The work created by the three artists featured here functions on more than one level – as good art generally does. There are the esthetic issues and those of skill and talent, but there are also the specific (and related) ways that the work addresses the world around us. These artists create imagery consistently based on biological/geological forms, but there is also an aspect of the precarious or unwanted involved. In each case, the work speaks through the abstract language of the artistic medium and also in a way that embraces language-based ideas relevant to important issues in current society. Mark Keffer Class of 88'
Overflow acrylic on canvas, 46 x 60”, 2017
The paintings of Susan Danko depict highly evocative realms of natural forms, by way of beautiful painterly means. There is an inventive sense of discovery displayed in the creation of her work that results in scenes combining the naturalistic and the otherworldly; she expands and heightens what we already know from direct experience. There is a genuine concern for environmental issues that serves as an impetus for this work, but not in a way that becomes didactic or that compromises artistic integrity. This seems to be an effective approach, one in which different meanings resonate and reveal themselves in a layered fashion. From toxic algae blooms to flooding due to extreme weather events to issues regarding damaged habitats, Danko’s concerns are inextricable from a sense of beauty, mystery, and hope.
A number of three dimensional works serve as an extension of her painting; she constructs sculptural installations from materials such as cut, painted paper and cellophane, vinyl, and plastic. This work further pushes the line between figuration and abstraction as the depictions exist in a physical depth. The concerns and imagery are related to the paintings, but create a different kind of space in which to immerse the viewer. A whimsical quality in this work intelligently balances the weight and urgency of Danko’s intentions.
Secondary Succession acrylic on canvas, 70 x 96”, 2013
As a contemporary landscape painter, experiencing the natural environment is an integral part of my creative process. …The paintings that I create are informed by my thoughts and responses to the new state of our contemporary natural environment. They are constructed from both memory and observation, and arise from real and imagined environmental scenarios. With them, I examine the power and fragility of nature caught in a state of flux between destruction and renewal. In creating these paintings, I hope to raise awareness, and inspire a greater respect for
the environment that we all share.
Susan Danko received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She has shown her work extensively throughout the region and nationally, including museum exhibitions at the Attleboro Art Museum, MA; Rockford Art Museum, IL; Southern Ohio Museum, Portsmouth; Huntington Museum of Art, WV; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown; and gallery exhibitions at Cheryl Hazan Gallery, NYC; SPACES, Cleveland; Bonfoey Gallery, Cleveland; Angela Meleca Gallery, Columbus; Harris Stanton Gallery, Akron; among numerous others. Her work is in many collections including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation; BF Goodrich Corporation, Charlotte, NC; Springfield Medical Center, Springfield, MO; Metro General, Cleveland; Summa Foundation, Akron; and the Ohio Arts Council. Danko is the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and the Fine Arts Work Center/OAC collaborative residency in Provincetown, MA.
She is represented by Bonfoey Gallery, Cleveland. www.susandanko.com
Wood Interior acrylic on canvas, 46 x 60”, 2017, Collection of Stark State College-Akron Workforce Center
Heir Apparent found cardboard and wood, 31 x 22 x 14”, 2015
Mark Schatz is an artist who works in sculpture/ installation, drawing, monotype, photography, and public art. His work is the opposite of what might be called formulaic, in that each body of work – while part of a bigger, cohesive sensibility – retains a distinct set of esthetic and idea-based components. One of the general subjects of his work relates to the landscape and its relationship to human activity, but never is this addressed through overt or simplistic means. Meaning isn’t a singular ingredient in his hands. The qualities that first strike the viewer of these various works are creativity, originality, beauty, and skill; only afterwards do aspects of specific content and intention come to mind, and then in an open-ended manner.
Of the different series Schatz has created, ‘Autonomous Landscapes’ might be the most emblematic of his efforts. In these works, he incorporates commonly expendable materials such as EPS foam (expanded polystyrene, similar to Styrofoam) and corrugated cardboard to remarkable ends. These sculptures are presented on pedestals in a standard viewing position or inverted, suspended from the ceiling. Often in this series, meticulously crafted landscapes rest upon (or beneath) large, gracefully carved masses of EPS foam. The stark white of the foam has clear connotations of icebergs/glaciers which work in brilliant contrast to the green landscape. An engaging and uneasy relationship is created between the potentially damaging man-made materials and the beauty of the natural forms depicted. Corrugated cardboard serves a similar function in this series, especially due to its pervasive and disposable nature.
Three Sisters found cardboard and wood, 21 x 21 x 17”, 2015
Schatz inventively depicts geological striations and mountainous forms, atop which reside precarious and fragile domicile-like structures, possibly suggesting a delicate balance within current ecological realities.
In an increasingly mobile and fluid landscape, the lingering meanings that are embedded in physical spaces and places become even more interesting and precious. These meanings are still cultivated, claimed, and transformed by those who seek them out. Frequently utilizing existing spaces, simple construction materials, and accumulations of castoff materials, I try to evoke something deeply familiar in surprising ways. I acknowledge and even relish the fragmentation, distortion, and reinvention of our remembered places.
Mark Schatz is currently an Associate Professor and the Foundations Program Coordinator for the School of Art at Kent State University. He has also taught at San Jacinto College, Houston, TX; Glassel Studio School at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; and Loyola University, New Orleans. He received a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the University of Texas, Austin. His work has been shown at the Sally Otto Gallery, Mt. Union College, TX; Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, Austin, TX; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Staten Island, NY; and The Sculpture Center, Cleveland; among others, including several exhibitions in Kent. www.markschatz.com
Clefts, Rifts, and Ruptures #4 monotype, 11 x 20”
“In these paintings from the larger CHEMICAL WARFARE series, I navigate the micro interiors of the human body and its visual and philosophical relation to macro properties of the cosmic realm,” states artist Laura Vinnedge, regarding her recent work. “The multi-layered blended imagery references ultimate internal and external environments that challenge and investigate inherent risks in the practices of genetic modification, biochemical engineering and pharmaceuticals. CHEMICAL WARFARE promotes an exploration of our collective definition of progress and the need to seek balance between seemingly altruistic benefits and the insidious and viral nature of chemical warfare on our bodies and environments.”
Viewers of Vinnedge’s paintings are confronted with lush and elaborate patterns and colors that, along with the organic forms and physical textures, create deeply appealing esthetic scenarios. Learning of her thoughts and intentions regarding this work additionally opens alluring complexities and thought-provoking paths for consideration. The beautiful, almost hallucinogenic appearance of these works does not initially reveal a more troubling element at work, allowing for an experience that reveals itself in time. The dot patterns are simultaneously abstract elements with a striking visual impact and representations of chemical agents so prevalent in our daily lives. She states, “These paintings represent my departure from years of painting the exterior of the human figure. For inspiration, I moved instead to the body’s visually lush interiors.” But these lush interiors are being invaded by molecular forms introduced through household chemicals and materials. The malevolent agents known as dioxins, PCBs, phthalates and bisphenols, etc., are a serious concern and are subtly and inventively addressed in Vinnedge’s work for important, informative ends.
(from) Lymph Nodes with White Blood Cells and Macrophanges (for Susan and Jan) #3, 36 x 36”, latex and oil paint on panel, 2015
Laura Vinnedge is Associate Professor of Art and Coordinator of Painting and Drawing at the Myers School of Art, University of Akron. She earned a BS in Art Education from Western Michigan University and an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, IN. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council and many travel grants, including the Venice Fellowship from Myers School of Art to attend the Venice Biennale. Her work has been exhibited extensively on the national level, with solo shows at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL; Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH; Glenville State College, Glenville, WV; ARC Gallery, Chicago, IL; B.K. Smith Gallery, Lake Erie College, Painesville, OH; Carnegie Arts Center, Covington, KY; and Sinclair College, Dayton, OH; among others. Numerous group shows include Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL; Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, IN; Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, IL; Crossroads Gallery/ ArtPrize, Grand Rapids, MI; Riffe Gallery, Columbus, OH; SPACES, Cleveland; and Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts, Fredericksburg, VA. www.lauravinnedge.com
Chemical Warfare PCBs 24 x 24”, latex, oil and enamel on panel, 2009
Chemical Warfare HCB 24 x 24”, latex, oil and enamel on panel with plaque, 2013