There's nothing quite like the familiar look and feel of the Ohio Art League's annual Thumb Box exhibition to make their new south campus gallery space feel a little bit more like home. For those of you haven't heard the news, the OAL recently moved out of their venerable Short North storefront to take up residence in what's being billed as the Arts Alley at South Campus Gateway. Thankfully, the big move didn't disrupt their schedule, and this December, as in year's past, the gallery is brimming with small works designed especially for the Holiday shopping season.
A slight tweak in this year's guidelines has allowed artists to submit up to three works for exhibition (prior years limited submissions to one per artist). This procedural change has added to both the number of works on display, and in some small way, the consistency of the show. It's certainly a benefit to the viewer, whose eye can now rest occasionally on a repeating color, shape, or theme. Similarly, it benefits the artist, who can show at least some themes or styles across a number of works. As in years past, none of the works measure larger than 6" x 6" x 6".
OAL afficianados and local art enthusiasts will recognize many of the regular artists submitting works. Laura Alexander, Sarah Fairchild, Adam Brouillette, Dan Gerdeman, Sharon Bell and Mabi Ponce de Leon are among many of the better known artists with works available for purchase. This year though, I found myself equally enchanted with some names I wasn't as familiar with. Fred Fochtman's three paintings (Smith Farm, Jon's Stuff, and Tea Time) are charming and well-executed. They demonstrate an ability to paint what's seen with economy and confidence. While Fochtman's approach is fairly traditional, the adventurous compositions and croppings make for some dynamic work.
Another artist new to me was Angela Matteson. Her submissions (Starving Squirrel, Not to be Trusted, and The Whale and the Boy) have the look of illustrations from some yet unpublished and none too happy children's stories. They're literal, allegorical, whimsical and scary all at once. While it's clear that Angela's strong suit is illustration, there is a enough going on in the paint that it's easy to imagine her exploring those possibilities in the future. Angela appears to keep her blog up to date, so do follow her adventures if you like what you see.
The work of Ryan Walters caught my eye as well. He submitted three small studies (Apple Study #1, Apple Study #2, and Apple Study #3) that are spare and elegant. Each one has a somewhat unique take on the idea of the apple (and the idea of a study), ranging from the zen-like approach in #1 to the muted color field in #3. These works seem at once monumentally gestural, but also very intimate. It's a neat trick he's done, and one that made me wonder what his paintings not restricted by size might look like.
Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other artists on display and close to 200 works on view. Mixed media, sculpture, photography, and even a shrimp study crocheted out of copper wire (thank you Esther Chung). If there's an art lover on your shopping list, make sure you stop by the new OAL gallery space and see this year's Thumb Box exhibit. It runs now through December 23rd.