Paying Attention at William Busta Gallery

There is always something missing when an artist portrays a place visited during vacation or sabbatical. And there is  often something spectacularly present when an artist’s work responds to the cultural and visual landscapes with which  they identify. The best of these works have a way of becoming insistent in the culture, forever shaping how everyone  understands that landscape. This fall, three exhibits at William Busta Gallery present the artists work in response to the place they call home.

Dexter Davis’ work responds to the materials and vocabularies of his own richlytextured urban neighborhoods. His  current work is more abstracted than his last exhibition at the gallery in January of 2011. Still, he builds imagist  structures, using the symbolic vocabulary he has created over the past two decades. His piece, Body Face imposes
targets and masks; in Who Goes There, a human figure is suggested with piercing eyes, and palms printed directly from  the artist’s hand; Food and Money contains repeated images of a human fetus, guns, adult faces, and currency.

Each work is a mixture of media. A signature characteristic is the use of woodcut prints, which he creates, then tears,  pasting as both underlying and overlaying form. He also tears and collages found paper— anything from advertising  circulars to floral wallpaper—and even his painting and drawing itself. Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson was born in Iceland.

She has a home there, but her visits are not for painting: that occurs in her Cleveland Heights studio. In Iceland she attends to children, socializes with family and opens her artistic perception to the extraordinary landscape. She finds  compositional elements in the colors and forms of glaciers, in the rugged profile of volcanic mountains, and even the striations of small rocks. She uses snapshots as a way of sketching.

Perhaps this sort of detail can be found anywhere, and used to equally good purpose as a way of starting to paint, a structure to respond to and elaborate. Her paintings glow in the soft, unnerving, and seductive filtered light of the North.  They shimmer, indefinite and profound. An exhibition of Still Life paintings by Timothy Callaghan opened the William  Bus t a Ga l l er y ’s current location in 2007. The imagery was of objects in his studio, and scenes in his Saint Clair neighborhood. These paintings led to painting outdoor street scenes on Saint Clair Avenue. The series had a reduced  scale, but intensified detail. After that he painted scenes of Cleveland at night, places he passed on his way to and from  work. Since then, Callaghan moved to a house in North Collinwood, and his current paintings are rooted in what he sees  there. He continues in the still life tradition: that’s part of the freshness of Callaghan’s work these days—looking at the  world as it arranges itself, and selecting.