Blog entry begun on Thursday, June 4, 8:00 am
We had already sent Steven Matijcio the catalog for the Covington show, but I was eager for him to see this diverse array of local Moby-Dick artwork in person–especially since he had just now officially announced the Kish and Del Tredici exhibition for 2016.
Because Steven is still relatively new to the Cincinnati area, I thought he would also be interested in seeing how the renovated Covington Public Library worked as a venue for an exhibition as wide-ranging and diverse as this one. He had two new shows of his own opening at the CAC that Friday evening, but he still took the time for a very leisurely stroll through our entire show in which showed as much interest in some of the first-time artists as in those who had been professionally trained, noting that untutored work is sometimes “fresher and more direct,” unburdened by restraints or dogma. It was very interesting for Emma Rose and me to see which works caught the eye and mind of someone like Steven, and we had many pleasant surprises. I was also glad that he was able to see the show in the company of Emma Rose, who, in additon to her work on this show, has gotten to know both Kish and Del Tredici through their recent visits to NKU.
I was eager for Marta Hewett to see the Covington show because of her interest in scheduling a show of local Moby-Dick artists as a companion to the Kish and Del Tredici show at the CAC. She and I have been discussing such a show for several years now, and the two-man show at the CAC would provide the perfect occasion, especially since she and I had been discussing the possibility of an all-female Moby show. I had shown Marta reproductions of work by local artists such as Kathleen Piercefield, Abby Schlachter Langdon, Carola Bell, and Danielle Wallace over the years, but the Covington show was a perfect chance to see their works in person. It was also a chance to introduce Marta to the work of more recent artists such as Mary Belperio, Danielle Kleymeyer, and Caitlin Sparks, Marta’s visit to the Covington show also gave me an opportunity let her know that some of these local artists–including Piercefield, Langdon, Belperio, and Sparks–were already in the process of generating new Moby-Dick art that could be considered for a show in 2016. Marta, like Steven, enjoyed seeing the distribution of artworks throughout the building, and she was also very taken a number of the artworks by untrained artists. I was glad that she, too, had a chance to meet Emma Rose, who is intimately familiar with the work of all the artists we might be considering for a 2016 show, including I & Q by Shawn Buckenmeyer, whom I had I last seen in Marta’s gallery a few weeks before her tragic death one year ago.
Emma Rose and I were both happy when Marta confirmed at the end of our walk through the Covington show that she would definitely like to have an exhibition of Moby-Dick artists concurrent with the one that will open at the CAC next April. And much has already happened since our walk with Marta on May 15. When I wrote Claire Illouz, the Moby-Dick book artist from France who had premiered her Emily Dickinson artist book here at NKU in February, that Marta Hewett will be definitely be having a Moby-Dick show here next spring, Claire immediately wrote back to say she would like to create new work to be considered for the show. After coming to NKU for the premiere of her Dickinson book in February, Claire is returning to the United States in early August to make a presentation about her Moby-Dick artist book, The Whiteness, at Melville’s Arrowhead home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. This will be Claire’s first visit to Melville’s home, which will probably help to inspire whatever she submits for the Marta Hewett show next spring. I plan to be at Arrowhead for Claire’s presentation on August 3, when I expect to learn more about what she has in mind for Cincinnati in 2016.
Aileen Callahan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is another artist who was happy to hear that Marha Hewett is definitely planning to hold a Moby-Dick show concurrent with the Kish and Del Tredici show next spring. In Beth Shultz’s hour-long survey of new Moby-Dick art at the NKU Symposium on April 27, Aileen Callahan was one four artists that Beth singled out for sustained excellence in the creation of visual art in response to Moby-Dick over the last twenty years: the other three were Matt Kish, Robert Del Tredici, and Matt Milloff. Aileen often comes to Cincinnati in the summer to help her sister Claire, a professor of guitar at the College Conservatory of Music, run a summer guitar festival. Last year I had introduced her to Marta Hewett at her gallery in the hope that Aileen could someday exhibit there, and now we would appear to have the perfect opportunity. As soon as I notified Aileen that the show for next year has now been confirmed, she immediately wrote back to say she has already been thinking of the kind of works she would like to submit for a show in Marta’s gallery. She also sent the image of a new charcoal drawing in her ongoing series on the whale’s skin that has just gone on display in a juried show at Danforth Art in Framingham, Massachusetts. It is called Carbuncles of Skin and shows this very prolific artist at the very top of her form.
It’s amazing how exhibitions happen or don’t happen in ways that cannot be predicted. Emma Rose and I had hoped for a Moby show in 2015 in the Main Gallery at NKU that was turned down by the Faculty Advisory Committee there, causing us to seek another venue that would have been the Covington Arts Gallery at its Seventh Street building had that venue not been sold to a microbrewery after making our show part of its 2015-16 season. Then, when the new Covington Arts Gallery site on Pike Street proved to be much too small for our proposed Moby show and Marathon, we found the Covington Public Library, which turned out to be far superior to what any of the other venues would have been.
The CAC and Marta Hewett shows I am now helping to plan for 2016 have followed a similar errant trajectory. My original impetus for contacting either of these galleries more than two years ago was the decision of the Cincinnati Opera to mount Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick opera at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center, literally half a block away from the CAC, in June 2016. That decision by Cincinnati Opera had prompted me to seek out sites for four different Moby-Dick art shows that could run in nearby Cincinnati venues concurrent with the opera production—one at the CAC, one at the 21c hotel adjacent to the CAC, one at the Weston Gallery adjacent to the Aronoff performance space, and one at the Marta Hewett Gallery. I had made considerable progress in proposing shows to each of these venues, but I was a afraid last fall, when Cincinnati Opera suddenly decided it would have to postpone Heggie and Scheer’s opera for several years, that the four art venues would postpone any plans of their own. It was doubly gratifying when Steven Matijcio decided to propose the Kish and Del Tredici Moby show to his board for 2016 even in the absence of the opera—and when Marta Hewett said she would want to go ahead with her show if the CAC went ahead with its. It was actually during the weekend of our recent Moby-Dick Arts Fest in late April 2015 that the CAC announced Kish and Del Tredici for April through August of 2016, opening the way for the visits to Steven Matijcio and Marta Hewett made to our Covington show before it closed on May 15.
Things have continued to develop quickly since the May 15 walk-through with Marta Hewett. I had taken Mary Belperio’s Snuggles Beneath the Counterpane home to Bellevue from the Covington show until I could find time to return it to her. When I met her at a coffee shop near her Price Hill home the next weekend, I was happy to tell her that Marta Hewett was indeed having a Moby show next year to which Mary could submit the new fabric piece of Queequeg’s head she had been contemplating for some time now. As we spoke about some of the other artists likely to be involved, and about the NKU Symposium in which she and Abby had both made presentations, she was very interested in hearing about the new work that Abby was herself contemplating for the Marta Hewett show. She also realized that she had taught Abby’s daughter Kalli to swim at a pool on Price Hill several years ago. As a result, Mary and Abby are now planning to meet periodically and maybe even to collaborate in some way as they each create new work for 2016. Since I had Mary’s Snuggles piece at my house for a week before returning it to her at Price Hill, I gave it an audition on the brick wall over my dining room fireplace. If Mary should ever agree to sell it (her two daughters would very much miss it), I would love to add it to my collection and take it out to school each time I teach the “Counterpane” chapter.
Nothing is more exciting to me as an English-teacher turned curator than to think of new works being created for new exhibitions. In addition to Abby and Mary now sharing ideas in Cincinnati about what they might create for the Marta Hewett show, Kathleen Piercefield is generating new ideas of her own while taking an advanced printmaking class from Andrea Knarr over the summer. And Veronica Mitchell’s daughter Monica is actually in the process of finishing new Moby-Dick works I have not yet seen. When I first thought two years ago of helping to organize a Marta Hewett show as a companion to the opera production then scheduled for Cincinnati, I was thinking of a show consisting primarily of local works already then existing, many of which have now recently been shown in Moby Comes to Covington. There are certainly many works from the Covington show that would do very at Marta Hewett show, where I expect a number of them would be sold. But it now appears that that show is likely to have a very strong contingent of new works now gestating in the minds and hearts of local artists such as Mary, Abby, Kathleen, and Monica in addition to Aileen in Massachusetts and Claire in France. If I had to float a title for the 2016 show now, it would be “Moby-Dick through Women’s Eyes, Minds, Hearts, and Hands.”
While all of these new creative energies have begun to point to the newly confirmed Marta Hewett show, Matt Kish and Robert Del Tredici are of course thinking a lot about new Moby-Dick works they will be generating in advance of next year’s CAC show. Seeing Matt four days in a row at the recent Moby Arts Fest, as well as well as at the farewell gam in my Bellevue home, gave me a good chance to hear more about what he is currently planning. Robert Del Tredici has recently been very busy creating major photography exhibitions in Boulder, Colorado, as well as in Toronto and Quebec City in Canada. Last week, after giving the keynote address at a conference on Critical Topography at Reyerson University in Toronto on May 22, Bob wrote to let me know that he currently has “Ten Moby Dicks on the assembly line in the cave.”
Anticipating the Moby-Dick art that might be filling the spaces of the Contemporary Arts Center and the Marta Hewett Gallery one year from now is quite a bit like wondering early in the semester what kind of projects might be be presented at the end of course in Moby-Dick and the Arts. And in some ways following the process is as interesting as seeing the final result. It is what happens in the classroom between the first week of class and the presentations during the last two weeks that shapes what gets created. The same is somewhat true of the two exhibitions now being planned for next year. Kish and Del Tredici may not be seeing each other in the meantime, but they met each other at NKU in November 2013, long before Steven had chosen them for the CAC in 2016. They will be thinking of each other, and of each other’s work, as they prepare for Cincinnati, and they will both be in touch with Steven and me as co-curators.
Some of the artists who are creating works for the Marta Hewett Gallery will be getting together in advance of this show. Aileen Callahan has just confirmed that she will again be visiting Cincinnati for her sister’s guitar festival. When Aileen and I meet for lunch in mid-July, we will invite local Moby artists who are creating new work for the Marta Hewett show to join us for lunch as well as a visit to the gallery. If these plans come to fruition, that afternoon of gestatoin might be as exciting, in its way, as the final delivery that will be celebrated on opening night next year. By the end of that show, we might all end up as close to each other as my students often are after presenting their work to each other at the end of a semester. During the final exam period I give the class an informal, handwritten examination in which they all answer a series of questions about each other’s final projects. The way they articulate their admiration for what their classmates have created is always another of the highlights of the course.