Exciting ‘double-header’ at Crary Art Gallery

For the first time, the Crary Art Gallery is hosting two concurrent solo exhibitions by contemporary artists.

“We are pleased to present the work of two artists in two simultaneous, separate shows,” said board member Thomas Paquette. “We have too many highly qualified applicants, and this new arrangement allows us to showcase more of them. We also count on it giving people twice as many reasons to visit the gallery.”

Artists from all over the country apply to have their work shown at the Crary, but there are not enough slots in the calendar to accommodate them all. The Crary Gallery board of directors’ solution was to host simultaneous shows, as well as two-person and group exhibitions. The next three shows will all be double-headers.

In the two main galleries during much of January is the work of Ivan Fortushniak, a professor of art at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He creates works that reflect his concerns about moral breakdown. The 20 mostly intimately sized works are collaged oil paintings, visual allegories that include references to biblical scenarios. To help tell his stories, the paintings often incorporate collaged images from iconic artists of the past such as Winslow Homer. The grace of his painted, bucolic settings is broken by parts of words floating in the sky, ghostly drawings and scuff marks on the surface of some paintings, billowing smoke, or McDonald’s arches – all with historically misplaced figures who often appear in danger, or look burdened from within or without.

At the same time in another gallery, viewers can see the works of Jonathan Stewart, who lives and teaches art in Texas. His art literally and figuratively comes right off the walls. Stewart’s approach to design is thought-provoking and highly entertaining. With bright colors, creative use of typography and witty subject matter, he takes all the elements of product packaging and turns them on their head to give us another view of what goes into making that first impression of a product on a shelf. This is a very different sort of exhibition for the Crary. Ines Nelson, board member, says, “As a graphic designer and marketing professional, I was tickled by the works of Mr. Stewart. The spin he puts on everyday packaging design is hilarious. In addition, the level of creativity and quality of the displays themselves is impressive. I am excited to see the Crary bring this kind of art to Warren County and extend its appeal to an even wider audience.”

Paquette adds that even kids will get it. “It makes me think this is what you might see if a company hired Mad Magazine to sell its products. Maybe they already do.”

The two exhibitions will both open to the public with a single reception at 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5. Mr. Fortushniak will talk about his paintings at 7 p.m. The Crary Art Gallery is always free to visit, including the opening receptions. The current shows run until Jan. 26, with normal exhibition hours: Thursdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays noon-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.crarygallery.org or www.facebook.com/CraryArtGallery.