A portraiture survey at the Ohio Art Council’s Riffe Gallery
By Jud Yalkut
Starting January 27, running through April 17 is an exhibition at the Ohio Art Council’s Riffe Gallery with more than local interest as it surveys portraiture throughout the state of Ohio. Stretching concepts of what forms portraiture can take, this selection by curator Kay Koeninger of Sinclair Community College spans different media ranging from drawing and acrylic painting to photography and stoneware.
Of the 14 artists selected for this “Here’s Looking at You: Portraits in Ohio,” four are from Dayton including Amy Kollar Anderson, Leesa Haapapuro, James Pate and Francis Schanberger. Columbus presents us with Sid Chafetz, Chas Ray Krider, Marty Shuter, and Chun Arthur Wang, while Leslie Adams hails from Toledo, Ruth Finley and Baila Litton from Cleveland, Marcella Hackbardt from Mount Vernon, Leslie Shiels from Cincinnati and Ellen Jean Price from Oxford.
Curator Koeninger points out the long history of portraiture as it moved from rulers and the elite among the Egyptians to the Renaissance and Baroque period where the lay person, mostly moneyed and influential, became the focus, until the push for individualism in American art. Of the artists in “Here’s Looking at You,” she said “some do portraits based in fantasy and imagination, others do self-portraits. But despite their variety, all offer us a strong dialogue between viewer and subject that is unique in art; all offer us a unique insight not only into others but also ourselves.”
Amy Kollar Anderson, also coordinator of the Rosewood Gallery in Kettering, presents fanciful personages, usually feminine, who recall manifestations of ancient goddesses and mythic beings in such pieces as the furry-eared and glowing animal eyes of “Baset” from her “FeFe” Series (2010) in acrylic and gold foil on canvas. Leslie Shiels, with works in many corporate and public collections in Cincinnati, has several fanciful selections from her “Birdhead Series” including the large bird landing on a woman’s head in the oil on paper “Spoonbill” (2009).
Realism concerns emerge in the work of several artists though skewed through their own personal prisms. Self-taught artist Ruth Finley, who received an Individual Excellence Award from the OAC in 2009, uses non-traditional materials evoking, in Koeninger’s words, the medieval tradition of the Seven Deadly Sins in pieces like “S.S. St. Louis, 1939” (2006) with its shell and hardwood-based ghostly family group. Leesa Haapapuro who is an adjunct instructor at Sinclair and artist in residence of Dayton’s K-12 Gallery, has a representation of her ongoing “The Portrait Project” with variable materials like charcoal, Conté crayon, India ink, pencil and low-fired clay with oil paint, wax and stain. Leslie Adams, primarily an oil painter, shows here two moody images using charcoal on paper, heightened with white: “A Portrait of Michael Shane Neal” (2008) and a “Self-Portrait” (2010).
Master printmaker and Emeritus Professor of The Ohio State University Sid Chafetz has his limited edition portfolio of reduction wood block prints “Seven Poets” (2005) with Samuel Johnson, John Milton, John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and Thomas Gray. Baila Litton uses mixed media and encaustic techniques to capture the aged-skin textures of her more-than-human elderly women like “Mother Harriet” (2006) with the addition of fabric and beads. Master draughtsman James Pate from Dayton has perfected his intricate pen and ink technique to create his often-called “Techno-Cubism” portraits like “Shaquille O’Neil” (2007), “Albert Einstein” and “Barry Bonds” (both 2009).
Photography figures in the work of Marcella Hackbardt, Chas Ray Krider and Francis Schanberger. Hackbardt, an associate professor of art at Kenyon College, does digital chromogenic prints which place individuals in environmental sites in her “Earthbound” series from 2010. Chas Ray Krider makes inkjet prints from digitized color negatives with the Cindy Sherman noirish “Paisley ps-cs” (2005) from his ongoing “Motel Fetish” series; and Francis Schanberger creates an installation situation with his pigment ink two-sided portrait photographs on Tyvek “mis-taken” (2002-2010).
Chun Arthur Wang of the Columbus College of Art and Design shows five untitled oil on board works from his “Everyday People” series of refined portraits filtered through oriental and western tradition. Ellen J. Price, a professor and head of printmaking at Miami University, abstracts pieces of family portraiture with eccentric image placements in her paper plate lithographs like “Portion” (2010) and “Split” (2006-07). Marty Shuter, with an OAC Individual Excellence Award in 2007, uses glazed white stoneware to fashion surrealistic juxtapositions of combined human features with extraneous elements like eggs emerging from mouths in “Five Eggs” (2009) and “Three Eggs (Self Portrait)” (2009).
The various visages in “Here’s Looking at You” have mainly internal dialogues within themselves, sometime challenging the viewer to provide an extension of their affective humanity. In the words of Koeninger: “Through their eyes, we see not only the world but ourselves and others in a transformative new light.”
The Riffe Gallery is located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts on 77 S. High St. in Columbus. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday, and noon – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, For more information call (614) 644-9624 or visit www.riffegallery.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jud Yalkut at JudYalkut@daytoncitypaper.com.