The Cleveland Botanical Gardens presents the latest works by April Arotin in her first solo exhibition, “Time, Distance, and Shielding,” at the Guren Gallery on the second floor. The exhibition runs through the end of June.
A few years ago, Arotin co-founded a networking group for women artists in Northeast Ohio on Facebook called “CLE Women Artists Collective.” It has around 600 members and is where Arotin saw a call to entry to present work at the gardens. She quickly responded. Within a few weeks she was invited to exhibit. The show is a collection of all of the paintings she has completed since March 2020, and features images including lush ‘forestscapes,’ abstract and seasonal landscapes and includes a self-portrait.
“The forest can either be sinister or solace, and that’s between us and the trees,” says Arotin. “I operate my life based on the notion that we ultimately get to choose our source of sorrow and our source of joy, and sometimes they’re one in the same. That light is sort of emblematic of the way that we can choose to illuminate the dark places we end up or we can sit in the shadow, neither of which are inherently good or bad, we ultimately get to choose.”
Arotin grew up here in Northeast Ohio in Geauga County and studied art at Ohio State before moving to San Francisco, where she attained her BA in Philosophy from San Francisco State University. She then left San Francisco to return to Cleveland in 2010 and went into business for herself, starting a yoga studio/art gallery/community space/art studio. In 2015, she founded her jewelry business, Sense + Reverence Jewelry, started the Women’s Metalsmiths Collective which has more than 11,000 members, worked as a yoga teacher and did a stint working in regional marketing for a Fortune 500 company. In 2017-2018, she went back to school for Nuclear Medicine before becoming a clinical intern at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Time, Distance and Shielding are the three ways that radiation workers protect themselves from exposure during their work,” explains Arotin. “The title has a few different meanings for me and is closely intertwined with my early pandemic experience…I loved everything about working at the clinic, the field of Nuclear Medicine is incredibly fascinating, and the folks I worked with were some really special and incredible people. After about 10-12 weeks of clinicals, every day working with extremely sick and dying patients, I think seeing people at the end of their lives and in extreme suffering changed something for me. Over the break between semesters, I had an epiphany…I started painting again after that five year hiatus and it was like coming home…I think starting to paint again was catalyst, along with the nuclear medicine experience, for a whole new life.”
Arotin, who's a mother, states on her website: “The catalyst for all of this is the compelling desire to create a life built around what brings me joy, and spend my life doing what I love to share the beauty of life with my little one.”
For Arotin, her work is incredibly personal. In the piece simply entitled “Thursday,” a tire swing dangles in the foreground of the painting, swallowed by the surrounding shadows as the sunlight pours through the leafy canopy. It is as if we caught the moment after someone has just leapt from the swing and out of frame leaving a sense of desolation and isolation. In another, similar piece, “Everal,” once again daylight flitters through the trees whilst long shadows are cast among the rocks and water like some citadel, forgotten by time and untouched my man. The scene looks like one which might be found in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Lastly, I will mention a series of small paintings, one named for each of the twelve months of the year. These are landscapes representing and observing the subtleties between the seasons and gives one feeling of reverence for time passing and the progression of nature.
“For the casual viewer, I hope that they come away with an appreciation for those sacred moments in nature, that they get a perspective of those simple, joyful moments that we can all appreciate when we’re in contact with nature,” concludes Arotin. ”For fellow artists and creative types, I hope that, at least in part, this is a reminder that it’s never too late and it’s never been too long to pick back up the creative practices that you love and start over again and again until it feels right.”