Local artists team up to show off work

Ben Wolford

TANK holds exhibition at Downtown Gallery

If the only metrics are fame or fortune, there are no Andy Warhols or Andrew Wyeths in The Artist Network of Kent.

For local artists, fame isn’t necessary, and fortune is something that makes photographer Bradley Hart chuckle. Money wasn’t what he was looking for when he joined TANK and became its co-president in 2006.

“It was created to facilitate a network for artists, not necessarily to work with each other, but to help each other out,” Hart said of the seven-year-old organization.

He said the artists gain a means to share ideas.

“I didn’t know the artists of the community until I joined TANK,” Hart said.

One form of sharing their ideas is putting on annual exhibitions, usually held at the Downtown Gallery on Main Street. Four artists are featured at the current exhibition running through July 26.

At the far end of the simple, one-room gallery sits a piece of smoothed alabaster that calls to mind the contents of a lava lamp suspended and hardened. Eileen Gross, one of the gallery’s featured artists, created this sculpture named Prehistoric Vertebra. It challenges the viewer to imagine a creature that possessed such a bone.

“My work is about color and energy,” she said. “I eliminate the unnecessary elements, and when I do that I end up with color and energy.”

But Gross’s work wasn’t always so philosophical. She said her interest in sculpting stemmed from her childhood, when she saw people whittling objects on television. Eventually she graduated from carving sticks to creating reliefs on plates of wood when she took a basic carving class in Iowa.

Now she aims to offer a more contemplative experience for the viewer with artwork like Tribute to All Those., the wooden likeness of a 4-foot candle.

“I hope they take away a basic appreciation of color and energy, a moving form,” Gross said.

Bill Peck, another featured artist, approaches his work differently.

A former art teacher at Parma Senior High School, he said he had to teach all the art schools and media to his students indiscriminately. The result was that Peck began creating works in a range of styles.

“I’m experimenting with textures and shapes,” he said.

His experimentation led to Push the Right Button, a colored pencil drawing that also includes coarse shards of wood. It is one his five abstract works on display at the Downtown Gallery.

Then there are his realist landscapes, three oil-on-canvas testaments to his art teacherlike versatility.

“I had a lot of fun with the different media,” Peck said.

In fact, the whole exhibition is rife with examples of different media. Artist Claudia Berlinski works in surreal collages that explore the nature of memory, while another artist, Marianne Hite, uses brighter imagery with her playful fused glass pieces.

Though the works in the exhibition are for sale, none of the artists earn their living off of those profits. Peck said the money is beside the point.

“It makes me happy to do stuff like this,” he said of his artwork. “If people latch onto it, wonderful.”

Contact principal reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].