me, a gooey, pasty nightmare. With digital cameras and editing suites within the means of many people, and the continued growth of online forums such as youtube.com, I think weíre witnessing a renaissance of a peopleís cinema.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
McKissack: Iím very hopeful about whatís going on at the Kachmann Institute: the gallery and the space. However, Iíd like to point out that some of the local coffee houses have been supporters of Fort Wayneís artists. Iíve seen some good work, especially photography, while sipping coffee. If Iíd save some money by not drinking so much coffee, I could probably afford to buy some work.

FWR: What one change would you like to see occur in the local arts scene in 2007?
McKissack: For people to stop complaining that thereís nothing to do. Also, more microcinema. Hell, Rapid City, South Dakota, was a Mecca for microcinema for a while. Youíre telling me Fort Wayne canít be a hub for this movement?


Julia Meek, artist

FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
Meek: My personal favorite was the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Texts & Textures exhibit: clever, varied & fresh!

FWR: Which local artist most caught your attention this year?
Meek: Many did, to be sure, but especially Terry Ratliff. From his Fort Wayne board game illustrations to his continued support of worthy causes, and every sweet new piece heís done in between, he continues to delight.

FWR: What was the most powerful single artwork you encountered in 2006?
Meek: Believe it or not, it was a face-to-face encounter with Portlandia, Raymond Kaskyís 36-foot hammered copper statue gracing Portlandís ďport sideĒ. This is large-format public art at itís finest, and though slightly figurative for my usual tastes, itís just plain wonderful.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
Meek: Museum, gallery, shop, university, we have quite a range of accessible art...I especially enjoy a good private showing in a cozy bar or coffee house, and would have to count the art fairs as good views also, so I guess I canít just pick one!

FWR: What one change would you like to see occur in the local arts scene in 2007?
Meek: We must have more public art projects! Itís the first thing I look for in my travels around the country, and probably the most satisfying way to share art anywhere. Though they take an incredible amount of planning and execution, just remember the year of the mastodon, and what energy and art awareness it created.


Kat Rohrbacher, artist

FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
Rohrbacher: What sticks out in my mind was the Seven Young Contemporaries show at Artlink. The work was great, done by young, up-and-coming local artists. It was great that Artlink picked up the show after it had gotten rejected by another gallery. The turn out was huge, there were more young people there than I have ever seen at an Artlink opening and it is a good thing to broaden the audience and get more people into the gallery. Most of the people in the show had never been in a real exhibit so it was a good learning experience for them. It is nice that Fort Wayne allows us to be able to have those kind of opportunities.

FWR: Which local artist most caught your attention this year?
Rohrbacher: I would have to say John Commorato, Jr. He is ambitious and his work is raw and interesting. He is one of the only filmmakers in Fort Wayne, and he makes our scene so much more rounded. We need his work in Fort Wayne. I think it is important to have that element.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
Rohrbacher: Artlink. The variety of shows they have throughout the year is amazing. Itís not the same artists over and over. There are people that show there regularly and it is nice to have a few constants and watch them grow and there is always new work to see. Artlink gets a lot of artists from around the country but also lets local artists and members have exhibit opportunities. No matter what form of art you like, whether it be sculpture, photography, or painting, there is always a show for you to see throughout the year.


Charles A. Shepard III, executive director, Fort Wayne Museum of Art

FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
Shepard: I think the most inventive and thought-provoking exhibit I attended this year was organized by Dr. Kristin Fedders and her students at St. Francis just before her tragic passing. Kristin and Stephanie and several other really insightful people created an exhibit that explored contemporary design as presented (and rallied for) by the Target chain. I applaud their courage to step outside normal aesthetic boundaries to look for a commitment to a heightened sensitivity to aesthetics in everyday life.

FWR: Which local artist most caught your attention this year?
Shepard: This is such a tough, tough question because there is a lot of talent surrounding us. Three people seemed head and shoulders above everyone this year Ė Kat Rohrbacher, Mee Kyung Shim, and Nathan Abels just burn the house down. Their minds are aflame, their individual mastery of their media is high, and their voices are fresher and more content-laden than anyone I saw in Chicago or New York this year. These three artists are intellectually nimble, aesthetically capable of walking the razor's edge, and give us all reason to celebrate the fact that the raw strength of contemporary American Art is found not in the mythic urban jungle, but the heartland.

FWR: What was the most powerful single artwork you encountered in 2006?
Shepard: Matt Shaffer's Jinx that was in the ever inventive Charlie Cummings' exhibit Muse of Fire immediately leaps to mind. Charlie has curated a bevy of excellent exhibits (here and out of town) but he went way over the edge with this daring show and the inclusion of ceramic hero Matt Shaffer was brilliant. Shaffer pushes envelopes most artists never open and to walk into Charlie's pristine gallery and confront Matt's characters was a bit like meeting Keith Richards at your birthday party.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
As a museum person, I must admit I get my kicks getting out of our space and into the artists' space. So my favorite visit of the entire year was a jaunt up to Mee's studio. She was her typical understated, gracious self as she showed me work after work that just touched my soul.

FWR: And, finally, what one change would you like to see occur in the local arts scene in 2007?
This city needs to come to grips with the fact that it has much to offer up-and-coming artists and start initiating programs to subsidize artists' taxes and rents to stimulate the kind of cultural scene that would transform the city aesthetically and economically.


Deb Washler, executive director, Artlink
FWR: What was the best local art exhibit/event you attended in 2006?
Washler: There were many noteworthy local art exhibits in 2006. It would be unfair of me to choose only one. The E4 exhibit at the Charlie Cummings Gallery was wonderful as well as the Cummings Galleryís current exhibit, Cup: The Intimate Object V. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, First Presbyterian Church, and the University of Saint Francis all had interesting and varied exhibits. IPFW displayed works from Polly Davis which were beautiful sculptural wood pieces. Artlink displayed one of the best regional exhibits with high quality work from artists such as (but not limited to) Audrey Riley, Kat Rohrbacher, Dianna Huxhold, (previously listed artists were the Regional Award Winners and will have their own show in the fall of 2007), Michael Poorman, Neal McDonald, and Ellen Stuckey. Those represent just a small portion of the talent that was displayed in the gallery. The Seven Young Contemporaries was a dynamic show displaying the talent of up-and-coming artists.

FWR: What is your favorite venue (traditional or non-traditional) to view art in Fort Wayne?
Washler: Any venue with great artwork that helps the local artist is a favorite place to view art work.

FWR: What one change would you like to see occur in the local arts scene in 2007?
Washler: This is not a change but a continuation of what has been happening in Fort Wayne. I would like to see a continuation of increased communication and collaboration between local art venues. By working together the venues increase their visibility and audience. Working together to foster an appreciation of art in our community is always an admirable goal.


How would you rate this story?
Bad
1 2 3 4 5
Excellent
12 people reviwed this story with an average rating of 4.0.
 
 
FWR Archive | Contact Us | Advertise | Add Fort Wayne Reader news to your website |
©2017 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.
 

©2017 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.