Buck the Trend, Break the Mold – For the Betterment of the Village


The recent announcement that FRONT Festival will take place in Cleveland (July 7 – September 30, 2018) is not just the promise of another festival, but one that looks beyond our beloved region, outward to the world. It gathers a dozen mid-sized to major institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, as presenters of work curated by Jens Hoffmann (who is deputy director of the Jewish Museum of New York) and Michelle Graebner (who was co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial).  And the art world took note, via the New York Times and artnet news. This level of collaboration, the idea of curated exhibition vs. commercial fair, and aiming beyond the regional market all mark changes for the Northeast Ohio art scene.  Not that change is unfamiliar, but this takes it to another level.


Change and evolution, in fact, are ideas woven through the history of the arts. We are constantly striving for stylistic, conceptual, and technical evolution. Artists want to do something new and original. We want to buck the trend and break the mold. Within individual pieces we find a crisis (or create one) and then work resolve it. We pose a question and by searching, propose or discover an answer. That’s true even if the answer we advance is that there is none. There would be no adventure without something unexpected happening, and no heroic tale without the change the hero goes through–the new bit of knowledge or the magical elixir brought home for the betterment of the village.


Every issue of CAN Journal documents that from myriad angles. The artists on these pages are constantly at work on their own aesthetic challenges, the evolution of their processes, the definition of their art. This issue finds several indiviual artists, organizations and programs at various stages of their evolution.


The artist Andrew Reach (whose work from the University Hospitals collection is featured in detail on our cover) confronted a debilitating condition, in part by transforming himself from archtect to artist. Our feature coverage includes Eric Rippert, who has made a dramatic turn in the nature of his work, from implying narrative by photographing toys in landscapes, to reaching into his own biography to find stories in the imagery of his childhood and family life.  John “Derf” Backderf made the turn from  newspaper cartoonist to award-winning graphic novelist, and continues to mine stages of his own evolution to inform books like Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, My Friend Dahmer, Trashed, and the Web comic,  The Baron of Prospect Avenue–original page drawings of which will be on exhibit this Fall at Waterloo Arts. Meanwhile, photographer Herb Ascherman’s distinguished career has moved through a range of distinctive photographic styles, which are surveyed this fall in a 40-year retrospective at Heights Arts.


Organizations and programs evolve, too, and on this front, this issue of CAN takes a look at two in particular: the growth of the University Hospitals art collection and its gallery, rechristened in honor of founder Trudy Weisenberger; and the Cleveland Foundation’s new, focus-based approach to the Creative Fusion international artist residency program.


Of course CAN itself continues to grow and evolve. In 2015 we launched the weekly CAN e-newsletter. And more recently, with a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, CAN has responded to feedback from readers and galleries to launch CAN Blog, bringing you critical reviews of current exhibits around Northeast Ohio. We’ve assembled a cast of art writers–some familiar, some not so much– who will tell you what they think about what they have seen and heard in galleries all over the region. If you don’t yet get our e-newsletter or follow CAN Blog, what are you waiting for? Find them at canjournal.org.


As always, we look forward to seeing you at the shows.


Michael Gill

Editor / Publisher