Archive for August, 2009

21
Aug
09

Art and the Toronto Power Plant

 

Toronto Power Plant partially dismantled.

Toronto Power Plant partially dismantled.

My wife, Chris, and I were heading to Rodgers’ Flea Market earlier this summer and as we were driving through Toronto, Ohio, I noticed that the old power plant was being dismantaled. I reflected on the many hours that I spent fishing next to that plant when I was a teenager. And then my mind raced back to my earlier childhood when my grandfater, Joseph Batcho, worked at that power plant. Both my grandfather and that now defunct plant would actually play a role in my life as an artist.

I was about five years of age when “Grandpap” (as I referred to him back then), would bring me home tablets of paper printed with a quarter-inch light blue grid. For much of my early childhood, these gridded sheets of paper would be my most often used surface upon which to draw. In those days the only opportunity I had to use a drawing surface  that did not contain lines or a grid was when Grandpap got a new shirt. Inside each of those shirts was inserted a piece of white card stock, and I treated those sheets like gold. No lines! Wow! I believe it was not until grade school, at age six, that we were given sheets of blank, cream-colored paper with what seemed like little chunks of real wood still in it. That paper was so dry and brittle that it easily tore with the slightest wrong move.

I was nine years old when my Aunt Mary gave me a set of pastel pencils and my first real sketchbook for Christmas. It only had eight pages, but oh, that paper was thick…. and line free! Still, whenever I see a sheet of gridded paper I think of my grandfather, the old power plant, and me, laying across the living room floor drawing on those pads of blue lined paper.

1920's era postcard of the power plant in the the north end of Toronto, Ohio.

1930's era postcard of the power plant in the the north end of Toronto, Ohio.

PS  To see some video of the dismantling of the power plant,click here: Toronto Power Plant

14
Aug
09

Chicken On the Grill

    I did a piece earlier this summer which just did not work out, but today I decided to “re-invent” it. So here it is, titled Chicken on the Grill, 16″x14″, printed metal on MDF.

 

Chicken on the Grill by Robert Villamagna.

Chicken on the Grill by Robert Villamagna.

14
Aug
09

Dog Days Continued

 

More treasures at Rogers!

More treasures at Rogers!

Picking up where I left off, we left Geneva on Friday morning and Rogers Flea Market is on our path home. I picked up some tin in various form, and Chris found two more items for her Geneva-on-the-Lake collection: a kissing Chinese couple and an ashtray in the shape of a buoy, both items with original GOTL stickers.  

Doll house awaits a new owner.

Doll house awaits a new owner.

We arrived home about 2 Pm, with just enough time to rest before heading down on the river for the Heritage Music Blues Fest. Bruce Wheeler and family do a wonderful job presenting this three day event! For the second year I was happy to have my artwork used for the t-shirt. While the majority of the attendees come from outside our region, I did  bump into a few friends during the event, among which were photographer Jay Stock and artist/professor Tom Doepken.  

Phil from Yorkville, Tom Doepken, Jay Stock, & me at Blues Fest.

Phil from Yorkville, Tom Doepken, Jay Stock, & me at Blues Fest.

There were 24 acts on two stages over the weekend, but my personal favorites were Little Joe McLarran, David Jacobs-Stain, and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Chris became an instant fan of Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, who happened to be on their final tour as a group.

 

Gale Adegbaloa of Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women.

Gale Adegbaloa of Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women.

 

My son Shawn, his girl friend Renae, and Chris at Blues Fest.

My son Shawn, his girl friend Renae, and Chris at Blues Fest.

 

Little Joe McLerran opened the Saturday segment of Blues Fest.

Little Joe McLerran opened the Saturday segment of Blues Fest.

    On Sunday Chris and I headed to Pittsburgh to drop off work at the Carnegie Museum of Art for the upcoming Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 99th Annual Exhibition, which opens August 28. The exhibition runs through November 8. While at the Carnegie, we took in two fine photography exhibits: Documenting Our Past, the Teenie Harris Project, Part Three, and Digital to Daguerreotype: Photographs of People. I highly recommend these two excellent exhibitions!

11
Aug
09

Dog Days of Summer

 

    When I was a child I often heard my parents speak of the “dog days of summer”. I am not sure where I got my definition of what the dog days actually were in those days of my youth, but I was led to believe that late summer was a time to avoid stray dogs because they were more likely to bite. Hmmmmmm. I own a t-shirt, a promotional piece from the Max & Erma’s restaurant chain, that pays homage to the dog days, but shows a happy dog who is more likely to hug you than bite you.

    Today I checked out the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary and found this:

1 : the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere
2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity

Nothing about biting dogs. According to an article on the website TechRepublic, the Dog Days are named for the Dog Star, Sirius, which is the brightest star (discounting our own sun) visible in the sky. During mid-summer, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun (the two rise and set together), an astronomical coincidence that the ancient Romans and several other cultures couldn’t help but notice. When the two brightest stars sync up and the world simultaneously gets hotter, you tend to blame the Dog Star for the heat. Sirius is in the constellation Canis Major (which the Romans named), so the Romans called this period the carniculares dies –or days of the dogs. Thus, the 20 days before and after the conjunction of the Dog Star and the sun are called Dog Days.

    Chris and I have been anything but inactive during these recent days. We were in Charleston, WV recently to drop off some art work for the upcoming WV Juried Exhibition. While we were there we visited the newly renovated WV State Museum, and found it to be a wonderful space that really gets you engaged in the history of West Virginia. In addition to the historical aspect of the museum, there is also an art exhibition: Emerging Artists of West Virginia. It was great to see a piece in the show by our friend, Cheryl Harshman (and you can see the influence of her mentor, Mitch Lyons).

 

Me at the Emerging Artists of WV exhibition.

Me at the Emerging Artists of WV exhibition.

 

Clay print by Cheryl Harshman.

Clay print by Cheryl Harshman.

 

 

    The next week we headed up to Geneva on the Lake, Ohio to hook up with Chris’ parents and relax for a few days. I took along my camera, some art magazines, my watercolors, and a book, The Face on Your Plate, along with our bicycles. I did get my book finished and did some cycling on the new trail along Lake Erie, but unfortunately the watercolors did not make it out of the box.

    We discovered some new art in town! A mural painted on the side of THe Cove Nightclub showing images of many of the famous musicians who have played there over the years. Now I must confess that I found the execution of the mural to be a bit weak, and yet I was intrigued by its primitive, folk art-like quality. The mural appears unfinished, yet it is signed as to indicate its completion. 

 

Mural on the side of The Cove Nightclub.

Mural on the side of The Cove Nightclub.

 

Mural detail: The Coasters.

Mural detail: The Coasters.

 

Mural detail: James Brown.

Mural detail: James Brown.

Mural detail: The Temptations.

Mural detail: The Temptations.

    A few years ago I did an acrylic painting of one of the local business, Lake Package Store, and a few watercolor studies of the now defunct amusement park. I have thought about painting Eddie’s Grill for a long time, but I find it hard to put away the metal and found objects to make time for painting. Eddie’s has been around for about 60 years and still looks great, especially at night. Hmmmm….. perhaps a cut-tin version of Eddie’s? 

 

Eddie's Grill, Geneva on the Lake, Ohio.

Eddie's Grill, Geneva on the Lake, Ohio.

    On the way home from Geneva we stopped at Rogers Flea Market and then on to the Heritage Blues Fest. More on that later, it’s time to make some art (and work on a syllabus or two)!