Artist Strives to Capture Cleveland Spirit Through Painted Signs

Nashville-native Amanda Cook said it was a couple of different paths that led her to first painting the vintage, neon signs of Cleveland landmarks, the first pieces now showing at Euclid Avenue’s Bonfoey Gallery.

“Eight or nine years back, I was doing a lot of paintings of the sky,” she said. “And little wires and lights started popping into the bottom of my view. I thought it was interesting and eventually just began moving my view down.”

The painter, who graduated from the Columbus College for Art and Design in 1999, is working on a collection dedicated to Cleveland. The collection, which includes depictions of the West Side Market Cafe and Mahall’s, will hang in Bonfoey once completed; the first few paintings are already on display. Though she says there’s no specific deadline, her commissions coming first, Cook has done her research so that she can capture Cleveland accurately.

Cook spent a few weeks in Cleveland, exploring and researching for her collection, choosing signs to paint based primarily for the aesthetics. With Cleveland’s industrial charm, she said the city felt right for her work.

“The history is important to these pieces,” Cook said. “Cleveland was a natural fit.”

Though she chose to tour Cleveland for her artwork because of look and feel of the city, Cook said she ran into a living piece of its history after she was done painting.

“I actually met a woman whose last name was Mahall at the opening,” Cook said of running into a descendant of John K. Mahall. “We talked, and I got a good feeling about the meaning of the place.”

Mahall’s bowling alley and music venue has been around since 1924. With its rich history in the Cleveland area, hosting prohibition-era jazz bands and modern day rockers, the kitschy hangout spot was an ideal fit for Cook’s style.

Her pieces look photo-realistic on a computer screen, the vibrant colors of the sky mixing with the rust on the signs to capture a spirit of malted milkshakes and circle skirts. But Cook said in person, the pieces show off little imperfections, adding to the charm.

“I leave my brush strokes,” Cook said. “I like to paint, so I like it to feel like it’s been painted.”

Down at Bonfoey, the paintings have even more character in person. The feathery strokes on the canvas add texture and remind the viewer of the skill and time it takes to create works of art.

Cook is working on painting more Cleveland landmarks in the future, although she hasn’t disclosed which. The first two paintings, which spread across 18"x24" canvases, are a part of Bonfoey’s contemporary collection on display now.

Bonfoey is located at 1710 Euclid Ave. For more information, visit

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Brittany Rees

Brittany is a blogging intern who keeps the web up-to-date with news stories and blogs. Before her internship at Cleveland Scene, she wrote for the video game news site Revue Labs as well as oversaw Kent State University’s diversity publication Fusion Magazine. Brittany is originally from New Jersey but is currently...
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