“Work”: A review by Jack Puglisi

Play and work are two elements in the formation of art that are symbiotic; they nurture and are nurtured by the other in the process of creation. In a previous exhibit that he curated for Panza Gallery, Tim Fabian focused on the former. In the current exhibit, “Work,” which opened Saturday, October 8, his emphasis is on the latter.

When deciding upon a single unifying theme from his exhibit, he chose gesture as the aspect of the creative process from which to proceed. Much of the work of each of the six creators featured in this show begins with this most basic of inventive commencements. Gesture is defined by the dictionary as “a movement of part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning.” An accomplished artist himself, Tim often employs the concept of gesture in his own artwork.

It was merely serendipitous that Tim was already personally acquainted with each of the selected artists, and equally unanticipated was that they would all be women. Each was chosen because of fidelity to Tim’s unifying conception in their own unique and genuine way. It was only later, after the artwork was assembled and hung in the gallery, that Tim discovered additional, unanticipated themes. He described to me a “…bold sense of color underlying the gesture” that he hadn’t originally envisioned but was delighted to have discovered existed. Indeed, upon entering the gallery you are immediately aware of the dazzling color emanating  from the walls in every direction.

In preparing this review, I chose one piece that particularly attracted my attention from each of the represented artists. Although I briefly interviewed each of them, my impressions are my own. Artist Susanne Constance’s very suitable comment to me best explains my approach: “The viewer finishes the work.”

Pat Barefoot’s piece “We are all the same” is a timely and universal commentary on the ever-present question of race in America. The picture is a figurative piece that displays the side view of a female subject of African descent. Below the shoulder line, the figure takes on a transparent effect showing the internal structure of the body–bones, ligaments and organs that are common to all humans.  The idea that we are all the same beneath the surface is also disquietingly expressed in the concept of masks. A bold red line surrounds the face on the dignified woman, signifying that the face that we show one another is not necessarily the face we truly possess; or perhaps only the mask on the individual that we choose to see. This is further emphasized by the African-style mask in the background beyond the figure.

Of particular interest to this pen and ink artist were the works of Carlea Cannon. Her series “Deep Rooted” begins with a brief line or portion of writing of her own composition written out in pen on the drawing surface. From there, she twirls and dabs her pen ever outward in graceful and spontaneous combinations of swirls, dots, dabs, circles, and shapes, eventually camouflaging the original text until nothing remains but an elaborate and elegant design. There is a wonderful organic quality to the finished product, as if the work of nature rather than the contrivance of human invention.

Susanne Constance’s “Rare Earth” series of paintings are seven individual works that function as a unified whole; the word that immediately came to my mind when seeing them was “otherworldly.” Each oil painting has a dark background, though with the barest of suggestions of discernible symbols and objects. Hovering within each field are shimmering, winding bands of translucent white light, like an ethereal apparition or a vision from somewhere beyond. Intentional or not, the pictures possess a subdued but compelling spiritual potency.

“Grown up Gossip,” one of two on the subject matter by Janice Schuler, is a Picassoesque painting depicting two individuals chattering in the process of smoking cigarettes. The cubist deformity of the figures seems aptly appropriate to the topic given the disfiguring effects, within and without, of both of the actions, smoking and gossip. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more suitable use of this method of depiction.

It is with special admiration that I approach the work of Kara Snyder. Nonrepresentational painting, far from being something that “anyone can do,” requires an exceedingly high level of proficiency to achieve. A visually challenged artist, Kara draws from the consequences of her circumstance and creates masterful works of abstract symbolism. In “Visions,” an acrylic and mixed-media piece, her inspiration is the result of mirage-like figures that her eyes register as a result of the effects of Charles Bonet syndrome. Inspired by these images, she proceeds to paint. The twin figures, resembling angelic presences, seem to lean in as if offering differing counsels to the subject. From this point, Kara allows the “medium to dictate the picture;” allowing the paint to do as it will. The finished result is stunningly powerful.

When viewing Mary Weidner’s “Reflections,” you almost expect to see yourself mirrored in the picture. Using the entire range of the spectrum, so powerful is her use of vibrant, juxtaposed color and overlapping impressions that the picture seems to be moving in and out in random sequence. Describing her work as family-oriented and autobiographic, the title is as descriptive of the subject matter as it is of the effects.

“Work” curated by Tim Fabian can be seen at Panza Gallery, Sedgwick Street, Millvale PA, starting Saturday October 8 thru October 29th 2016. Gallery hours are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 10-5 and Saturday 10-3. The gallery may be contacted at 412-821-0959 or panzagallery@mac.com.

We are all the same by Pat Barefoot

And Yet, I’m Still Alone by Carlea Cannon

from Rare Earth Series by Susan Constanse

Grown Up Gossip by Janice Schuler

Visions by Kara Snyder

Reflections by Mary Weidner

The Curator Tim Fabian