The idea came up over dinner. Conversation between Pam Korte, maker of pots; her husband, Richard Hague, maker of poems; Terri Kern, sculptor; and her husband, David Umbenhour, printmaker, brought forth the question: Why not a show of work by couples, focusing on interaction of ideas and mutual reliance and support?
Confluence: Partnership and Creativity, at Studio San Giuseppe Art Gallery at The College of Mount St. Joseph, is the interesting result, a lively show with works by 18 artists and statements from each elucidating the central theme. One pair, Barry Andersen and Diane Kruer, even produced a joint blank verse poem that ends with trading off technical assistance for cooking dinner.
The photographs in Andersen’s large, horizontal archival inkjet prints show a sensitive use of color; the poem suggests that Kruer has an influence there. Her own hand-painted photographs, small and square and mounted in rusted steel set on slate, may benefit from his intervention or may be the happy result of an encouraging atmosphere. She says her drawing skills are better because “Barry is right upstairs.”
Korte, an instructor in the college’s art department, presented the idea for the exhibition to Gallery Director Jerry Bellas and was given an immediate go-ahead to curate it. Finding enough artistic unions to fill the space was no problem, she says. The group is primarily middle-aged married couples whose years together have influenced each other’s work.
An exception, in that they are not a “couple,” are the youngest of the pairs, Cynthia Gregory and Christian Schmit, colleagues since graduate school.
Cardboard and paper bags are construction materials for Schmit’s small, delicate furniture-like pieces and similar material goes into Gregory’s piles of pretend books. “Cynthia has provided signposts to unexpected destinations,” Schmit says. He helped build “The Poet’s Table,” Gregory’s largest and most intriguing contribution to the exhibition.
Kern, the sculptor, has taken her husband’s printmaking classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, as has poet Hague. Some of these results are on view here. Korte’s gorgeous biomorphic pots, a lilt to their shapes and lyricism to their colors, have a delicacy not always associated with pottery. Does that come from daily association with a poet?
Ana England and Steven Finke clearly share a strong sense of texture, and one of England’s works, “Shared Identity: Wave and Galaxy with Thumbprints,” incorporates thumbprints from each of them. Color is the uniting force in the work of Margaret Rheim and Stuart Golder. He is a “detail-oriented” goldsmith now moving into an enameling technique similar to cloisonné for tiny, intricately detailed works. She thinks large for handmade paper collages, incorporating hemlock needles, among other things, and sizeable colored glass mosaics.
“Most of the time, creative ideas just percolate,” says Kymberly Henson in her artist’s statement. “When I ask him to save eggshells, he understands.” The eggshells appear on one of the several art works she has made from discarded plastic swimsuit forms. In the exhibition, a photograph hangs between each form, works produced from multiple cell phone images edited and selected by her husband Jay Bachemin, who calls them “Photo Poems.” They are a distinct contrast to his day-work as a commercial photographer.
Ronald Gibbons’ dark-hued paintings appear here with his wife Ginger Sheridan’s white-toned series of three-dimensional collages, referencing her own southern heritage. He says she has made his art more nuanced and exploratory; she feels that art brings them “more in balance with each other.”
Both Yuki Muroe and Gil Stengel make things of clay. She’s the creative force and he the technical force: “I’m a potter,” he says, “she’s a sculptor.” It’s true his works look to be more pragmatic than hers, but all are handsome. Sometimes the two share clay, firing and kiln, but find in the end that each has produced strongly individual works. “That is creative inspiration to me,” Muroe says.
The couples report their work strengthened by each other in differing ways, but agree on the vital role their union plays in what they produce. The show itself suggests that Cincinnati’s artists community is alive and well.
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