CAN Journal’s Top Ten Posts of our first Ten Years
Ten years is a long time, even if it feels like just a few minutes. CAN Journal turned ten years old in 2022, and so did this website—even if it feels like a start-up that’s just getting started. So at the end of the year, in that holiday intermezzo of reflection and looking back, we’re considering not only the last year’s posts, but the most-read posts in all of CAN’s decade-long history.
Here’s an interesting thing about looking back ten years: Over time, the posts that percolate to the top are not only those that sparkled in the moment, or had that near-term surge of interest that comes with breaking news, or a big name. Those things—especially well-known names–can be reflected in a ten-year look-back, and they certainly are. But what also surfaces are subjects people return to again and again—moments, exhibits, and names that sustain interest over time.
CAN’s Top Ten posts of the last decade includes beloved personalities and household names, to be sure. But it also includes artists not so well known, and some politics, and some projects that seem to show the reach of art into other realms of culture and civic life.
Without further ado, here are the Top Ten, most-read posts of CAN Journal’s first ten years.
10. Levent Isik (1961-2019): Warmly Humanistic Vision: Levent Isik was an “outsider” artist who took up painting in Columbus, after a breakup in the late ‘80s. His biography says he took up painting “out of sheer boredom.” He painted on scraps of plywood, or wood from old barns, or discarded cabinets. He never considered selling his work until a Greenpeace canvasser who was also a folk art collector came to his door one day. When he saw the work on Isik’s walls, he offered to buy a painting. The collector showed the work to several folk art dealers, and the market for Isik’s work was born.
9. What Can We Learn from Susan Allan Block: Susan Allan Block married into the third-generation family of media moguls, and at the time of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, she was a trustee of the Ohio Arts Council. She resigned, after having posted to social media an all-caps tirade referring to the “illegitimate president” and his “whore VP.” But if what we get from this is that right-wing extremism lurks in every corner of society, we have come up short.
8. Railroad Fame: Moniker: Identity Lost and Found: Graffiti is as old as walls, of course, and its history is woven with diverse threads and intentions. This deeply informed exhibit at the Massillon Museum of Art explored one of these threads–a subtle current of mark-making that was born in American railroad yards of the late nineteenth century. These marks seem to be motivated by much the same kind of ego as hip-hop graffiti has been in the last forty or fifty years. But instead of the shout of aerosol color, the art is practiced with a whisper, in one color with oil stick. Created by project director Scot Phillips and guest curator Andy Dreamingwolf, with artist liaison Kurt Tors, Moniker: Identity Lost and Found explores some of the oldest marks and the lore that surrounds them through photographs, printed material, and artifacts, including original monikers, some of which were rescued with saws from their doomed surroundings.
7. Ain’t That America? Painter John Mellencamp in Mansfield: The singer-songwriter who brought us Pink Houses, Jack and Diane, Paper in Fire, and other radio hits has also been painting since the 1980s, and has shown in such respected venues as the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. In 2022, he exhibited at the Mansfield Art Center. His surge into the ten most-read posts of all time after just 8 months on line is a testament to the allure of famous name from pop-culture, and the intrigue of learning something about them that hadn’t been so well-known.
6. Citizen Maugans: Zygote Press Director Liz Maugans Moves On: The announcement that Zygote Press executive director and co-founder Liz Maugans would resign from that role to pursue other projects was a bombshell, and CAN Journal appropriately broke the news. That gave us an opportunity to appreciate the breadth of her accomplishment, from building up Zygote Press, extensive art-making, relentless community engagement, including the concept that became CAN Journal. When you re-read this one, what will strike you is how much has happened since then, from Worthington Yards to several other areas of advocacy.
5. Makers: Cannaday Chapman, Illustrator: Here’s an example of a career taking off, and a story getting traction as people continued to look for information about the artist. Brittany Hudak profiled Cannaday Chapman in 2017, and detailed his process for one of her “Makers” profiles. Since then, the illustrator’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, and The Washington Post, as well as having been used by Google, Amazon Studios, Target, Scholastic Books, Harper Collins, Planned Parenthood, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin Books. He lives in Berlin.
4. John W. Carlson, Rest In Peace: The social media outpouring of grief over the passing of John W. Carlson in recent days provided a small window on the scope of impact made by an artist who loved to engage with people, ideas, and art. Writing of his work, critic Joseph Clark said, his “images are ‘gestural’ in at least two senses; his brushstrokes are unconcealed and dramatic, and his subjects splay and contort their bodies to communicate operatic emotion. Painted with limited but vivid colors, the men and women of Carlson’s paintings grapple with existence itself.” Read Carlo Wolff’s more extensive reflection on the artist’s life, Souvenirs of an Indelible Time.
3. Beacons of Light and Flight Elevate Wendy Park Bridge: Erin O’Brien brought us the story of this prominent commission: Stephen Yusko and Stephen Manka’s sculpture marking the landings of the new bridge linking Wendy Park (Whiskey Island) with the rest of the West Bank of the Flats, and the network of trails that joins the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and beyond. The story’s appearance on this Top Ten list is testament not only to the sculptures themselves and the story, but the degree to which all that reaches beyond the art world and into the broader community.
2. Immersive Extraction: Not To Be A Debby Downer, But: Who doesn’t love a righteous takedown of a money-grubbing scheme, built on other people’s creative genius? Liz Maugans considered the Immersive Van Gogh installation and found it lacking, particularly considered alongside the kinds of expectations and demands commonly placed on non-profit exhibitors. “The hit-and-run commercialization of the Immersive van Gogh experience reminded me of the Spirit Halloween pop-up stores housed seasonally in vacated storefronts where they sell $44.95 Tiger King costumes with a side of Grim Reaper American-opportunism and a coupon for the half-off sale on November 1st,” Maugans wrote. Next up in the same space: Immersive Disney Animation. It’s true.
1. Making Sense of the Hills: Andy Goldsworthy at the Cleveland Museum of Art: Andy Goldsworthy spoke at CMA on the occasion of his commission, to create 7 of his large-scale, landscape projects on an estate east of Cleveland. He was taking questions, when this one came up: What was he like as a child? “I think [I] was normal.” he said. “I think I’m normal now.” And you have to give this to him: there is in fact something entirely normal about this interest in the sensual nature of the world, and the way its materials behave. It’s like playing with mud: You touch it, it’s wet, you can mold it, and that by itself is joyful. Indeed, Goldsworthy’s play with sticks and stones, leaves, and snow are just like what a normal kid might do–except that there aren’t many kids who ever worked with the patience and attention to detail, the appreciation for color and line, or the inspired vision, or the prodigious amount of patience that are required to make these simply, overtly beautiful works using the landscape as a canvas, and things that grow or fall on it as paint.
CAN Journal thanks The Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts Culture, all the organizations and artists who make up our membership, all our donors, and of course all our staff and contributors for making it possible to cover Northeast Ohio’s art scene for the last ten years. We look forward to growing as we continue to inform and illuminate what artists of the region are making and doing through the next ten years, and beyond.