The works of Doug Fiely at Visceral Gallery
By Jud Yalkut
The Visceral Gallery in Centerville devotes most of its shows to the fine artists in this immediate area, but also allows for out-of-town artists in Ohio whose work achieves the gallery’s high standards. Such an artist is Douglas R. Fiely who hails from northwest Ohio in the small village of Stryker, near where he presently teaches printmaking at Defiance College where he has had a full-time position since 2001 after teaching high school classes in Stryker for thirty years.
Much of Fiely’s work in painting centers on “people, places and things” from his immediate environment, the one which he knows best. He is proficient in ceramics with slipped carved pieces and is a master printmaker (for which he has been known statewide for many years), but it is his paintings which are featured in the current exhibition at Visceral through November 17.
Fiely was born in 1950 “in a tilted house overlooking Grand Lake in Celina” where his father was the proprietor of a “landing” with several cottages and two bait shops. His interest since early years was divided between music, particularly of 60s vintage and Bob Dylan, and art which came to dominance when he became an art major at Bowling Green University in 1968.
His sophomore year there culminated in a second place award for an intaglio print called “Guard at the Gate” and his print work continues in his studio with his own press and collaborations with some Oregon poets from Seizure Press. He still plays, and sings with his acoustic guitar, having retired the electric guitar previously used with the rock group Hip Waiters.
Fiely states his philosophy as: “The life of an artist is a careful balance between freedom and control, between choice and planning, between memory and careful observation.” This patient sense of observing an
d visually commentating is immediately apparent upon viewing Fiely’s varied paintings.
He paints portraits, many of them lithe women whose slender necks are reminiscent of Modigliani, and still lifes with incised lines relating to the carving and preparation of printing blocks. His women are often in groupings in which lines of delineation seem to flow from one figure to another around clothing, sleeves and body curves as in the fluid lines of “Blues Sisters,” the four pensive figures in a row of “Serendipity,” and the scarved trio of gesturing “Seated Gypsies” with a flute and magical fingers.
Fiely turns the art of still life into an observational dialogue, as in the deeply etched olives and inverted conical cocktail glasses in “Gimlet Serving,” the purple trio of eggplants and the hanging red chilies of “Still Life with Eggplant,” the horizontal spread of a bowl of oranges with milk jugs and upright frilled onions in “Still Life with Oranges,” and the vertical compartmentalized black shelf full of terra cotta and blue-and-white porcelain.
“Three for Sushi” unites the two genres with the three graceful figures standing at the head of a serving table replete with dishes of fish and shellfish awaiting their careful dissection for preparation. Female figures continue to hold sway as they sit at a table before “Three Plates,” or singly sit at tables for their servings during “Fruit Salad Day” and “Morning Coffee,” or demurely sit with hands crossed over a plate of fruit in “Blush.” Seven women are compartmentalized within stacked window segments in “Window View,” and single portraits are personalized with their preoccupatio
ns such as the white-bearded “Painter with Pint,” the blue-bloused “Duchess with Beer,” “Vic with Killians” with her brown sweater and pendant necklace, and the pig-tailed “Hope with Mug” in her pink summer dress.
These portraits seem to define Fiely’s milieu and his community, as though one can easily enter this communal pub of village life and actually meet these characters. Landscapes with strong delineating black outlines import local structural features into Fiely’s world as we confront the worn white buildings and paired gray silos of “Grain Elevator,” the rowed “Houses on Sessions Street” with their gabled porches and telephone pole crosses, and the red complexes of “Red Barns” seen at a distance over three levels of fields and its neighboring also-red single “Summer Barn.”
This rural paradise which is the stomping grounds of this prolific painter is also full of burgeoning plant life. “Red Tulips” sway in the breeze along with their wide-bladed leaves, black and white “Springtime Birds” perch on swerving branches within a calligraphic abstraction, “Grey Birds” perch and peck in a horizontal composition while other birds sit on different tan and gray vertical levels in “Bird Stack,” a forest of green leaves supports sprays of pale “July Yellow Hollyhocks,” and vertical vine-like plants reveal themselves as “Wild Onions and Lilies.” Not to be forgotten is Fiely’s long term love for fishing since his lakeside youth, memorialized by the stylized forms of stacked “Blue Fish,” the curving arcs of these sea creatures with one skeletonized in “Fish Table,” and the small boat marina of “Fishing Channel.”
The Visceral Gallery is located at 65 West Franklin Street in Centerville. Gallery hours are 10 am-6 pm Tuesday-Saturday. (937) 409-0069.
Reach DCP visual arts critic Jud Yalkut at firstname.lastname@example.org