Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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May Show is back ... in May

These days it's almost hard to spot the Toledo Museum of Art as we've known it for decades. Did anyone see famed Bulgarian artist, Christo, down on Monroe Street? He apparently has left his calling card here.

The huge marble edifice itself is wrapped in bright orange scaffolding. Its stately trees are ringed with wood slats. And the large, eccentric objects placed around the new Sculpture Garden under construction also are undercover.

It's a revolution, no doubt. Yet amidst the change, one reassuring tradition has been reinstituted: The May Show. This year, it's in May.

Sure, the real name of this prestigious regional juried show is the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition. And yes, the combined effort of the museum and the Toledo Federation of Art Societies with its 24 member groups, has over the last 82 years scheduled the exhibit in so many different months you might think the original appellation would have been lost in the shuffle.

But you'd be wrong. The May Show it was in the beginning; now, as the museum turns 100, the May Show it is still, for the 83rd year. It is to open Friday and run through July 8.

Those who like to see what outside experts consider the best works in most media from the entire region won't want to miss it. This year, ceramist Bill Hunt and contemporary art curator Britta Konau of the National Museum of Women in the Arts pored over 733 entries, submitted as slides by some 263 artists.

From the many they made their selections, arriving at exactly 100 pieces of art - paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, quilts, glass, metal, and more - all of which do the local community proud.

“They were impressed by the excellent quality of creative work found within our region,” write the Federation co-presidents, Leslie Adams and Wanda Zuchowski-Schick, in the exhibit catalog.

This year's show, in a few words, is sleek and elegant, contemporary in subject matter and techniques, filled with the kind of delicious ambiguities good art offers, and, mostly, a quite pleasant eyeful.

That it is restrained in number and size is due to yet another change in 2001: the show is hung in the Graphic Arts Galleries, those long corridors on the lower level in which prints and photos are usually displayed.

Claude Fixler, a trustee of the Federation and installation coordinator for the museum, said, “There was a 4-foot limit on the works, so they could be installed in the galleries.” Those who recall past TAA Exhibitions may rue the absence of two-story cabins, enormous sculpture - some with moving parts, and sprawling installations that are all the rage these days.

Yet the selection on view proffers plenty of variety, reveals new direction by some established artists, and, perhaps the best part of this annual show, introduces exciting new talents.

Moreover, in yet another twist for the new century, this Area show has an annex: outside the adjacent University of Toledo Center for the Visual Arts entrance are three large-scale sculptures - Monument to the Living by Tom Lingeman, Monument to Craftsmanship by Ken Thompson, and Rock Balloons by Calvin Babich.

As the only unwrapped sculpture on the museum campus, the three strongly vertical pieces are easy to spot. And they add welcome punctuation for the approach to the metal-clad building.

Inside the three arms of the Graphic Arts Galleries is much more, including these highlights:

  • My Mother's Daughter by Janet Ballweg, a striking and stylized oil on panel night scene of peas on a vine growing through an open window.

  • Women's Wear Daily by Carolina Caballero, an ingenious, tongue-in-chic take on beauty via a pink fur-lined lunchbox from which glass “fingers” rise, each wearing an iconic ring in cast and fabricated metals.

  • Lake Louise - Alberta by Peter J. Draughon, a classic Ansel Adams-like large-scale landscape, crisp and clean as the snow itself.

  • Teapot by Thomas S. Madden, a beautifully scaled miniature silver vessel with acrylic handle, a charming blend of function and design.

  • Blu Rose by Kathryn Kain, a brilliant blue base with floating objects by an artist more well known for printmaking.

    Regular visitors will be glad to see new works by such notable locals as flower painter David Herzig and Leslie Adams, whose Young Woman with a Red Scarf reveals this popular artist assaying a more pure approach to European painting. Fiber experts Marcia Derse and Connie Stark and papermaker Dorothy Linden all have pushed their media into new and intriguing directions.

    Baker O'Brien has a statuesque deep green cast glass vessel with gold lining; Gabrielle Mayer continues her series of dresses with Marie, and photographers Jane Vanden Eynden, Sarah Wilcox, and Jessie Avina explore the most personal spaces of all with portraits.

    Opening ceremonies and awards for the show are Friday at 8 p.m. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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