The Ontario County Arts Council's "Colors of Our World" exhibit can be viewed in its entirety online
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The two images were born in the most divergent of circumstances — one captured amid travel in a remote land, one created in isolation required by a pandemic.
Both photographs — an image of sandstone on an Australian coast, and an abstract piece of a human figure in shadow before a somber backdrop suggesting the outside world — are the work of Michael Nyerges of Canandaigua, and both are striking in their use of color. Which makes each image a natural for the Ontario County Arts Council’s current exhibit, “Colors of Our World.”
A collection of works by 33 artists — watercolors, oils, acrylics, photographs, embroidered needle felt, handmade paper and more — “Colors of Our World” would normally be on view for visitors to the Ontario County Historical Society, which houses the OCAC’s quarterly exhibits under terms of a partnership. But due to the coronavirus-necessitated pause in New York, that Canandaigua museum — as well as Fort Hill Performing Arts Center, home to the council’s other current exhibit, “Rhythm and Motion” — is closed until late June at the earliest, when cultural institutions could conceivably begin opening if the state’s phased reopening plan goes as scheduled.
When the spaces can reopen, council president Judi Cermak said there would be an opening event, likely an all-day one to allow for fewer people in the site at one time. Previous openings have drawn as many as 100 people, said Cermak, who has two pieces in the exhibit — “Children of the World” and “Octopus’ Garden” — using felt made from recycled bottles. The “Children of the World” piece she plans to donate for a drawing at the opening event.
Meanwhile, the entire exhibit can still be viewed, online at www.ocarts.org. Each piece is labeled with the name of the artist and the work, its medium and dimensions and, if for sale, the asking price. A click on the image will bring up a link to email the artist.
The council’s themed exhibits are broad in topic, allowing for any number of interpretations — “Colors of OurWorld, it could be anything,” Nyerges noted. And so they are; the works range from panoramic frontier vistas to close-up studies of a lotus or water lily; images naturalistic and abstract and symbolic; locals represented ranging from Canandaigua Lake to Gibraltar, from Croatia to the Grand Canyon.
“We were in Australia from November to the end of January,” Nyerges said. “We did some sightseeing, we were on the southern part. I walked on these really large sheets of sandstone right level with the ocean — the tide was out; there was so much of interest visibly. I thought, there’s a moment with a lot of color and a a lot of abstraction.” It’s just “a straight-on shot” of the sandstone with its swirling patterns, with yellowish tufts of vegetation peeking up — and the effect is otherworldly. Its title: “Neptune and His Treasures.”
That was a high point, Nyerges allowed — “The other one was a low point, being house-bound, and so many people suffering and people dying, the fears and sadness that so many people feel.” He’d been doing quite a bit of experiencing with blur, with intentionally overexposed work, playing with the shutter speed and such.
“I was just playing in our downstairs family room — the light was really bright, AND there was a lot of dark. For me, it spoke to me,” he said. The resulting image shows a blurred figure, not immediately recognizable as human — it is, in fact, Nyerges’ wife — against an overexposed backdrop of the woods by their house. The outside world is seen in an almost monochromatic vision of dream; the human figure stepping from the darkness of the photo’s left seeming poised between two states of being, between light and darkness, between what’s real and what we fear may not be. Its title: “Pandemic.”
Another Canandaigua photographer, Peter Blackwood, submitted three images from his archives, each different in setting but each with a vivid — though still, he believes, somewhat subtle — display of color.
For one, he was at Webster Beach checking out a magnificent aurora in the night sky — he gets “aurora alerts” from the Rochester Astronomy Club. “You can see there’s a purple color and a green glow — I think one’s oxygen and one nitrogen; that’s how they glow when the solar flare. The effect is spectacular, coupled with the reflections in the bay and the lights of the pier."
“Canyon Colors” was taken on Blackwood’s first visit to the Grand Canyon. He had just gotten to the rim, there had been a thunderstorm — and suddenly there it was, a rainbow. "It was just one of those moments,” he said.
A third Blackwood image, “Flowers and Wind,” was taken on an overcast day in Lowville, on the Tug Hill plateau, as he was prone on the ground shooting flowers with a backdrop of multiple windmills (at least 10 are visible) and dark clouds rolling in.
“Looking through my collection of images, I just selected 10 or 20 in which colors stood out. … The ones I picked, I felt were a little more subtle and not so much in your face,” he said.
According to an OCAC release, the council has more than 90 member artists, and they’ve stayed busy during the pandemic — some taking private commissions, some creating pieces for future council exhibits, some exploring themes related to living amid the global crisis. And they’re making use of tech to remain active: Watercolorist Howard Van Buren, for example, has been using Webex to give drawing and painting classes to 50 students remotely. (He plans to resume teaching in Studio II at Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery in Canandaigua when the restrictions are lifted.) Leslie S. Brogan, owner of Hope in Art Studio in Canandaigua, also has held virtual art experiences. Meanwhile, OCAC leaders have been doing their planning by email, phone and Zoom meetings, including the juried selection process for “Colors of Our World.”
After the venues are reopened — along with exhibit space at local libraries — the council will announce its upcoming exhibits for the remainder of 2020.