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Riffe Gallery to exhibit digital art

Courtesy of the Riffe Gallery

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When imagining Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” or Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” many might picture colorful paints masterfully worked onto a canvas. Very few people would probably think of computer programs, but that might be the direction some modern-day art is headed.

The Ohio Arts Council will be holding its latest exhibition, “Let’s Get Digital,” scheduled to run Thursday through July 8 at the Riffe Gallery, located at 77 S. High St. Curator of the exhibition, Alexandra Nicholis Coon, said she hopes the exhibition will introduce audiences to the new equipment and processes that artists are beginning to incorporate into their work.

“I wanted to present the audiences an opportunity to consider the ways in which digital technologies offer artists tools not unlike a paintbrush or a chisel or a loom,” Coon said. “It’s just another means of being able to articulate an image or a product to an audience.”

Digital artwork can be expressed through a variety of mediums. About 50 pieces will be on display at the gallery and will include everything from digital music recordings to sculptures and weavings.

“When you talk about digital and you talk about computers, it sounds very cold and very sterile and very disconnected from any element of humanity or emotion, but I think people will find the opposite is really true,” Coon said. “I think they’ll feel very drawn and have different types of emotional responses to the work.”

Technology has become something commonly used in the daily lives of the majority of the population, Coon said. Some might take for granted how easy it is to check an email or send a text message and don’t realize how these basic functions can be used as tools for artists.

“I’m hoping people will really be surprised and leave feeling better educated about all the ways digital technologies can be employed to end results,” Coon said.

Coon is the executive director at the Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio. The Massillon Museum has close ties with the Ohio Arts Council that manages the Riffe Gallery, Coon said, so when they asked her to curate an exhibit, she jumped at the opportunity.

“As someone who values all that digital technology can contribute to the art realm and to our daily lives, I was thinking about the way to correlate that sort of interest into an exhibit that could celebrate Ohio artists in an interesting way,” Coon said.

Mary Gray, director of the Riffe Gallery, has been in charge of arranging the exhibit, along with making sure the artwork arrives on time and the artists have a pleasant experience.

Gray said the gallery looked forward to getting the opportunity to work with Coon since digital-based artwork is current new to the gallery.

“I think I’m most excited because we have never produced this type of exhibition before,” Gray said. “Also, there is a number of artists that I have not worked with in the past nor have our audience seen. I feel like we’re exposing our audience to a large group of new talent.”

Coon was in charge of selecting the artists who will present their work at the exhibit. After looking at hundreds of different artists, she narrowed it down to 16 people from the Ohio area who applied digital technology to their artwork, whether it is in the tool, product or subject of their piece.

“If people are wondering what this exhibit is all about, they can expect to be pleasantly surprised at all the intriguing ways that these artists are incorporating technology in the production of their work,” Coon said.

One artist whose work has been chosen to be displayed in the gallery said he never expected to be able to do his work as well as he had.

“I needed an outlet for my creativity to cope,” said Andrew Reach, a technology-based artist from Cleveland.

Reach suffered from a spine disease, Scheuermann’s disease, so after his second surgery in 2005, he began creating artwork on Photoshop as a form of therapy.

“All I have to do is move a mouse with my hand and I could create this whole world,” Reach said.

Reach said he has chosen to pursue digital artwork because the rigor of painting would be difficult on his spine. Digital technology has allowed him to express himself in a way otherwise restricted to him.

“The tools are just the tools. Whether you’re painting or you’re doing digital, it still comes down to the same common denominator, which is creating a visual expression,” Reach said.

Reach said part of his mission as an artist is to bring awareness to the power of art to promote wellness and how it can help people who are disabled.

Reach will have four pieces in the gallery, including, “A Fisherman’s Net Strung by the Constellation,” “De Rerum Natura,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Mandala Machine.”

Joshua Penrose, a Columbus resident and 2010 Ohio State graduate, will have his piece, “Resonant Carboy,” in the gallery. This specific piece consists of eight glass containers connected by audio cables. When the chemicals inside the containers react, they produce a rhythmic sound.

“It’s a sound installation that’s powered by fermentation, so it’s the idea that these microbiological organisms are producing this sound environment,” Penrose said.

Both artists said they hope the audience members gain awareness to the emerging use of digital media with fine art.

“I hope people will learn alongside me that these equipments and technologies exist that artists are utilizing in an innovative and fascinating way,” Coon said.

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