Exhibit | Eye candy a sweet treat at Keny Galleries

Still lifes past and present invite close look

By  Melissa Starker

For The Columbus Dispatch     Sunday May 5, 2013 5:28 AM


For centuries, artists have used the still life to explore the aesthetic and thematic possibilities within thoughtful combinations of inanimate objects.


Examples from the past 150 years are displayed in Keny Galleries exhibits that connect historical Ohio still-life artists with Lowell Tolstedt, one of the most celebrated modern practitioners of the genre.


Retired from the Columbus College of Art & Design, where he taught for 38 years and served as a department chairman and dean of fine arts, Tolstedt has been a frequent contributor to shows at the college and other institutions locally and nationally.


“Lowell Tolstedt: Recent Works” celebrates his 30-year relationship with Keny Galleries.


Working mainly in colored pencil, he applies his marks in light layers to build depth of color and dimension without flattening the subtle surface texture of the watercolor paper on which he paints. Fascinated by translucence and reflection, he has found a perfect showcase for such qualities in lollipops, gumdrops and other colorful candy.


Composition With 7 Lollipops, for example, presents the delicacy of the artist’s line work in the imperfections in his subject’s surfaces — the pockmarks and mold lines left by the manufacturing process — and the light shadows that separate his white lollipop sticks from a slightly darker backdrop. Taking in their exquisitely rendered forms, one might find that visual appreciation is accompanied by an awakening of the salivary glands.


With more traditional still-life subjects, such as cherries and apples, Tolstedt illustrates his command of silverpoint and goldpoint — unforgiving mediums that require a clean line and a confident hand.

Compositions with signs of growing life are included as well — such as Sprouting Redbud With Sky, in which the artist conveys the promise of a perfect summer day in one budding branch against a clear azure sky.


Works from the 19th and 20th centuries fill the second exhibition, “Historic Ohio Still Lifes.”


Among the highlights are the wonderfully quirky Still Life by Henry Church, previously seen in last year’s “Outside in Ohio” exhibition at the Riffe Gallery, and Emerson Burkhart’s Engine from 1947. There, the artist’s dense, gritty paint application lends propulsive energy to a view of pistons and wires at rest.


Most intriguing is a small selection of trompe l’oeil works from the mid- to late 19th century in which everyday items appear on canvases painted to look like natural wood. Along with a common style and presentation, they share an unusually modern feel for the era, and each is attributed to DeScott Evans.


But because the signatures on the individual pieces don’t match — “Stanley S. David” signed the painting Apples, for instance — art historians are still debating more than a century later whether the artist worked under multiple pseudonyms or just had a devoted copycat.


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