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Chester County Press

Oxford Arts Alliance shines with National Juried Exhibition

09/22/2015 10:51AM ● By J. Chambless

'Koins' by Bryan Cohen.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The Oxford Arts Alliance opened the doors to a wide range of artists for the National Juried Exhibition, and some 400 applied. Ultimately, 58 were selected, and the resulting exhibit, which continues through Oct. 13, seems broader and fresher as a result. It is certainly well balanced between sculpture, ceramics, paintings and photography, and the talent level is quite impressive throughout.

In the front window, George Lorio's “Burgeoning” is an intricate assemblage of toy cars, arranged in intersecting spirals, spilling out of a large and a small mound – like ants swarming out of anthills, or some sort of cyclone of playthings. The scorched appearance of the cars on the sides of the mounds gives the whole thing an air of sickly menace.

“Blacksun,” an installation by Erica Loustau, is splendidly composed. Flocks of black birds on thin fishing lines criss-cross in midair and coalesce in a new direction towards the gallery wall. It is dramatic and intricate, and the soundtrack of bird sounds played on an iPod nearby adds a satisfying dimension.

“Koins,” an acrylic painting by Bryan Cohen, is so vivid that it's nearly three-dimensional. The sly joke is that the fish are koi, and there are coins dropped into the shallow water below them.

Vitaly Semenchenko is one of the stars of the show. He gets a magical surface sheen in his sepia still life, “Samovar From Ukraine,” and his “Dried Spruce Treees” has a nearly Wyeth-like level of detail in its depiction of bark and branches. But Semenchenko pulls out all the stops in the huge charcoal self-portrait “Reflection,” in which the artist regards the viewer from within a Victorian mirror frame, with a wedding portrait behind him and a fresh canvas angled away from the viewer. It's a tour de force in scale, skill and layers of meaning.

Mariko Swisher has two splendid pottery pieces on view. Don't miss the tiny dog heads peeking out of the surface of the large painted vessel titled “Canines and Geometry.” Lauren Vianni's “Vital Support” and “Collected Tranquility” blend sea life and ocean waves in ceramics, and the raku fired vessels by Hailey Rai Salamone have fine, smoky surfaces.

There's a fun acrylic abstract panel by Oxford artist Susan Melrath that has a retro 1950s feeling, and a huge, striking woodcut by Robin Gibson, “The Still Point,” that earns a standing ovation for technical difficulty with its interlocking layers of tiny bits of green, blue, red, yellow and gold that merge to create a rolling hillside, perhaps.

Michael Gaudreau's night view, the charcoal “The Navy Bridge,” is soft and atmospheric. Among the still lifes, Corien Siepelinga of Avondale deftly renders the delicacy of pear skin in “Out of the Box,” and Lorraine Haggard is equally fine in “Breakfast With Monkey.”

A small bronze sculpture of a dog, “Thistle,” by Rikki Morley Saunders, is typically masterful on a small scale, while Gregg Lyons goes big with “This Old House,” a raw wood cabinet perched on a base of spindles, brushes, bits of old toys, a Slinky and a few other things.

You may initially pass by Glenn Holmstrom's four mixed-media works called “Distillations,” but spend a moment to analyze them. Small, indistinct, soft as a whisper, they have an undeniable presence despite almost not being there at all. Based on well-known artworks, they are like super-enlarged bits of each work, or perhaps they are really the distilled essences. “Vermeer's Girl With the Pearl Earring” will have you examining the surface to get your bearings. That's a good thing, and this exhibit will reward repeated visits.

The National Juried Exhibition continues through Oct. 13 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). Visit for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].