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Soul Meets Body

Erin Wozniak studies the subtle details around us—for us Erin Wozniak’s specialty is giving you a little peek into the real. Her paintings and drawings capture mostly human subjects in the most intimate everyday moments. Close-up views of their bodies reveal sleepy faces and maps of wrinkles. Some scenes free of context, like a child’s [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Erin Wozniak studies the subtle details around us—for us

Erin Wozniak’s specialty is giving you a little peek into the real. Her paintings and drawings capture mostly human subjects in the most intimate everyday moments. Close-up views of their bodies reveal sleepy faces and maps of wrinkles. Some scenes free of context, like a child’s hand clutching a string tied to a balloon, speak to a larger notion of sharing a home, and benign yet special moments with a little one. The subjects are so unguarded and exposed in the images that the viewer feels an immediate sense of their vulnerability and familiarity. (614) caught up with Wozniak to examine the look of her work, her inspiration, and her upcoming exhibits in central Ohio.

Your art has been described as “contemporary realism.” Is this a genre you purposefully studied and aspired to? 

There are so many artists and genres that I take inspiration from, with contemporary realism being one of them. I’ve always been drawn to art that requires the dedication of time and the intense labour of looking at and really studying something closely.

The nature of the representation of your subjects is arguably a “warts and all” approach. From puffy eyelids, to rolls of skin dotted with moles. How do you regard “imperfections?”

Just as I am interested in how the surface of a painting can hold time and history in its brush strokes and layers of paint, I am also fascinated with how the surface of the body is similar. The marks, scars, wrinkles, etc, of a person’s body, tell a story and are evidence of a life lived. I like to work with that evidence.

In this era of over-edited selfies, is this a way to explore those imperfections?

I don’t think my work is about imperfection vs. perfection as much as it is about human vulnerability. Recording the “imperfections” of the human body is part of the process of representing our physicality; the stuff that we are made of.

The images are of mundane scenes, but often viewed from a novel angle. Do you want the viewer to feel a familiarity with the images? Or an alienness? 

Both. My work stems from the familiar; I paint what’s around me. However, when you really look at something, study it for a long time, or look at it from a new angle, sometimes you uncover an otherness or an alienness about it. What is familiar can so easily slip away and become strange. This unsettling feeling hooks me and is what drives a lot of my work.

The colors you use are airy and unsaturated. Does this communicate a mood or intention?

Again, I think the sense of human vulnerability and permeability that I always seem to come back to in my work influences the color palette and atmosphere in my paintings and drawings. Edges soften and fade, and colors tend to be pastel, maybe pierced with a bright red or deep black.

What are your favorite materials to create with?

I love the simplicity of pencil or charcoal on paper. I’ll often sketch first with vine charcoal to block in basic shapes, or I’ll lay down powdered graphite or charcoal and work backwards with an eraser. I also love oil paint for its versatility. I always stare at a blank canvas like I forgot how to paint and think to myself, “How am I going to figure this out.” Oil paint just comes along for the ride. I tend to rework paintings a lot, painting in thin layers, then maybe thicker, sanding down paint, painting thin again, and so on.

Who are three artists you admire in Columbus?

Julie Taggart was a professor of mine at CCAD. She’s a fantastic teacher and I love her work. Mark Bush, who I’ve shown with a number of times at Hammond Harkins creates stunning portraits, and Sarah Fairchild, whose work is just mesmerizing.

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Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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