Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions

Cleveland art


Let All God's People Say Amen For five years, Cleveland State University Urban Studies Professor Helen Liggett photographed the faithful members of Morning Star Baptist Church on Shaker Boulevard. The resulting series of more than 100 black-and-white photographs has none of the academic distance or analytical coolness you might expect from a scholar whose expertise includes urban planning and theory. Liggett's unposed photos are like snapshots from the congregation's scrapbook, tenderly capturing the commitment these churchgoers have to their faith and to each other, and — judging from the subjects' lack of consciousness of the camera — their trust in the photographer. Although the installation is at times distracting — the pictures without a foam-core backing are beginning to warp — this exhibition provides an intimate look at the worship and ministries of Morning Star. Liggett organizes the photos loosely by theme — singing women on one wall, young-adult mentoring on another — and artfully arranges them in patterns often reminiscent of a cross. The most successful grouping is displayed near the gallery entrance, where Liggett focuses on the parishioners' hands: calmly folded, clutched one in another, waving a fan, held high in worship, clapping. The emotion expressed in these photographs disputes the old adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Through April 5 at Heights Arts Studio, 2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-371-3344. — Theresa Bembnister


Curious Terrain Landscape is as much about creating a mood as setting a scene, as demonstrated by three Ohio artists in this exhibition. JenMarie's dark washes of muted color cover gloomy, atmospheric canvases with barely discernible horizon lines or minuscule patches of rocky grass. It's landscape as a metaphor for hopelessness and loss, and the painting's titles, such as "Hanging in the Wait of Fading Echoes, yet I Only Dream of You," read as though they were gleaned from the liner notes of an emo album. Robert Robbins' charcoal drawings on brightly tinted, gessoed paper depict quiet winter forest scenes. The subtle play of lights and darks on the paper's textured surface capture the still, barren quality of snow-covered trees this time of year. But ultimately, the show rides on the strength of Randall Tiedman's work, the most original and thought-provoking in the exhibition. Tiedman dubs his landscapes "inscapes," because they are imagined scenes — sprawling, nighttime cityscapes, pictured from a vantage point far above the streetlights that cast a dull yellow glow on the craggy terrain below. Step back, and the details disappear, dissolving into shifting planes of tint and hue, and balancing each other in a way Tiedman likens to the harmonies of classical music. Through March 8 at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery, 2307 Chester Ave., Cleveland, 216-687-2103, — Bembnister

Phenomena(l) You might expect screens aglow with computer-based artwork in a science-themed show. But thankfully, this exhibition avoids that pitfall. Instead, it features work by 13 national artists in a variety of media — both low- and high-tech — that explores the overlapping territories of art and science. References to biology and genealogy — DNA strands, multiplying cells, epidermis — are on view, alongside vaguely futuristic, mechanized contraptions with oblique functions. And the most intriguing works manage to tie the colder, more studied elements of science to an emotional experience. In Christa Donner's ink and acrylic drawings on cut paper, naked little girls with mops of curly hair crawl from the open midsection of a reclining female figure. It's a curiously grotesque take on human reproduction. "Teraton Necklace," Nancy Bowen's opulent, oversize jewelry piece, made from glass, ceramic, and steel interspersed with tufts of hair, is inspired by teratoma, a type of tumor filled with hair, bone, or skin tissue. It's simultaneously disgusting and fascinating. Erica Duffy's efficient-looking machines slice through a thin sheet of latex that looks eerily similar to human skin. But the blade reacts to the vibrations generated from viewers, calling attention to our own responsibility for the consequences of scientific exploration. Through March 7 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, 216-621-2314, — Bembnister

Student Independent Exhibition 62 The Cleveland Institute of Art's annual student-run show, which started when Truman was in the White House, features a contrast of traditional and new-media work from a range of different academic programs — from age-old majors like drawing to such up-to-the-minute offerings as T.I.M.E. (Technology and Integrated Media Environment). The work on display reflects the multidisciplinary approach taken by today's working artists, who shift media depending on their message. For instance, one of the standouts is a video made by a third-year enameling major. In Jon Sommer's "1,000,000 Tears," a small, pixelated video of a house fire plays while offscreen voices break into sobs. It's obvious these unseen criers are mourning the loss of their home, but as the weeping continues, the emotion becomes more and more ambiguous; this soundtrack may actually be a laugh track. CIA's requirement that students be versed in the liberal arts shows through in fifth-year painting major Melissa Spainhound's series of delicate gouache paintings on translucent mylar, called "My Private Collection." With some background in art history, the wordplay in Spainhound's title becomes apparent: Her collection includes representations of high-dollar works by such big-name artists as Robert Rauschenberg and Jeff Koons. However, the charming, idiosyncratic nature of Spainhound's renderings allows her to claim these iconic works as her own. Through March 15 at CIA Reinberger Gallery, 11141 East Blvd., Cleveland, 216-421-7407. — Bembnister

Tower Press Artists The Wooltex building is a happening place: For proof, see this group exhibition featuring some of the many artists who live or operate studios there. While some pieces may leave you cold, others will drop your jaw. First among the jaw-droppers is Bruce Biro's "Beget." Like a Moebius strip, this knotted sandstone cylinder appears to loop back into itself, forever beginning where it ends. But the medium matters more. Biro cut the stone to highlight its elegant, woodlike grain and buffed it smooth, making it seem breathtakingly lighter-than-air, despite its immense weight. Joshua Cole has fun manipulating expectations with "Coffee, Ketchup, Coffee." In between two dainty, flower-bedecked coffee cups made from white glass sits a ketchup squeeze bottle — ridiculously, also made of glass. Cole is defying practicality, snubbing his nose at high-class dinnerware. By not working, it works. But Christopher Stofan's "Into the Storm" will stop you in your snowy tracks. Great smears of white and gray sweep across the canvas in chaotic disarray, while a small figure stands alone in the distance, facing the wind. Maybe it's Byron, the great Romantic poet, braving the elements. Better yet, this visceral scene could represent any one of us, our souls and sanity being tested in these cold times. Through March 7 at The Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Ave., Cleveland, — Zachary Lewis

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