Local art and artists foster a sense of community by representing their fellow citizens. They provide a space for discussion and creativity to thrive. Imagine! is a not–for–profit organization that supports individuals of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and one of their programs brings the creative expression of their participants to the public through the Dairy Art Center annually with an exhibition and performance. This year’s exhibition, running August 5– 21 in the main lobby, McMahon and Polly Addison Galleries will have an opening reception August 12 (5–7 p.m.) with a performance by some of the participants, including song, dance and theatrical works immediately after.
Not only will visiting this exhibition help support the program—which provides “the opportunity to learn to express oneself through different art mediums and for the development of both technical and creative skills”—it will give you the opportunity to pick up a piece of art that is both affordable and imaginative. And if you are not looking for art to add to your collection, the exhibition is worth visiting because it reminds us that art is capable of closing the gaps between so many of our differences—as individuals or groups—and connecting us with the shared experience of wanting to create.
Curated by Rebecca Cuscaden, Imagine! Into the Future is best experienced in a sequence, beginning in the main lobby with a brightly colored series by Shelly Pearson. These 32 x 46 inch acrylic on wood panel pieces have a ferocity to them— relying on hard strokes of color in mostly straight lines that brace against each other with momentum. Any contemporary art fan will appreciate the boldness of these paintings, and the simple titles like “Halloween,” “Fire and Meadow“ inspire the viewer to look again after making a first impression.
The McMahon Gallery—a large open room to the left of the main lobby—holds the majority of the pieces, arranged in a way where each section follows a certain style, sometimes dominated by one artist and other times filled with many various ones. Altogether there are over 20 artists in this gallery, all part of the Imagine! program. Starting to the right when you walk in, the wall is an ode to Abstract Expressionism, with swathes of mixed colors, tactile expressions and geometric patterns filling each canvas. Kenny Sanchez’s pieces are reminiscent of the Icelandic artist Nina Tryggvadottir, who focused mostly on painting separate blocks of color situated next to each other in ways that provoke emotion.
Continuing into the gallery you will find a grid of geometrically inspired pieces by various artists—some appear as mandalas and others use geometric shapes less symmetrically. Next to these seven artists are three pieces designed with the tape–resist method, where tape is placed, painted on and around and then torn away to reveal negative space.
The back wall of the gallery is entirely devoted to a dotwork–inspired series by Tessa Keith. Most of these paintings feature buildings or vehicles—manmade structures that would otherwise be mundane but are made vibrant with color and alive with the obviously signature staccato painting style. The flatness of the dimensions is accentuated by the lack of shadow and heavy use of contrasting hues, and in doing so, Keith harkens to the beautiful oddity of cubism.
Rounding the corner you will find the talented splatter work of Meredith Forsyth, a few canvasses that harness the chaos into pleasing patterns that visually stimulate, with no favoritism of a single color scheme. Paintings like these are fascinating in that there is almost no way to replicate them. Their individuality is enlivening.
Next to these is a series by Linda Sneider—who is also featured in other sections in the exhibition—the subjects of these paintings are animals portrayed in a contemporary impressionist style. The key characteristics are loose lines, visible strokes and an acute attention to light. These paintings mesmerize, and force you to think about how you view these creatures compared to others, and how seeing someone else’s portrayal may alter your own.
The east and back walls are filled with numerous artists, all of whom favor primary colors in their pieces. Do not miss the charming minimalist cars of Phil Baker that seem to hold their own personalities, without people. Or the abstract single color variation pieces by Gerald Stopn and Meredith Forsyth.
After all of the acrylic canvas paintings you will find a group of embossed copper squares by artists Bobbie Goodman, Lindsey Newell and Linda Sneider and a wall of mixed media on paper—including watercolor, pen and acrylic. Altogether this gallery encompasses a wide spectrum of contemporary art, providing wonderful abstraction landscapes that are not afraid of color and texture.
Exit the McMahon Gallery and walk around the cafe in the lobby to the hallway in front of the entrance to the Boedecker Theater, here is the Polly Addison Gallery with the remaining artists from Imagine! This wall (though unable to be pictured here) has some exquisite pieces that would surely contribute to a collection or be a great way to start one. Anna Nutt’s prismacolor and acrylic on paper give a sense of something made in nature—tangled branches or an aerial view of an estuary. Toby Johnson’s circular swatches of color feel inspired by Japanese brush painting, smooth and even strokes that grace the page with a perfect incompleteness. And for those who want something even more unique, Mitch Mestas provides a series of black–and–white line drawings, odd and endearing.
This is an annual show, and it is not uncommon for patrons to return yearly to scout for another piece. It is another shining example of how communities can foster long–term relationships between artists and citizens. The proceeds from any purchases support another year of this program by reimbursing material costs. All of the works of art in this exhibition were created solely by the participants of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department. There will also be a one–time performance after the opening reception tonight. For more information about Imagine! visit their website or Facebook.