Homegrown: Ohio Artists in the Collection

February 7, 2004 - March 27, 2004
Isroff Gallery

Ohio has produced-or become home to-many artists who are recognized nationally as well as beloved in their own communities. These artists work in a variety of media and styles and treat a multitude of subjects, but they also often depict the people and scenes most familiar to them. This exhibition of works on paper, selected from the museum's rich collection of regional art, reveals how the landscape and inhabitants of America's heartland provide many artists with vital inspiration.

Ohio artists have a long tradition of treating local subjects. During the Great Depression, a number of them participated in the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), documenting the state of their communities in paintings, murals, and prints. Dorothy Rutka's Siesta, an image of pigs rooting through an empty pen, suggests the harsh economic realities of the time. Russell Limbach's print depicting three workers atop a new post office in Cleveland highlights both their hard labor and the nation's plans for a brighter future.

Many contemporary artists in Ohio look to the midwestern landscape that developed in the post-war era, with factories and densely populated suburbs reaching into farmland and pristine forests. University of Akron professor Andrew Borowiec's haunting photograph of a once-booming industrial town suggests both economic and spiritual losses. The radiant colors and softened forms in Lynn Gessaman's photograph of an arboretum near Louisville, Kentucky, reflect her belief that art should give viewers the feeling that "all is right with the world." Judith McMillan upends this idyllic vision of nature by creating close-up views of animals and insects that are both alluring and a bit disturbing.

Family, friends, and everyday life are the most compelling subjects for other artists. Columbus-based Aminah Robinson depicts members of the vibrant African-American communities in which she and her family have lived. Her drawing of a young boy showcases her exquisite draftsmanship as well as the mystical quality that characterizes her work. Robinson and other artists in this exhibition have treated subjects beyond their families and the midwestern region, but they have also shown that there is no place like home.

This exhibition was organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible through a generous contribution from Stimler Law Offices.