Wishes Granted

A Fog of Clarity

When he received a coveted artist grant from the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture in 2009, Laurence Channing felt obliged to pay it forward with a body of work honoring the region that had rewarded him.

So Channing, the retired director of publications at the Cleveland Museum of Art and a longtime landscape painter, resolved to more consciously attempt to chronicle Northeast Ohio's landscapes. But his project was never meant to be thorough. Channing has focused exclusively on those locations with the most power to captivate him.

"I'm totally uninterested in geography," he says. "I'm obsessed with image."

And so in recent years, he has found himself drawn again and again to a handful of locations: The lighthouse at the Headlands in Mentor, residential blocks in Tremont, and the Veterans Memorial Bridge. 2000 to 2012, a showcase of landscape drawings and pastels now on view at Bonfoey Gallery, writes a brief history of Channing's work from the last decade — though much of it was produced in the last year, the culmination of his "chronicling" project.

In "Headlands Wide," the lighthouse defines the horizon, a box and turret in the background, pointed to by the line of square blocks making up a breakwall. Looking at them, the viewer can almost feel the scratchy roughness of the wall's hewn stones. As in many of Channing's pictures, some objects are rendered with strikingly sharp clarity verging on photorealism. Others are almost entirely obscured, as if by a haze or glare. This blending of acute detail and blurriness sometimes serves to increase the realism of a picture; in real life, we don't always have even lighting or entirely clear or entirely foggy air.

In "Night House," a home with white vinyl siding emerges from a black gloom, still swathed in shadows. Yet we can still see such fine detail as the slight crumpling on the bend in the downspout and patches of dirtiness on the siding.

Other times, it works as an impressionistic effect, engaging the viewer not with the object depicted, but the depiction itself. In the bleached pink-brown pastels of "Back Door," a screen door and rear wall of a house seem less substantial than the shadow cast by an awning at a skewed angle. Both "realist" and "impressionist" works command attention like few paintings, compelling the viewer to look closer not only at the works themselves, but the world itself.

2000 to 2012 runs through June 9 at 1710 Euclid Ave. To learn more, call 216-621-0178 or go to bonfoey.com.