sky and water paintings

Featuring five teaching artists, the Community School of Music and Arts’ (CSMA) “Faculty Show 2022” presents estimable work in painting, drawing, cartooning, and textiles. Curated by painting and drawing instructor Jessica Warner, the art on view is intended to represent the range of visual arts classes being taught this fall at the CSMA. 

It is challenging to compare the work of familiar artists with that of unfamiliar ones. For that reason—and because there are many more of their pieces here than those of two others—both Warner and Rob Licht appear at an unfair advantage. 

Warner’s oils are something unique in local painting. And arguably, they make a real contribution to contemporary painting writ large. Melding careful observation of domestic—and domesticated—objects to the virtuosic painterly improvisation of abstract expressionism, they juxtapose discipline and abandon, the palpable and the explosive. 

“Sleeping in the Snow,” is her only oil on canvas painting here and her only titled work. It echoes her recent drawing in its seemingly unfinished areas and decorative patterning. More resolved, more lovely, are a pair of smaller oil on paper pieces. One shows us looking down on a purple-gray cloth—also square, but angled away from the viewer. A grid of floating paint dabs, in a wide range of purples, capture vagaries of movement and light. Another piece portrays a brick in pale, rosy strokes enveloped in a dense, aggressive thicket of deep blue and purple. 

Although familiar to devotees of art in Ithaca, it can be difficult to get a handle on the work of local veteran Rob Licht. A maker of sculptures—variously figurative, abstract, and conceptual—Licht has in past years exhibited large observational drawings at the CSMA. Here he is showing numerous plein air gouache paintings of regional lake scenery, variously done on paper or board. By manipulating the placement of the horizon—near the top to near the bottom—he gives us a sense of the palpability of waves and clouds in relation to smoother areas of land, water, and sky. 

All of the other artists here were new to me. The most interesting and unexpected of three is Ryan Abb, who brings a refreshingly punk aesthetic to this often decorous company. Abb is showing several small but dense photocopied collages incorporating cartooning alongside found graphics and text. Printed on brightly colored, cheap paper, and presented in mismatched frames or pinned directly to the wall—these are truly something else. 

Most of his pieces traffic more in exuberance than focus or resolution. His work appears at its best where the cut collage aspect comes to the fore—a sort of street Cubism. It does so most compellingly here in “Superbloom Sector,” a smaller piece that incorporates lime and yellow green paper and a dizzying range of imagery.  

Textile artist Maureen Jackubson is showing three relatively large pieces using shibori, a Japanese resist dying technique. I have long had mixed feelings regarding fabric art that appears to mimic—knowingly or not—the innovations of abstract painting and collage. It’s impossible to judge fairly from the limited sample here but her work is perhaps at its best where it is emphasizes texture over the pictorial. 

In this regard and in its sheer overwhelming quality, “Water Effects 6” is Jackubson’s standout. Dense spottings and striations of indigo—black-blue—submerge three upright diagonal zig-zags in this remarkably rich work. 

Painter Jennifer Gibson is distinctly underrepresented here with three skillful but small and quiet landscapes: one in oil and two in watercolor. The edge goes to her work in the latter medium. “Morning Light” shows a dark silhouetted tree, serpentine, leaning in to the lakeside. The figural form and the pale yellow and blue of the dawn are tremendously tender. “Blue Barn in Winter,” transmogrifies a cliché sort of scene in a combination of wet-on-wet and more traditionally brushed areas.

Traditionally, the CSMA has outsourced its gallery exhibitions to independent curators and community groups—with the predictable result of shows quite varied in intent, approach, and (yes) merit. There’s something to be said for keeping things in-house. A solo show dedicated to any of these artist-teachers might be an interesting venture. 

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