Shown here is Dais by Amber Lia, one of the most impressive pieces in the display.

School is back in session for the various institutions of Ithaca, and as college students re-populate the once sleepier (during the quieter months of summer) corners of the city, the Community School of Music and Art (CSMA) too preps for its fall semester of eclectic art courses offered to community members. Designed for adults and youths alike, the courses range from music instruction to ballet to portfolio prep and comedy improv. While during the semesters focus is placed on the students and their work, this month the gallery space in the foyer also celebrates the faculty doing the teaching. Showcasing ten teaching artists of the Visual Arts courses—including a sculptural piece by Robin Troppel-Herbel, the Executive Director of the CSMA—the show will be up for viewing through September 28. 

It’s impractical to compare one artist to another, as each of their respective pieces highlights their various skill sets, visions, and choice of medium. Kevin Mayer’s two paintings, Goldenrod and Moosewoods, are peaceful meditations on the outdoors. Looking at them feels the equivalent of breathing in fresh air as you take in glimpses of meadows and blossoming trees, the white of flowers and glimmer of goldenrods melding with the grassy fields.

Jessica Warner’s more abstract paintings are always a personal favorite, this show being no exception. In one untitled work presented on a large canvas, red industrial-looking rectangles and tubes are set against a dreamlike background of pastel multi-colored splotches, various additional cogs and un-identifiables populating the space as well. What’s incredible about Warner’s work is the alien qualities she is able to bring to pieces that are essentially still-lifes, imaginative and dissected beyond recognition. It is always unclear what exactly you are seeing, yet that is also the charm, allowing you as a viewer to look and experience beyond figuration. 

Storn Cook’s paintings delve into the fantasy genre of literature and film, functioning like detailed illustrations for scenes of otherworldly battles that seem to particularly appeal to several of the young students passing through. Ryan Abb, meanwhile, presents various digital collages that play with commercial kitsch and stream of consciousness narrative. In one collage, the illustration of a Japanese man pulling at his cheeks is superimposed over a Superman comic and various presumably Japanese advertisements or book covers. There’s a map of sorts, a distant castle, and the corner of a musical keyboard. Quick paint-like brushstrokes dart across the visual scene, compositionally connecting the disparate images and adding to the fast paced chaos of the work. It’s unsurprising to see that Abb is teaching a course on cartooning. His works somehow provide action and movement to images that, through another use, could easily have come off as static.

Amber Lia’s painting Dais is beautifully done, so much so that even up close it’s confounding to find that it is not a photograph. A girl in a blue dress looks back quizzically as she goes to ascend a glossy wooden staircase. 

Jessica Peery plays with the placement of simple ink figures on wood in her Immanence series, and Miriam Rice utilizes her specialty in watercolor to explore nature scenes in both concrete and abstract ways, with Frozen Creek (a beautiful scene of pastel, tree-lined sky overlooking a snow-covered creek) being a favorite. Jenny Pagé’s figure drawings are intimate portraits of expression with Ensuite standing out: a mixed media piece of a woman lying on a pattered blanket, the background behind her saturated in black. 

Lastly, the show includes the inventive work of Rob Licht, who plays with panoramic landscape. Distant View: Perry City is a pencil drawing on paper with the perspective point in the far distance and dramatic clouds overhanging the scene. It’s fun to look at the small details the piece provides, from the outline of a tiny house to the hint of a power line. Device to Show Effect of Movement on Perception of Distance, another by Licht, is a standout in the show, however. A sculptural piece of a power line-lined highway with various windmills in the distance, there is a lever for the viewer to simulate the way perspective changes at highway speed in a way that is interactive and unique. •

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