Few Ohio cities are blessed with as many top-notch art galleries as Columbus.
This week, we highlight exhibits at three Downtown galleries — one that’s moved into a new space, one that is established and revered, and one that’s a bit unexpected.
The works of Mychaelyn Michalec
Sarah Gormley Gallery, 95 N. High St. (sarahgormleygallery.com)
Three years after she founded her gallery in the Short North, Gormley has moved Downtown to a bright and inviting space on North High Street. Her inaugural exhibit, through Dec. 3, is the striking, predominantly textile works by Dayton artist Mychaelyn Michalec.
As a working artist and mother of two, Michalec found the COVID-19 pandemic a challenging time during which she questioned much about domestic life. Why is everyone obsessed with devices? Why do women land the bulk of the chores? What are we paying attention to and how do we spend our time?
Working with an industrial tufting gun as well as hand-tufting colorful wool threads, Michalec created portraits mostly of her family.
“The lone and level sands stretch far away,” which takes its title from a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, shows the artist (platinum blonde during the pandemic) wide awake and not particularly happy next to the sleeping man who would become her ex-husband.
In “We Cannot Make It Do Our Will Now,” the artist (still blonde) stares at the viewer as her son plays with his iPhone. In one of her few acrylic paintings, “I am remaining pretty consistent with burning out a laptop,” the artist (now a brunette) contemplates the tools of her craft — yarn and scissors — as a male figure slumps in the background.
Michalec, 45, has art degrees from The Ohio State University and a library science degree from Southern Mississippi University. Her interest in literature is evident in the titles she applies to her works. The big domestic scenes, especially the textile works, are impressive on several levels: the colors and texture of the wool, the scope and often quirkiness of her compositions and the artist’s uncompromising look at less-than-ideal domestic life.
With her exhibit title, Michalec poses a thought that she addresses in her work and one that surely applies to many other women: “If I could say for sure what I have loved.”
‘Modern Women Masters’
Keny Galleries, 300 E. Beck St. (kenygalleries.com)
Brothers Jim and Tim Keny have championed the works of female artists since opening their German Village gallery in 1980. Their current exhibit, “Modern Women Masters 1900-1950,” through Nov. 25, presents a range of vintage photographs. Among the artists: Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham, Laura Gilpin, Lotte Jacobi, Dorothea Lange, Alma Lavenson, Dorothy Norman and Marion Post Wolcott.
Some works chronicle America after the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression. Dorothea Lange’s “Hay Fork, Northern Oregon Farm, Morrow County, Oregon” shows two hayforks against a farm building. Margaret Bourke-White’s “Locket, Georgia,” is a portrait of an elegant, elderly woman in the 1930s.
The photographs are accompanied by prints and woodblocks by additional important American female artists, Edna Hopkins, Ethel Mars, Maud Squire and Alice Schille among them.
‘Connecting: People, Places, Community’
Broad Street Presbyterian Church, 760 E. Broad St. (bspc.org)
A gem of an exhibit celebrating the work of the late Columbus photographer Kojo Kamau can be seen through Jan. 6 in the Downtown church. The exhibit, “Connecting: People, Places, Community,” is a project of the Eastside Arts Initiative at the church in collaboration with the Ohio History Connection and the James Preston Poindexter Foundation.
Kamau, who died in 2016, tirelessly photographed African American artists and cultural events in his hometown of Columbus.
The exhibit, curated by Bettye Stull and Shelbi Toone, samples his work with black-and-white prints of artists and enlarged black-and-white images of Columbus scenes and events. Among the artists: Elijah Pierce, Barbara Chavous, Queen Brooks, Smoky Brown, William Hawkins, Roman Johnson and, in a particularly winning portrait, Aminah Robinson posing with a drawing of her son, Sydney. Photographed musicians include Gene Walker, Hank Marr and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Kamau was present at Columbus visits from Jesse Jackson (1978) and James Baldwin (1979), and he was at the 1990 Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast attended by 1,000 people. His enlarged photos of these significant occasions are stunning.
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