When a viewer looks at art, it is often the subject matter, colors, or ability to capture a flower or landscape realistically that fill one with wonder and awe. We find this art beautiful, and we hang it on our walls. It is easy to find pretty paintings that made us feel peaceful, that we enjoy looking at. There is an abundance of beautiful art at the art walk this month.
But there is another kind of artwork out there that is just as important—and sometimes more important. The world also needs artwork that makes us think and feel angry, sad, and uncomfortable. This is what fuels social change, whether it is in political cartoons that make us think, or expressive paintings that remind us of tragedies.
This is the purpose of artwork like that of Ralf Huber, a Springfield resident who focuses on social justice issues. His exhibit “Turning the/into Tools” at the Emerald Art Center features pieces that make the viewer think. We live in a time and in a country where we forget how industry used child labor as tools because it was cheap and easy. And it is something that continues to happen today, even when it isn’t happening in our country.
Huber says, “Almost all pieces come with a real historic or contemporary background, a real ‘story’ about a certain child or a certain industry that is/was using children as cheap work force or the circumstances under which these children had to toil.”
We should be reminded that children are still exploited, abused, and trafficked. This exhibit does just that.
In his Child Labor Series, the artist uses original photos to create authentic and historic context. He uses mixed media assemblage, all elements found, reused, or repurposed. Huber calls his style “art with purpose . . . leaning towards conceptual art but with a higher emphasis on execution and esthetics.”
The Emerald Art Center also showed an exhibit titled “Más Fuertes Juntos,” featuring local Latino artists. Rogene Manas’s attention to detail stands out in Frida Kahlo inspired pieces. “Our Lady of Being Authentic” was an incredible mixed media piece with clay that shows so much texture and dimension for a two-dimensional piece of art, while “I was Born a Painter” is so detailed it is difficult to believe it is collage.
Attire and large photographs were displayed from local Charros and Escaramuzas presented by Antonio Huerta. The photos and textiles center around charrería, the national sport of Mexico. Americans might think of it as a “cowboy” sport, as it involves horsemanship, roping, and cattle work. This exhibition shares the charrería tradition “as a means to building community, sharing and passing on traditions to younger generations.” The live music and dance for the show featured a great thematic match of Mariachi and Escaramuzas dancers.
For those who are drawn to beautifully rendered pieces, EAC displayed many other incredible pieces, including DL Zanetta’s “Mom’s Iris,” Patricia McConnel’s “Breaking Through the Stars,” Sharon Heinz’s “Grapes,” Katie Stock’s “Dimensions of Ukraine,” and Jo Dunnick’s “Daniel.”
At Island Park Gallery at Willamalane Adult Activity Center, Chuck Dinsfred played piano. During the month of September, Martina Conn is showing pieces created with a technique known as “acrylic paint pours.” These are striking pieces with complex detail. Some are abstract, while others are purposefully manipulated to resemble waves, flowers, and landscapes.
One of the highlights of the art walk included Karen Pidgeon’s “Wildlife Art” at the City Hall Gallery. Rendered in beautifully accurate detail, the nature paintings and drawings are an absolute joy to look at again and again. Pidgeon says, “The main intent in my work is to recapture that intricate detail around us, in hopes that more may be aware of what many may never see.
The Academy of Arts and Academics returned to the art scene with Family Art Night, an exhibit and interactive display of demonstrations and classes like the Intuitive Mindful Mandala Painting Class, Cupcake Decorating, and other painting, drawing, and collage classes.
Other art and music that was part of the art walk included The Springfield Block Party, Iris Wine Bar, Hearts for Hospice, Common Bond Yoga, The Hippie Museum, Hap-Hazard Creativity, The Festival Boutique, and The Mercantile.