Disabled artists in the spotlight in a new exhibition at the Massillon Museum
MASSILLON − The paintings hanging on the walls of the Massillon Museum during the “Artist to Artist” exhibition represent a unique fusion of non-traditional artists with local professionals.
Approximately 20 pieces are displayed in the Fred F. Silk Community Room Gallery, both the work of artists with intellectual disabilities and notable artists whose work has been exhibited in galleries and other exhibitions.
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Portrait style paintings. Pieces with geometric shapes. A woman’s shoe placed on a sewing grid. Abstract oil pastel drawings. A whimsical mix of cats and elephants in an urban landscape. Worm-shaped pieces of glass fixed to an oil painting of superimposed grids on black canvas. A colorful church.
They were made by the artists of the Just Imagine Gift Gallery in Canton.
Vicki Boatright, curator of the new exhibit, said the artists inspired each other to push each other in new directions creatively.
“I think people don’t recognize the depth and value of artwork that people with disabilities, who look at life from a different perspective, what their work can represent, and that’s important,” Boatright said.
“It’s a display of exceptionality in my mind in every way,” she added. “You take people who have already reached a certain mark in our community; they’re educated or they’re well versed and well known in the community for the artwork that they do, and you put them with individuals that the people tend to overlook, and incredible things are happening.
“And I think that reflects our whole culture, that we often ignore things or ignore people and don’t recognize the value, and you give them a platform, and you realize that’s more than I never imagined it could happen.”
Participating local artists include Laura Hollis, Sarah Winther Shumaker, Stephen Tornero, Tim Eaken, Dave Sherrill, Tim Carmany, Christopher Triner and Dave Kuntzman. Another contributing artist is Emily Vigil, coordinator of Studio M at the Massillon Museum.
The reception of the exhibition is on Saturday
The partner artists are with Just Imagine, an art program provided by The Workshops Inc. (TWi), a Canton-based nonprofit agency that serves 400 adults with disabilities in Stark County. Their artworks in the exhibition are only identified by first names for privacy reasons.
The public is invited to a reception for the exhibit from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 121 Lincoln Way E in downtown Massillon. Admission to the museum is free; the exhibition runs until September 7. Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
“It felt like a conversation,” Alex Coon, executive director of the Massillon Museum, said of the collaborating artists. “You can definitely tell that there is a relationship between the artwork.
“I get excited when I see artists that I’ve used to working with for so many years…but they’re pushing and expressing themselves in different ways. The synergy is just obvious, the couples work – c is exhilarating.”
The exhibit proves that the work of foreign artists can “hang alongside the works of anyone in this county and hold their own,” Boatright said.
“I love their unique beautiful minds”
In most cases, the paired artists met to discuss ideas, styles and techniques while viewing each other’s work, Boatright explained.
Sherrill said he was lucky to live in an area that values the art of people with intellectual disabilities.
“I have become friends with a few of them, and I love their unique beautiful minds,” he said in comments accompanying his artwork at the Massillon exhibit.
He said he was moved by the work of Just Imagine artist Priscilla, including her use of patterns and vibrant colors. “I allowed myself the freedom to feel his movement when creating my own works,” Sherrill wrote.
“Magical things can happen”
Boatright, who creates art under the name BZTAT, has been paired with artist Just Imagine Scott. Boatright has previously worked with artists at Just Imagine Gift Gallery, and she operates BZTAT Studios in downtown Guangzhou, where she plans to continue working with non-traditional artists.
Scott’s paintings feature narratives while BZTAT’s work is more of a “snapshot in time,” she explained.
“He puts a lot of stuff in,” added Boatright. “I don’t usually do that, so those two things were challenges.”
Scott is also inspired by the paintings of Pablo Picasso.
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For his piece, Boatright was inspired by Picasso’s “Night Fishing in Antibes”. She added one of her signature cats.
Just Imagine artist Peggy was paired with Kuntzman, who paints detailed, layered grids while creating an interplay of negative and positive space.
Peggy drew overlapping grids on a black canvas with oil pastels, Boatright explained. Inside the negative spaces, she drew pictorial representations of different types of dreams.
“Some dreams are fuzzy and intangible, some dreams are frightening, some dreams are pleasant, and some are ambitious,” Boatright said. “Then, bringing us back to reality, she stuck buttons on the surface, adding a dynamic and paradoxical quality.
“Where (Kuntzman’s) work is analytical and precise, Peggy’s is more emotional and personal. Both artists, however, play with perspective and visual reality.”
Each artistic duo produced captivating results, Coon said.
“Art, my boy, really shows that in the right hands of someone who can guide you, in the process of expression, magical things can happen.”
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ebalintREP.