The “Build It” exhibition at the Riffe Gallery offers an appreciation of virtual art

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One of the best current virtual art exhibitions not only demonstrates the ingenuity of artists in times of pandemic, but also celebrates the role of artists in building and promoting human unity.

“Build It: Artists Creating Community in Ohio,” presented by the Riffe Gallery of the Ohio Arts Council, showcases the work of a dozen Ohio artists, all of whom bring perspectives, styles and different materials to their visualization of the “community”.

While the exhibit is impressive and fun to walk through in person, it is only accessible to the public online. Fortunately, this virtual incarnation is strong and includes images of the entire exhibition enriched with information about the artists and their work.

Columbus artist Stephanie Rond, well known in central Ohio for her artwork on display in local streets, has four acrylic on paper on canvas works depicting places she has visited and worked. The largest, “Alphabet Vs. Goddess Yemaya” (about 6 by 8 feet), created in Cuba, shows a young woman standing in water in front of an old stone building as books fly above her like birds.

Liz Maugans of Bay Village began her “Girl-nica” mural decades ago as an art student inspired by the works of Jasper Johns. But of course, the large colorful fresco – full of images of women, constraints and difficulties – pays homage to the community tragedy described in “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso.

The theme of community is boldly expressed by Cincinnati artist Calcagno Cullen in several installations including “CommuniTable,” a long table constructed from salvaged furniture. In this and its other play – all of which incorporate outdated communication mechanisms like typewriters and pay phones – Cullen reminds viewers of objects’ original purposes of connecting people to each other.

Columbus artist Dana Lynn Harper reuses common craft materials in three installations. “Field Guides” is particularly colorful and playful with its 14 large pompoms suspended from the ceiling.

Filipino-American artist Gloria Ann Shows, who lives in Columbus, captures issues of culture and location in her blue monotypes on rice paper – images that resemble seascapes and suggest movement.

In his lifelike acrylic paintings, Jordan Buschur de Maumee presents snapshots of drawers filled with construction, creativity, and communication tools: pencils, staplers, rulers, scissors, erasers, rubber bands and more.

Anissa Lewis from Cincinnati returns to Covington, Kentucky, where she grew up, to overlay images of current residents on the old homes they live in.

This rich exhibition also includes the photographic installations of Ann B. Kim of Dayton; floor sculptures made from improbable materials by Ashley Jude Jonas of Dayton; construction materials diverted in an original way by Cleveland artist Eli Gfell; striking abstract oil paintings by Glen Cebulash of Oakwood; and fiber works by Cleveland artist Jessica Pinsky, who in her own community has created a physical space for other fiber artists to work.

Indeed, the artists in this exhibition go far beyond working solo in their own studios. They teach, run galleries, and create community projects and spaces in which other artists can work. As curator Erika Hess – herself an artist – writes in her statement: but also frequently expands to include and have a positive impact on other people who reside in the vicinity.

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In one look

“Build It: Artists Creating Community in Ohio,” presented by the Riffe Gallery of the Ohio Arts Council, is available online at riffegallery.org. Due to the pandemic, there are no in-person hours at the gallery. A variety of virtual events surrounding the exhibition are also planned.


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