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Art exhibit features WAGE members

Susan Shie’s quilt, “Hillary,” which she began Oct. 17, 2016, documents Hillary Clinton’s life, the presidential race and the post-election chaos.

Ellen Pill

“When you think of ‘Art of My Soul,’” artist Michael William Jackson said, “you might think of something more majestic or ethereal than my paintings. Typically when I do larger paintings, I have to work from photographs, but I set up these still lifes. For me the art of my soul is to actually observe what is out there. It’s not so much trying to copy a photograph the best I can, but more so translating what I see.”

Jackson described how his three paintings fit into the current Wayne Artists Group Effort annual exhibit that is currently on display in Wooster. Jackson, like all the local artists in the show, is a WAGE member.

Susan Shie founded the group 30 years ago. Shie said, “I started WAGE in the summer of 1986 ... I had gotten my Master of Fine Arts at Kent State, and I needed a peer group. It was just me and another woman. We’d meet and bring our lunch and talk. Every year we’d have a show, and all these people would show up, and finally I said, ‘If you want to be in the show, guess what? You have to come to the meetings.’ And all of a sudden we had a big group.

Right now there are about 20 of us who are active members. It’s a very tight group. People are very aware of each other and friendly ... We meet in each other’s homes and really get to know each other. What is really sweet about this group is that we’re a real democracy.”

Both the show theme and the artwork that are featured on the show’s invitation are chosen by a member vote. This year’s theme, “The Art of My Soul,” was contributed by Julie W. Fisher.

“If you want to suggest a theme,” Shie said, “you have to be willing to be in the show and make that theme. The other rule is that you have to start your pieces for the show after the theme is chosen. This way we have a process. We pick the theme together, and we watch each other’s artwork or sketches or whatever is their process as it develops.”

Shie is known for her large quilts that often focus on current political issues. While studying at the College of Wooster, Shie met a feminist teacher and artist, Miriam Schapiro. “Schapiro asked, ‘Are you making women’s art? Are you a woman artist, or are you just an artist?’”

At that point Shie switched from traditional painting to painting on fabric. “I’d been painting on big canvases, and I was realizing first of all I couldn’t get them home because they were too big. And second of all I had always sewn. My mom sewed, and I sewed. That’s what we did. I started making women’s art, which was combining my studio art with my sewing.”

Shie got permission from her instructor to paint on fabric instead of canvas. “As soon as it is in your hands, you want to sew it. It’s a natural thing ... So all of a sudden it was this rebellious ... this flamingly radical thing to do — to make this quilt — but it’s art. Feminism and hippie-dom were making this mesh that later on became the art quilt world.”

Shie explained that even now the art community frequently does not take art quilts seriously. “It’s important,” Shie said, “because women are still being dissed. So we’ve got to keep saying, ‘This is women’s art.’ This group, WAGE, started out as Women Artist’s Group Effort.”

Another WAGE artist participating in the show, Lorene Meier, paints watercolors. Shie spoke about Meier’s work. “The woman is the best watercolor artist in Ohio. When you look at her art, you don’t just look at it. You go inside of it, and you climb around in it, and you open doors, and you climb trees, and you look for animals, and you smell the grass, and you feel the wind on your face. She’s magic.”

Meier was a member of WAGE for four years before she painted anything. “I hadn’t done any art since high school,” Meier said. “And I was pushing 50. I don’t think I would’ve painted at all if she hadn’t kept after me.”

Monica Bongue-Bertelsman has three oil on canvas paintings in the exhibit. “This show is a really good motivator to carve some time out of a busy schedule to actually paint,” Bongue-Bertelsman said. “I’m always inspired by nature, and a lot of the purpose of my paintings is to promote conservation. Oil painting is a very organic medium, very forgiving. It allows you to make mistakes and keep on going.”

The artist creates her own handmade wooden frames for each of her pieces.

Kelly Aboulkacem is all about trying new things for each WAGE show. “Everything I do is always so different because I always have a lot of different ideas. If you had seen my work in the last show, it looks nothing like this show, and the year before that was photography.”

Her “Dragonfly” piece in this year’s show is the artist’s first watercolor. She described the piece. “I really like making things that are dimensional, and I like things that look kind of aged.”

Along with the watercolor the work includes clay dragonflies and three-dimensional plastic wings.

“The Art of My Soul,” the WAGE annual exhibition, remains on display at Wayne Center for the Arts, 237 S. Walnut St. in Wooster, through Feb. 11. The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular business hours, which are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Published: January 23, 2017
New Article ID: 2017701239989