Big spaces and large planes

Bonita Williams Goldberg, “Infinite Presence,” painting.

A unique exhibit opens at Miami University Middletown

By Jud Yalkut

It is always a great pleasure to discover exciting new work in a previously unexplored venue within the perimeters of one’s area. A juried exhibition entitled “Big Spaces and Large Planes” opens the 2011-2012 season through February 9 with the ongoing collaboration between The Arts Council of West Chester & Liberty and Miami University’s Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester, Ohio.

Filling the cycloramic entrance walls of the VOA Learning Center are splendid examples of works by southern Ohio artists from counties and towns ranging from West Chester and Cincinnati to Wayne and Butler. Jurors for this curated exhibition were Andrew Au and Ed Montgomery, both Art faculty of Miami University Middletown, Miami B.F.A. Vickie Waltz, and Miami BS/M.Ed Nancy Woody. The juror committee commented: “Regardless if the piece is representational or abstract these works are dynamic and interesting because of the spaces and planes in the composition.”

Bonita Williams Goldberg has been influenced in her visionary landscapes by the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Diego Rivera and Wolf Kahn, with whom she has studied as well as former Cincinnati artist Michael Scott. Her vibrant color sense and broad impressionistic forms are tempered by crystalline sense of space that often recalls the formalistic open Southwest compositions of O’Keefe. In “Red Sky Reflections” the verdant red ground and sky are trisected by yellow-green, almost amorphous masses of forest growth, while “Cherry Passions” features yellow puffy trees fronting layers of red and reddish-brown forest, all set off against a brilliant yellow sky.

Most evocative of the O’Keefe influence are the panoramic yellow and brown hills punctuated by a bolus of blue sky like an O’Keeffian pelvic opening. The sweeping concavities of valley depressions lie in receding layers of colors ranging through brown, yellow, green and pale green before resolving into a creamy white sky in “Infinite Presence.”

Jolie Harris explores painterly space in a more abstract manner that recalls a subtle Joan Mitchell abstract expressionist touch. Studying at the California College of design in Newport Beach, Harris was late in her practice of painting because of years engaged in various business ventures. Now, with studios in both downtown Cincinnati and in Delray Beach, Florida, she has in recent years continued her studies at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Art in Provence at Deullifit, France.

Harris’ “Shifting Heat” has luminescent arcs of blue-white intersected by areas of red reds and yellows, while “Orange Crush” has tracings of red, orange and yellow in pale articulated spaces like a light reversed Clyfford Still. “Ebb Tide” has broad waves of aquatic color, foam-like splashes of white and orange, and receding atmospheric planes, while “Sancere” sends effervescent bubbles into blue fluidity from a gyrating core.

Gently flowing wisps of color surmount low arching hills in “The Sky Searches for the Prairie Below” by Oxford-resident Amy Mitchell, who works in many media including pen and ink, watercolor, oil, acrylic, cut paper illustration and graphic illustration. Donna Gingrich from British Columbia earned her education degrees from Morehead University with a Masters from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Her work in this exhibition was inspired by a trip across western Canada during the summer of 2010, as reflected in the pale brown trees emerging from the impressionist verticals in her “On the Aspen Trail” with its thickly textured white clouds in a deeply azure sky.

In a complementary departure from painterly style, the fiber works of Michele Lee evolved from her being raised on a small Ohio farm with a love for animals “and a desire to create beautiful things.” After receiving a baccalaureate degree in Art Education from Arizona State University in 1980, a 2005 summer workshop at Miami University with fellow artist Linda Kramer developed her growing interest and skill in quilting, now conceived with ethnic fabrics, smooth buttons, natural elements like feathers and tree branches, and “anything else I can sew or glue together to create my work.”

Lee’s skill in fiber art is here demonstrated with her Western mesa hills flowing through fabric waves of hills over scattered brush and enveloped by deep quilted tones of intense and circuitous blue in her “Departure.” “Stripe Revolution (Full)” is an intricate diamond Mandala with luminescent reliefed squares highlighted by black-and-white checkered frames within an intensely faceted border of secondary striped triangles.

Also included in “Big Spaces and Large Planes” are: the loosely graphic paintings of Cathy Fiorelli who shares studio space with eleven other artists at the Middletown Pendleton Art Center; the perceptive works on femininity of Pattie Byron from West Chester; the Kente Cloth-inspired art quilts by Miami University-educated Linda Kramer; the mixed media of Oxford’s Maureen Nimis with her cut paper and photographic work; the small works by Catalog & Slavic Librarian at Miami University, Russian-born Masha Misco; and the jewel-like small photographs of Denver-born Cincinnati resident Brian Luman whose exploration of urban crevices is fueled by his skateboard and camera.

The Miami University Voice of America Learning Center is located at 7847 VOA Park Dr. off Cox Road in West Chester, Ohio. For hours and more information call (513) 895-8862 or visit www.muohio.edu/voalc.

Reach DCP visual art critic Jud Yalkut at JudYalkut@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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NY born, moved to Ohio in 1973 to be Assistant Professor of Art at Wright State University (1973-1977); in NYC taught at School for Visual Arts, York College of the City University, and NYU Continuing Ed; six-time recipient of OAC Individual Artist Fellowings (including one in Criticism); 2005 Ohioana Citation in the Visual Arts in Ohio; 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District.

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