Winter SOULstice Alumni Show at Akron Soul Train
To close 2022 and begin 2023, Akron Soul Train presents its Winter SOULstice Alumni Show, beautifully and intuitively curated by Meryl Engler. The exhibition, which offers high-quality art by local artists, has something for everyone, from prints, to paintings, to textiles. It exceeded expectations on every level and is one of my favorites I’ve seen in the space.
Since its inception in 2016, Akron Soul Train has worked with 61 artists-in-residence. Thirty-two alumni artists-in-residence appear in the Winter SOULstice exhibition. Although 32 artists are represented, the gallery doesn’t feel crammed or overwhelmed. Each work has its own way of bringing the space to life. Video installations produce dynamic energy and although this show offers variety, it still feels cohesive.
The artists are: Drew Ippoliti, Charisse Harris, Elizabeth Dallas, Shani Richards, Zelda Zinn, Diane Britt, Danny Volk, Jennifer Omaitz, Micah Kraus, Stephen Tomasko, Christina Lindhout, Josy Jones, Ryan Craycraft, Timothy Gaewsky, April Bleakney, Rebekah Wilhelm, Seth Nagelberg, Miriam Bennett, Max Markwald, Candy Coated, Sanjib Bhattacharya, Arron Foster, Jonah Jacobs, Atefeh Farajolahzadeh, Gabe Gott, Michael Loderstedt, Lori Kella, Palli Davene Davis, Steven Mastroianni, Daniel Trzcinski, and Joshua Eiskamp.
Danny Volk’s Study for View East stopped me in my tracks. Woven from polyethylene grocery bags and cotton thread, the piece has the appearance of a textile and shows a remarkable level of control over a delicate and difficult medium. Just as impressive is the way the piece is hung—wisely, it is unframed and billows from the wall just as a grocery bag floating through the wind would.
For fans of fashion, I found a piece that will sweep you off your feet. Diane Britt packed a punch with Fancy Dress Shoes Ensemble. It was created from—stick with me—cast and laminated paper sculpture, artist-made flax paper, a knitted and crocheted paper dress, procion-dyed papers, paper pulp, dipped cotton cord, and paper-dipped floral wire. I felt absolutely and utterly enchanted standing in the presence of this exquisitely crafted work. The photo here does not compare to the experience of viewing the piece in person. Just as impressive is the way this ensemble is displayed. Rather than being worn on a mannequin, the dress, shoes, and accessories are hung on the wall, elevating clothing to fine art.
Miriam Bennett’s “maculate” series (no. 5) is a stunning exploration of shadow and light. The image is enlarged from a fuji instant photo original. A common theme you’ll find in this exhibition is incredible craftsmanship using challenging or unconventional media. I love the way this portrait feels intimate and soft, yet the linear shadows limit the viewer’s access to the subject.
Listen to Your Body and Rest (Lavender) by April Bleakney is a poignant reminder to look after the body you call home. The screenprint on hand-pulled rag paper is made from the artist’s grandfather’s shirts. While the piece incorporates words, which can sometimes feel intrusive within a work of visual art (at least to me), the subdued pastels reduce the phrase from a shout to a gentle whisper.
Teetering precariously in the center of the gallery is Lockdown/Breakout by Jennifer Omaitz. This piece is one that wants to make you nervous. It’s top-heavy; it’s chaotic; from a distance, it looks like it is on the verge of collapse, but up close, it is extremely detailed and carefully engineered to stay in place. It’s another piece worth a close look in person.
At the opening reception of the Winter SOULstice alumni show, Akron Soul Train announced its 2023 artists-in-residence: Debra DeGregorio (visual artist from Akron); David Maynard (visual artist from Cuyahoga Falls); Katie Beck (theatre performance artist from Akron); Sujatha Srinivasan (dance performance artist from Parma); Eva Polzer (clay sculptor from Kent); Kristen Cliffel (ceramic artist from Lakewood); Jeri Lee Sapronetti (musical performance artist from Akron); Ewuresi Archer (visual artist from Cleveland Heights); Sylvia Sykes (visual artist from Akron); Gina Washington (visual artist from Cleveland); Raja Belle Freeman (poet and visual artist from South Euclid); Nyki Fetterman (visual artist from Kent).
This is a knockout exhibit that will make visitors look forward to what a new cohort of artists bring to Akron Soul Train in 2023.
The Winter SOULstice Alumni Show
Wednesday – Saturday, 11 am – 4 pm
Through January 24, 2023
Akron Soul Train Gallery
191 King James Way
Akron, Ohio 44308