Passion Vs. Reality: Three For The Fall

Art exhibit at Ashby-Hodge Gallery

August 21, 2017

The fall show at The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at Central Methodist University brings together both passion and reality, or sometimes the question of reality, in the Gallery’s new exhibition “Passion Vs. Reality: Three for the Fall.”

The opening reception for the artists is Sunday, Aug. 27 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. in the Gallery in Classic Hall on the Fayette Central Methodist University campus.

The two main galleries will showcase paintings by Gary Cadwallader and painted pottery by Geoff Graham. The third gallery will be presenting 13 masterpieces from the Gallery’s permanent collection. The fall show runs through Thursday, Nov. 16.

The two guest artists seem quite different, but they are linked by their passion for their chosen art forms and their vivid, colorful images that emerge. These are all items which will entice the viewer to slow down and examine each piece of art at length.

Gary Cadwallader

Gary Cadwallader admitted that as a child, “I was too shy to live.” He has come a long way. Today he is a renowned artist, comfortable with his work and with talking about it. He has nearly two dozen paintings in the new Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art show.

He did make it through college with a degree in art, but had no clue what to do with it, especially through his temerity. Discovering he was good with computers gave him an out, and he programmed computers for 35 years, a mostly solitary position.

But Cadwallader’s love for painting never went away. Six or seven years ago, he decided he was going to give painting a real try.

A couple of years ago he put down his computer for good and picked up his paint brushes instead. After a couple of hitches in his beginning efforts, his skills came back to him and Cadwallader has been painting faithfully ever since. He paints in watercolor, acrylic, and oil.

As part of his research, he went to an art museum and watched how people interacted with the paintings. “They gave each painting about three seconds of attention,” he said. That was clearly unsatisfactory to him. So Cadwallader began to fill his canvasses with as much as he could, luring people in to stare at them longer and pick up more from them.

He said, “’Abundance II’ was the first one I felt could stop the ‘gallery walk.’ People stopped. One thought it took a long time to paint; one moved his hand in the direction of the motion of the content. They all talked about it and even ‘danced’ with it.”

He knew he had found what he wanted in his paintings.

Cadawallader delights in mixing in content and style from other artists. For instance, in his painting “Before the World was Flat,” he has painted something that seems to reference the Biblical story of Adam and Eve (minus Adam) in the garden of Eden. Some elements are very round and life-like, such as the snake, yet others are completely flat (the Apple logo, for instance). He drew in references to artists such as DeKooning, Dali, and Cézanne. No wonder people stand and stare at his work.

Cadwallader likes to draw with pencil first, and he likes large canvasses (after all, people spend more time looking at them). His largest canvasses are four feet by four feet as that’s as large as he can fit in his car. However, he does have a modern diptych of a rodeo that doubles that size, accomplished by using two canvasses.

On that piece of oil artwork, named “El Diablo vs. Jesus Flota,” people can take it at face value—he uses stark colors, a black background, and figures more suggested by edges than by full detail—or people can take it as a Biblical motif, fairly common in diptychs.

In that regard, one counts 13 characters, one of whom looks downright evil and the others with golden hats or shine around their heads. Traditional evil symbols, like an upside down cross and flames, are associated with the character of El Diablo (i.e., “the Devil”), and so on. There is much to study here.

For a man who was painfully shy, Cadwallader has blossomed beautifully through his art. Since 2011, the Warrensburg resident has won seven Best in Shows, a People’s Choice, 19 juried acceptances, and been an artist in residence and won a fellowship in Artist INC. Most recently, his watercolor “Dusk” took first place in professional paintings in the Fayette Festival of the Arts on Aug. 5, 2017, and then took Best in Show.

Geoff Graham

Geoff Graham was born into an art family and has been surrounded by art and art history all of his life. He says that according to his mother he was drawing with proper perspective by the age of two. He has always had an interest in art, especially graphic arts.

His family lived unconventionally, including living on a sailboat, mostly in the Mediterranean for three years in his youth. His father, Dr. Henry Graham, teaches art history at CMU.

When Graham was 11 he spent a semester abroad with his father and a number of college students and while there, he fell in love with Greek art and the country of Italy. “I found my artistic preferences and tastes among the ruins of the Roman Forum, Paestum, and Pompeii,” Graham said. “This, coupled with a strong Italian-American identity from my mother, was to shape the art I would produce during my lifetime.”

He began college at the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in Islamic art. Then he transferred to the American University of Cairo and studied Islamic art on site. Later Graham obtained his bachelor’s degree in Near East Studies from UC-Berkeley in 1992. After that he earned a Master of Philosophy in Egyptology from Yale in 1999. He taught first year Hieroglyphic Middle Egyptian at Yale.

Most of the Mediterranean countries patterned their decorative arts after Islamic art in surface influence, such as covering the entire surface with paint, as opposed to Western art which is more likely to showcase a single scene in the center of the surface. As Graham’s mother is Italian in background, he picked up the Italian and Greek paintings as well as the Islamic art styles and began to create and paint ceramics around age 40.

When he returned to the United States, he was hired to teach grade school art for about five years. Included in the curriculum was Native American studies. He took a series of pottery classes at the same time and began to create and fire masks that reflected those cultures; and masks continue to be a favorite medium for him.

One such mask in the exhibition, known as the “Mask of Tsunuqua,” the forest giant from the Kwakiutl culture on Vancouver Island, is a forest totem - “a very hairy woman who lives in the woods and eats children.” The totem was used to teach children the dangers of going into the forest. The red mouth of the totem supposedly made a “whoo” sound, which also helped children know when to run home. Conveniently, the sound the witch made was very similar to the sound of the trees blowing in the wind.

A set of small figurines depicting dancers decked out as giant carnivorous birds, sits under a set of masks. They represent a ritual for the Hamatsa from the Kwakiutl culture. The outfits were made of bark and the large beaks could be opened and snapped shut in a show of sabre-rattling force.

Another mask in the exhibition is of Oceanus, one of the Titans displaced by the Greek Gods. Oceanus was turned into the ocean and was very powerful until Poseidon took over his realm. The blue mask is topped with a crab on its head and has a seaweed moustache.

One of Graham’s trademarks is the use of major color on the back side of plates and pots, such as the salad bowl with water spirits on the inside and seafood on the outside. He also takes traditional Italian themes, like sunflowers and olives, and mixes in both Southern Italian style and themes from the ocean.

When Graham stopped teaching, he opened a shop in northern California named Cinnabar Ceramics. He sold his pottery there and at art fairs in the region. Life was going smoothly until a major earthquake in the Napa Valley area destroyed most of his artwork.

“It was so devastating,” he says, “that most of my work was simply swept out of the shop with a broom.” Graham has been rebuilding art since then. He moved to Fayette to see if his work would thrive here as well as in California. Although he admits to less cultural diversity in Missouri, he loves the beauty and the friendly people. He calls his new home warm and welcoming, lush and green.

In honor of his move to Missouri, Graham has created a new oval platter (in dark green and in white) called “Missouri Highway” that includes paintings of chicory, Queen Ann’s lace, ditch lilies (day lilies), and black-eyed Susans, with bees and dragonflies.

Works From the Permanent Collection

Thirteen works of art have also been selected from The Ashby-Hodge Gallery’s permanent collection to complement the works of Cadwallader and Graham.

Included in these pieces are “Doyers Street” by Reginald Marsch, “Coney Island” by Paul Cadmus, “After the Ball” by Oscar Berninghouse, “Rural Landscape with Cow” by Daniel Van Der Putten, “Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Evelyn” by William Forsythe, “The Violin Lesson” by Cornellia Kummel,

“Untitled” (Harbor Scene) by Fern Isabel Coppedge, “Study for Jesse and Greenberry Ragan” by Robert MacDonald Graham, Jr., “Self-Portrait” by Edna Schenk, “Mother and Child” by Daniel Celentano, “Les Eboulenents” by George Head Wright, “George Washington Hanging Wall Paper,” a new gift by Frank Joseph Reilly, and “Seascape” by Kathryn E. Cherry.

For further information, please contact either Curator Denise Haskamp at dhaskamp@centralmethodist.edu or Registrar of the Gallery Dr. Joe Geist at jegeist@centralmethodist.edu, or phone 660-248-6304.