Sunday, June 04, 2000

Art museum goes hog wild over pigs and photographs

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Is it Ansel Adams or is it the pigs that are drawing the crowds at the Cincinnati Art Museum? More than 6,000 visitors went to the CAM over the Memorial Day weekend. Maybe it's because museum admission is free during the Big Pig Gig. (Contributions are always welcome, of course.)

        It could be Mr. Adams' incredible photographs of the American West, probably the best known and best loved photographs by an American artist, even though that exhibition does have an admission charge. But once in the museum, visitors are discovering lots of changes in gallery installations and a complete herd of pigs. The museum is located in Eden Pork.

        Laugh if you will, but the pigs are a welcome addition, bringing color and wit into hallowed halls of art. When they go away next October, and all but one of them will, they will be missed.

        There are eight pigs at the CAM; “Pigletzander Calder,” a mobile pig in tribute to sculptor Alexander Calder by Joel Selmeier (who calls himself; “Pigall,” a Chagall-inspired pig by Ellen Miller; “Pigasso,” by Judy Anderson; “Pop-Pig-Andy Warhog,” by Terry Boyle; “Lichtenswine (Sorry, Roy),” by Kevin Kelly; “Paganini,” by Greg Penner; “Pigtisse,” after Matisse, by Holly Schapker; and CAM Ham by Romelli & Associates.

        There's a box by each pig where visitors can drop contributions toward the purchase of a pig. The pig with the most loot at the end of the Big Pig Gig, next October, will be purchased by the museum.

        Actually, the museum should keep more than one, and not just as a novelty. Some of the pigs are valid examples of Pop Art sculpture, and are worthy of inclusion in the permanent collection.

        By the way, Ansel Adams: Masterworks from the Friends of Photography Collection closes next Sunday. Exhibition admission is $8 general, $6 for seniors and students.

        In the shadows: Also new at the CAM is an exhibition, Surface & Shadow, in the new Thomas R. Schiff Galleries, for Cincinnati photographers Cal Kowal and Anita Douthat. It's an important exhibition for a number of reasons.

        First, it was put together swiftly, rather than scheduled years in advance as museum exhibitions usually are. Secondly it is the first photography exhibition in the expanded galleries that are intended as a showcase for photography, as well as prints and drawings. Thirdly, the two artists are Cincinnatians, and exhibitions of local art are infrequent at the CAM.

        Mr. Kowal and Ms. Douthat showed the work recently at the Carl Solway Gallery, but only diehard contemporary art fans visit there. Here at the CAM the art can be seen as wholly contemporary, but capable of appealing to a broad audience. the exhibition also shows what an improvement the new gallery is over the hallway space it has replaced.

        Mr. Kowal's colorful, densly packed assemblages seem to be straightforward groupings of ephemera at first glance. A closer study shows that they are somehow out of sync, in focus but not entirely coherent. There's a lot of room for the viewer's imagination to play with the images.

        Ms. Douthat's prints are ghostly presences, white shadows on deep brown paper seem to float in space and creep into the viewer's subconscious mind. Old lace, an antique chair, musical instruments, ephemera from grandma's attic, are a mix of charm and mystery.

        There is a reception for the artists at the CAM from 1 to 4 p.m. While there, check out the pigs.

        Fabric art: The Handweavers Guild of America will hold an international conference in Cincinnati June 22-25, and there will be lots of fabric and fiber art on view while they're here. It's an opportunity for the Cincinnati Art Museum to feature another local artist, Maud Rydin March, who will show 14 tapestries in Sleeping Beauty, June 24 to August 6.

        More than 30 fabric art shows will be seen in various galleries in the Tristate. The Contemporary Arts Center will show work by Leslie Dill and Nari Ward. Miller Gallery will show the work of five regional artists; Arnelle Dow, Renee Harris, Susan Minnick Sweeney, Ginny Timmons and Mary Wiseman. The Suzanna Terrill Gallery will show the work of Audrey Moore, Rosalie Neilson and Linda Fifield. A 30-year retrospective of the work of Barbara Miller, a North Carolina artist, will be shown at the Covington Cathedral Art Gallery and the Xavier University Art Gallery will show fiber based sculpture by Jon B. Wahling. Miami University has two shows, one for Cincinnati artist Ellen Zahorec at Heistand Gallery and one for California artist Lia Cook at Miami University Art Museum. For a complete list and for conference information look on the Internet at


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