A woman’s face stares stoically out into the distance, the lines of the bricks on which she is printed barely wrinkling the image of her fair skin. A few blocks down, the glistening blue waters of a koi pond stylized to resemble stained glasswork seem to trickle down onto the pavement.
These pieces of public art are only two of the temporary murals installed in the Short North Arts District last week.
The sides of 11 privately-owned Short North buildings serve as the canvases on which the works of selected artists are displayed. The public art project, titled “Viewpoints: Murals by Young Professional Working Artists,” is an exhibition organized by the Short North Alliance.
“The theme that unifies the whole exhibition is that of the young professional, the young artist or the ‘young at heart’ artist who maybe works with young professionals regularly or mentors other artists,” said Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance. “It’s meant to really communicate the point of view of this particular grouping of artists.”
The exhibition is the result of a $7,500 grant the Short North Alliance received from the Create Columbus Commission, Pandora said. The installation of “Viewpoints” follows the removal of 10 murals featured on the sides of Short North buildings, which were presented to the public in 2012.
“‘Viewpoints’ is the second iteration of this series,” she said. “(The 2012 mural project) was always meant to be a temporary series. The murals are applied using a temporary process.”
The artwork is enlarged on a vinyl adhesive and heat-adhered to the side of a building, Pandora said.
“What’s really cool about (the process) is once the vinyl fuses to the brick, (the image) actually almost looks painted on,” she said.
Pandora said the exhibition is a collaborative effort between local galleries and art institutions.
“We left it up to them to curate and select the artists as well as the piece that they’d like to use,” she said.
Ohio State’s Wexner Center for the Arts sponsored a piece titled “Good Morning,” created by 29-year-old local artist Katie Valeska. The mural was inspired by “The Weinland Park Story Book” project, Jennifer Wray, marketing and media assistant for the Wexner Center, said in an email.
“The Weinland Park Story Book” is a hand-illustrated collection of stories created by local artists and members of the Weinland Park Community, set to be published in the spring or early summer, according to the Wexner Center website.
“The stories were culled from dozens of visits and interviews conducted by a team of teen interns and Wex staff and will feature more than 100 hand-drawn illustrations,” Wray said. “Katie’s Short North piece is based on a story told by a Weinland Park resident named Naddir.”
Winnie Sidharta Ambron, a 32-year-old lecturer in the OSU Department of Art, is another one of the artists participating in the “Viewpoints” exhibition.
Her piece, titled “Victorian Portrait,” is presented by Brandt-Roberts Galleries.
“The work that is displayed in the mural is some of my older work,” Sidharta Ambron said. “(But) it relates to my recent work, like my interest in fashion photography and portraiture painting.”
Sidharta Ambron said she takes artistic inspiration from a variety of sources, including cinema. She often explores the relationship between the characters in the film and the audience, she added.
“I am interested in cinema and the idea of tying in the position of main characters of movies,” she said. “A lot of my work is related to identity. I want viewers to think about their own position in relation to the picture. My paintings bring back the idea of classic painting, fashion photography and cinema.”
While 10 of the “Viewpoints” murals were selected by the organizations or businesses presenting the artwork, one piece in the exhibition was chosen via social media, Pandora said.
“It was done with the piece submitted by Roy G Biv Gallery,” she said. “We actually held a Facebook competition in January, where the artist who received the most likes … their work was selected and it got to be installed in the district.”
Maria DiFranco, a 26-year-old first-year OSU graduate student pursuing a master’s of fine art in printmaking, won the Facebook competition with her piece titled “Domesticating the African Wolf.”
“I reached out to a lot of people and asked them to support me in this endeavor,” DiFranco said of winning the competition.
Originally a graphite drawing on a piece of birch wood, “Domesticating the African Wolf” touches upon the concept of entrapment, DiFranco said.
Elements of her piece include the literal interpretation of entrapment, represented by a depiction of the Hindenburg explosion, as well as the confinement of domesticated animals such as the African wolf, from which the piece takes its name.
“The animals (in the piece) are trapped in their bodies. So there’s entrapment inside your body, but there’s also this idea of domestication and being trapped in your role and expectations of society,” DiFranco said.
Much of her artwork centers on the concept of entrapment, a theme drawn from her personal experiences with a borderline malignant ovarian tumor, DiFranco explained.
“I feel like this is related to my experience with cancer because I feel trapped in my own body,” she said. “Now I’m making art about the female experience of cancer.”
Pandora said projects like the “Viewpoints” exhibition enhance the public art scene in Columbus.
“I think that we, here in the Short North, have been major leaders in terms of elevating artists in Columbus as well as showcasing them in the public realm,” she said. “Having public artwork out and on the street for people to engage with really creates a broader dialogue about art in our community.”
The Short North Alliance is hosting a formal opening of the “Viewpoints” exhibition in the Short North Friday.
Artists are expected to be available at each participating gallery from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Mural and artist locations for the Friday opening can be found on the Short North Alliance website.
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