“This place is like a museum,” thinks one visitor.
Yes, that’s true, except it’s actually an art gallery.
Hardy Hall Gallery, located in the same building as the historic Ramsdell Theater in Manistee, feels like an art museum. The gallery features 12-foot ceilings, seven ornate oak columns and an open space of approximately 2,500 square feet. Light pours in from four tall north facing windows. A baby grand piano sits quietly in a corner.
Enter the latest art exhibit: “Art Is Art,” an abstract show featuring six northern Michigan artists: Susan Wild Barnard, Jef Bourgeau, Jesse Hickman, Judy Jashinsky, Rufus Snoddy and Pier Wright.
The exhibition “Art is Art” was conceived as a result of the isolation experienced during the pandemic. Judy Jashinsky says, “Our situations changed, but all our routines ended. The adjustments gave us time in which to do things that were often on our wish list. … Some of these things were therapeutic, others stirred up emotions that had been repressed. This exhibition is an alternative for everyone. Abstract art can do that. It allows the viewer to see the colors, shapes, textures and lines that are the expression of the artists, but does not ask the viewer to draw any conclusions.”
This is not just a gallery exhibition of abstract works. This show has weight. Jashinsky’s piece, “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” is a provocative abstraction of the dangerous nuclear standoff that took place in 1962.
Jesse Hickman has a piece, “Six Fingers,” that hangs horizontally at approximately 6 feet by 14 feet. In this show these large abstract works have room to breathe; this black and white work, painted on sacks of recycled coffee beans, draws deep attention.
Rufus Snoddy contributed four sectional pieces, The Circle, The Four Seasons, that can be hung – or bought – together or separately. In this exhibition it is represented together, measuring approximately 10 feet by 9 feet, in a clockwise pattern of winter, spring, summer, autumn. The circle is black with raised bumps and creates its own center – pulling all the panels together – featuring a series of organic shapes with paint texture and cuts and gradations of ethereal color.
Alongside the monumental works are Susan Wild Barnard’s recycled textile works. They are thought-together together with an aura of grace and grounding.
Pier Wright’s works are not contained within traditional right-angled frames, but are free-floating in unique shapes. The colors, sometimes muted, sometimes pure, dance to a rhythm all their own – at once playful, yet extraordinary.
Jef Bourgeau’s digital works reveal brilliant colors that embrace harmony and chaos by pouring perfect squares of printed canvas. Why is the show called Art is Art? Curator Bourgeau first quotes abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, “Art is art. Everything else is everything else.”
“Abstract art draws the jealous attention to its visual reality as a more particular force and event. It does this by rejecting the concrete object and its immediate connection to life and art,” Newman said. “Rejecting these traditional descriptions, abstract art emphasizes the artist’s imagination and unrestrained gestures over the real, thus creating for itself a unique reality of its own. Such a reality allows abstract art to act on the viewer’s imagination, allowing us to perceive new objects, images and previously unseen worlds.”
This exhibition challenges the viewer to see new worlds fly into this grand space that allows imaginations to expand, objects to appear, minds to open.
The show runs from noon to 3pm Wednesday to Saturday until September 3, unless otherwise noted. Appointments are also encouraged during office hours, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday.
For more information, visit www.ramsdelltheatre.org/art, or contact Aimé Merizon, manager of visual arts and education at (231) 398-9770 ext. 8004 or [email protected].
Aimé Merizon is the manager of visual arts and education at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts in Manistee.