If you were asked to create a visual representation of what Cincinnati means to you, what would you make? Remember: no words, only images.
After pondering that question, you can see how 12 local (or once-local) artists responded to that very subject in drawings, paintings and photographs. The exhibition My Cincinnati, which runs at the ArtWorks Time Warner Cable Gallery through April 20, depicts a dozen extremely personal perspectives on the city from our own creative class: Randy Birckhead, Joel Blazer, Jessie Boone, LeBraun Colvin, Michael Everett, Brian Joiner, Tom Lohre, Richard Luschek, Adam Mysock, Megan Sanders, Jeremy Schulz and Jenny Ustick.
Everett, 31, already had an interest in photographing the city. For this project, he used photos he'd previously taken to inspire paintings that show "fun abstractions of personal spaces, such as my house, to more public spaces, like streets I walk down on a regular basis."
Trained in painting at the School for Creative and Performing Arts and at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP, Everett also served as a teaching assistant for ArtWorks and continues to show pieces in the gallery.
Mysock, 23, also has a relationship with ArtWorks -- he apprenticed there in 1997 at the age of 14, later became a teaching assistant and is now the coordinator of the mural works project. He has a fascination with Cincinnati's art history, such as Rookwood Pottery and Robert Duncanson's murals.
"Generally, my paintings display an enthusiastic reverence for the histories of particular objects," he says. "I especially enjoy an object's symbolic potential. Since 2001, I've spent a majority of my time in school, away from Cincinnati, and ... I love looking at the back label of something and seeing the word 'Cincinnati' compactly printed at the bottom. It reminds me, perhaps laughably, how much Cincinnati influences my daily life and my sense of purpose."
Sanders, 24, has spent a lot of time outside of the city, but she belies her Cincinnati roots through her art.
"Over the past several years I have become an outsider," she says. "I moved away to college, I lived in Europe for a year. ... I am a visitor, waiting to move to my next destination. I have created four abstracted landscapes symbolizing my view as a traveler by embedding Cincinnati maps within a wax medium and juxtaposing painted lines with the lines of these maps.
"Maps to me reflect a sense of adventure that I long for in life. The intricate line work symbolizes the various paths one takes. ... For me, these paths will always lead back to Cincinnati. In the end, I am and will always be a Cincinnatian at heart."
Joiner, 45, also feels a strong connection to the city, which he incorporated into various landscapes and cityscapes, such as "Over-the-Rhine." He comments that what makes Cincinnati so unique is its geography.
"That particular vantage was from an African-American bed and breakfast from Dorsey (Street) in Mount Auburn," he says about his painting. "Dorsey is a fabulous view of the entire city."
Boone, 26, creates playful work. After moving away for graduate school, she realized what she really missed was the chili, which gets center stage in her piece "Ludlow."
"The first thing I think of when I drive into town is Skyline Chili," she says. "It's something that people from other cities can't relate to -- it belongs entirely to Cincinnatians. Tourists who come to Savannah (Ga.) talk about the skyline here from the view of the river. They don't even know about the real Skyline. Suckers."
My Cincinnati is what happens when 12 people put to paper their impressions of home. Check it out, and see how it shapes up to your own.
MY CINCINNATI is on view at ArtWorks' Time Warner Cable Gallery downtown through April 20.