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Published: Sunday, 7/23/2006

88th Toledo Area Artists' Exhibition is solid, conservative

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
<i>See No Evil</i> by Randy Bennett. <i>See No Evil</i> by Randy Bennett.
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The judges must have been grabbed by Randy Bennett's oil paintings.

They selected two that share subject, scale, and treatment, and are among the few provocative pieces at the 88th Toledo Area Artists' Exhibition.

In Hostage, a man's profile can barely be discerned through a white sheet covering his head and shoulders. Thick orange extension cords wrap around his neck and head. In Bennett's See No Evil, the imagery is expanded to three men, identically sheeted and corded. They're finely crafted, uneasy reminders of U.S. prisoners of war in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

The show in the Canaday Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Art opens Friday evening with a 7:30 awards presentation in the Great Gallery, and continues through Sept. 3.

Overall, the 889 submissions by about 350 regional artists seems to reflect the current conservative aesthetic, noted Sergio De Giusti, one of two judges. Of the 116 works by 92 artists the judges tapped for the exhibit, little is overtly sexual, humorous, political, or outrageously beyond the boundaries of good taste.

"There's kind of a traditional feel. Very conservative, academic work; beauty for art's sake. Good drawing, good painting," said De Giusti, a Detroit-area sculptor. "This is not an exhibit that shakes the art world."

It was another good year for entries (in 2005, slides for 962 pieces were entered by 363 hopefuls), and De Giusti says that's impressive.

"It reflects community interest in the arts."

Last year's best-of-show winner, the Lima artist currently known as Lepo, submitted a primal throne carved from pickled maple (the blanched ribbon of a back), cherry (the curvaceous seat), bass (coated with fiberglass resin for strength and then painted black), and cocobolo wood (the arms). Inside the wood is a tubular aluminum structure. Toledoans may know Lepo's work in the Play Ball sculpture at the Scott Park baseball fields.

Jamie Goode's <i>Contemplation</i> shows a seated woman. Jamie Goode's <i>Contemplation</i> shows a seated woman.
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Jamie Goode's Contemplation is a charming full-sized statue of a young, seated woman in a long, draped dress; it calls to be ensconced in a garden.

Dan Gerdeman's sly painting, I Laughed Like I Always Do, depicts a balloonish fellow in suit and tie, floating (hanging?) above telephone wires. Tucked in the lower corner are a couple of animelike critters, one grinning toothily like a Maurice Sendak creation.

Holly Branstner's large Frozen Epic shows an eerily captivating woman holding a large fish and standing on what appears to be frozen water near fish and bovines. Had Branstner used blues and greens for water and vegetation, this painting might have been pastoral. But she chose reds and grays, and slightly skewed her figure's eyes.

A weighty wood and metal mantel bearing a dozen matching blocks of various colors and materials by Shawn Morin is striking.

Bands of color in subdued gold and green lend pleasure to Elizabeth Mayhle's Covenant XXXII.

Vernon Wolcott's scribbly offering is Rhythms, in graphite. And Andre Frye's geometric charcoal drawing, Industry Three, sparks interest.

Teapot with Red Berries is a fanciful black vessel with candylike red dots by Olga Nagorny. There are a couple of close-up photographs of that most beloved of curves: a round, bare belly taut with child.

A challenge to one's biases about age, beauty, and desirability is a well-done oil painting called Future Imperfect. It's a nude of a large, standing woman, well into middle-age and staring forward, arms at her waist. Uneven breasts lay heavily against her ribs; her belly has multiple folds, her thighs are positively ponderous. Painter: Tim Brewer.

John Barfield's oriental-feel Standing Shoji Screen is an actual room screen made from blond wood and paper. It's top-notch form and function.

Works also include photography (Ruby Beach, Peter Draughan's silver gelatin print, reminds of a 19th-century Japanese print), glass, fabrics, and other media.

Susan J. Bandes, a judge, said the categories of sculpture and painting had many entries, but watercolor, photography, printmaking, and video weren't as well represented.

"And given the reputation of Toledo for glass, I expected to see more glass," said Bandes, director of the Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University.

This year's show is being held later than usual. Once held in May and called the May Show, it's now scheduled around the museum's major exhibits.

Participating artists are current or past residents of the area and must have created their entries since 2003. The show is coordinated by the Toledo Federation of Art Societies, which has 23 member organizations, along with the museum staff.

The $7,950 in awards includes $2,000 to buy pieces for the Art in Public Buildings program of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, said Ken Thompson, president of the federation.

Also opening Friday at 8 p.m. is the Salon des Refuses, an exhibition jam-packed with 97 works that were rejected from the TAA show. It's in the Parkwood Gallery in the Professional Building across Monroe Street from the museum at 1838 Parkwood Ave.

Awards ceremony for the 88th Toledo Area Artists' Exhibition is at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Great Gallery at the Toledo Museum of Art, followed by the opening of the exhibit in the Canaday Gallery. It continues through Sept. 3. There is no admission fee. The museum is at 2445 Monroe St. Information: 419-255-8000.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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