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Art: Elizabeth Ann James, Columnist
January 2007
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Perched on a dream
Two friends land at Ohio Art League

Work of Sharon McJannet and Michelle Lewin

Resting on the edge of contemplation, we perch, poised for flight, tense in anticipation. . . until we soar or descend, or perhaps settle in to roost. Lewin’s work examines the innate human desire to fly, the ensuing descent, the yearning to defy gravity. McJannet’s work has an elusive quality that embodies conflicting and discordant realities. – Artists’ Statement

Two good friends, both highly accomplished glass artists, will present at the Ohio Art League in January 2007. "Perched,” a show of three-dimensional work, looks like a winner with just enough shine to counter the winter blues.

Sharon McJannet, from Scotland, and Michelle Lewin, from Canada, met while working on a master’s program at The Ohio State University and became good friends. When I met them, McJannet was creating work in O.S.U.’s glass department and Lewin was working and making art at Glass Axis.

Neither of these artists works exclusively in glass. Both employ mixed media. Their ex patriate backgrounds inspire them to consider transitions, migrations. Creating shapes relating to birds and flight, in glass and other material, seems natural to them. They understand the benefits and penalties of risk and change.

“Being in a state of flux,” the artists say, “makes everything and anything possible.”

The list of exhibitions and professional credits of both artists are solid, admirable.

Each of Michelle Lewin’s “Fledglings,” is 12 x 8 x 5 inches and includes blown and cast glass, handmade paper, silver leaf and a found object. These darkish blown glass eggs have hatched open and lie on their sides; their open tops have deliberately jagged edges. (Cutting and shaping glass is not easy!) Each egg has spilled a tinged yolk (or white) of cast glass; there is silver leaf on one yolk, and at some point Lewin used black powder, thus achieving a dusky tinge. Upon each yolk “slab” stands or perches a teeny tiny bird of wood, the found object, the fledgling. The bird is dwarfed by the egg, and that may or may not represent a philosophic attitude!

Lewin understands “big” concepts, yet her ability to achieve detail is high – as evidenced in the exacting shades in the fledgling eggs. She is deeply concerned with flight, transitions and what’s in between. Her work tends to be somewhat more narrative, more representative than McJannet’s, and in general is larger. Some of her sculpture resembles glass “murals,” which reveals raised areas. One of these includes skydivers. Lewin’s glass art for “Perched” (understandably not completed in December) included large convoluted shapes and fascinating structural works.

Neither Lewin nor McJannet use flashy colors, but they know about injecting paint, applying powders and using unusual materials and methods. Both artists have an eye for achieving unobtrusive details, and their techniques are exacting and wonder-full!

Birdless Silence
McJannet’s glass art concerns “conflicting and discordant realities.” Ephemerali-ties. Her cast glass, string thread, and familiar metal jingle bells, compose her translucent robins, which seem to suspend, to hover, like the graceful cloudy objects they are. There will be around 60 of them by the time “Perched” opens. They will perch on special ledges constructed in part by McJannet’s artist husband, sculptor David Murphy.

The robins, whose paleness makes one think of gulls, have threads tied around their beaks; those threads can be pulled, making the bells jingle. These birds suggest freedom and non-freedom; and, yes, a moment frozen in time. One thinks of a sandshore on the Atlantic and winter on the way. – I can’t wait to see the entire flock. They’re silicon, molded, paint-injected, and McJannet stitches the halves together. They will perch in “Birdless Silence.”

McJannet has a bold imagination. Her work is thoughtful, not bombastic. She uses everything but the kitchen sink (or the bird cage!). For example, in one sculpture she has used fondant – as in candy.

Three panels form Waiting, in which a bird languishes in a Cage, and a Swing which includes a dust of powdered sugar, and Branch. In all three panels, the bird has been constrained at the precarious point of freedom – versus non-freedom – and can move, but not fly.

Since 2004, McJannet has been a visiting scholar in glass at The Ohio State University.

Ohio Art League Rings in a New Year
It seemed appropriate to begin 2007 with the Ohio Art League show, even though much of the “Perched” exhibit was a work in progress in the month of December. What I saw looked terrific. The two artists are genuine originals, dedicated to their crafts. “Perched” is a winner!

The Spring Juried Exposition will open at Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery on March 23, 2007. Entry deadline is January 26. At the end of March, the third OAL Artist Info/Expo will be held at Columbus College of Art and Design. You must register at OAL, and there is a minimal fee; panel discussions and information booths will be available on site.

Hailey Stroup is OAL’s gracious and competent gallery director. She was of great assistance with this article. Stroup works full time and recently completed her bachelor’s at Ohio State University with an emphasis on art history. She began her efforts at OAL under the former director, Ellen Grevey. Stroup especially likes some of the turn-of-the-century modernists like Marcel Duchamp and Paul Klee. Although she doesn’t have much leisure time, and she doesn’t actually make art, Stroup likes hiking and camping, and she loves art and jazz and hanging out at Sky Lab. “I love it down here,” she said of the neighborhood. “I counted 30 galleries in the Short North. It’s exciting!”

News Flash
“Moving,” an exhibit of stop animation, will be on view at the Ohio Art League during February. OAL openings are always fun. Stroup explained that stop animations are kind of like flash books that you flip with your thumb. Images will also be projected. In the show, “Homeslice,” the hero, returns to the woods to find his friends hooked on butter! Curated by Eve Warnock, the flashy scenario consists of works by Aaron Geiser, Nate Ober, Danny Olsen and Eve Warnock.

The Ohio Art League is a nonprofit membership-based organization dedicated to the presentation and support of Ohio artists. The gallery is located at 954 N. High Street and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 12 - 5 p.m. For more information visit or call 614-299-8225.
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