REVIEW ARTICLES
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ArtWach Blog Spot
By Tom Wachunas


EXHIBIT: Stark County Artists Exhibition / THROUGH JANUARY 26, 2020  
at The Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, in downtown Massillon, Ohio  

http://www.massillonmuseum.org/    330.833.4061

   As the end of 2019 draws near, I’m sincerely grateful. Thank you, Massillon Museum, for continuing the tradition of this important annual juried exhibit – a gift to anyone who savors contemporary art. Thank you, participating artists (a total of 47 individuals out of 79 who entered) for your marvelous giftedness. I feel honored, indeed humbled, to be in your company. Really. The fruits of your creative labors have made this year’s Stark County Artists Exhibition truly the strongest I’ve seen in many years, remarkably rich in formal and conceptual diversity.

   And to all of you ARTWACH readers, give yourselves the gift of viewing the work by these artists: Seth Adam, John B. Alexander,
Diane  Belfiglio,  Todd Bergert, William M. Bogdan, Peter Castillo, Catherine M. Cindia, Therese Cook, Oxana Dallas (Best in Show), David L. Dingwell, Laura Donnelly, Steve Ehret (Second Place), Megan Farrabee, Kathleen Gray Farthing, Gerald Fox, Sharon Frank Mazgaj (Honorable Mention), Robert Gallik, Coty J. Giannelli (Honorable Mention), Jared Hartmann, Charity Hockenberry, Judith Girscht Huber, Judi Krew (Honorable Mention), David Kuntzman, Sam Lilenfield, Timothy Londeree, Priscilla Sally Lytle (Honorable Mention), Nicole Malcolm, Robyn Martins, Tom Migge, Michelle Mulligan, Clare Murray Adams, Benjamin R. Myers, Tina Myers, Robert Nicoll, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, Mark V. Pitocco, Anna Rather, Jacob Redmon, Erika Katherine, Israel Robinson, Priscilla Roggenkamp, Hilda Sikora, Sari Sponhour, Rosemary Stephen, Alex Strader (Third Place), Tom Wachunas (Honorable Mention) and Pat Mather Waltz.

   My gratitude is made all the more sweet by the award of an Honorable Mention for my piece, “Deus ex Machina #3.” Here’s a link to some pictures and a few brief thoughts on the work, if you’re interested:

https://artwach.blogspot.com/2019/10/thinking-inside-box.html

   Additionally, I’m thankful for not being one of the jurors asked to assess levels of excellence and assign awards.  In an exhibit of such high caliber as this one, it’s an unreasonably challenging ask, if not a futile, perhaps even silly one. As it is, the jurors (Ken Emerick, former Artist Programs and Percent for Art Director at the Ohio Arts Council; Sarah J. Rogers, Director at the Kent State University Museum; and Stephen Tomasko, Akron artist and photographer) who assembled this superb collection saw fit to distinguish “Born From Stardust,” a textile work by Oxana Dallas, with the Best in Show award. There’s much to commend this beautifully sparkling, cosmic night vision of a statuesque woman encircled by people in postures of allegiance or adoration, or maybe supplication. The tactile intricacy of the weaving technique alone is hypnotic.

  
Diane Belfiglio’s brighter, more earthbound oil pastel on paper, “Boston Bricks II,” is equally hypnotic, and no less beautiful, no less fascinating in its technical acuity. The gently bristling surface of overlaid chromatic textures is infused with sunlight, with the elegant simplicity of the brick pattern seemingly imprinted by subtly translucent crossings of dark shadows. 

   Speaking of elegant structure, David Kuntzman’s acrylic “Gauss” is a meticulously composed symphony of geometric abstraction. The overlapped grids in bright, pulsing colors create a spatial dynamic that breathes.

   A grid motif is also apparent in the mixed media painting by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, “An Imperfect Art.” Here, though, the pictorial structure is not a neatly delineated scheme, but rather a raw, visceral arrival – a gestural rumination that emerged through time. Parker makes art that wags a wry finger in your face and rattles your expectation of “finished” aesthetic protocol. Her work is seriously engaged in the mindful play of pure markmaking and often brings to mind the sassy kid who refuses to color inside the lines.

   On a more somber and cautionary note, two works: “School Shootings School Bus Cape,” by Judi Krew, and “The Rider,” by William M. Bogdan. Krew’s piece is a compelling, thoughtfully constructed remembrance of a tragic reality in American society, as she explains with heartbreaking statistics in the chalkboard panels mounted on a music stand next to the yellow-caped mannequin: “…Since 1840, there have been 471 recorded incidents of a gun being used at an institution of education to wound or kill another person or one’s self…” Even more arresting, she writes, “…Unfortunately, this is a work in progress…”

   Bogdan’s stark woodcut print is an apocalyptic montage of sorts. His expressionism isn’t rendered with refined precision so much as scratched, clawed, pounded into being. No picture of noble intent or victory here. The horses’ hooves are like anvils. Those helicopters in the sky are like hovering, fattened vultures. That ghostly figure at the lower right is appropriated from Nick Ut’s shocking 1972 photo of a naked young Vietnamese girl, terribly burned and fleeing her village after it was bombed with napalm. But this is more than a jarring remembrance of that,…of then. Like Krew’s sobering notes on a work in progress, Bogdan’s print is a potent connection to a horrific still now, and with it, a haunting reminder that nothing changes if nothing changes. 

   Let’s shift gears for a moment into some surreal shenanigans, some unfettered fun. With a punctilious polychromatic palette, Steve Ehret masterfully manipulated “Grey Matter” – a spectacular, slick oil painting on panel (Second Place award) – into a fantastically fastidious panoply of protoplasmic phantasm. A mind-morphing loony landscape.

   If you consider this exhibit as an essay on the state of Stark County visual arts, Catherine M. Cindia’s encaustic (beeswax) painting, “Birch Bramble” is yet another of many exclamation points. It’s a sylvan scene that’s so dimensional, so sumptuously tactile, that it could be fairly called a relief sculpture.

  But wait, there’s more, much more. The most meaningful award you can bestow on any of the artists here is your presence. Your time, your intentional looking, your willingness to come and actually see. They’ve earned it.


 

Retrospectacles

 

By Tom Wachunas

EXHIBIT: Architectural Visions – acrylic paintings and oil pastel drawings by Diane Belfiglio, THROUGH FEBRUARY 16, 2018 / at Malone Gallery, in the Johnson Center at Malone University, 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio. 

MEET THE ARTIST at the CLOSING RECEPTION on Thursday, February 15 from 6:00-8:00pm.

 

   "I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and 'in-your-face' commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls."  -Diane Belfiglio

 

   While this exhibit of 15 acrylic paintings on canvas and 14 oil pastel drawings on paper is a retrospective of works made between 1997 and 2012, Diane Belfiglio’s aesthetic still feels elegant, bold, and fresh to me. I suspect it will always be so, which is a good thing. Hers is an oeuvre I consider to be a see-worthy vessel that remains buoyant and sturdy in turbulent waters – intact and unabashedly beautiful in our splintered culture too often floundering in pointless pop junk and ugly sensationalism.

 

   And so in the same retrospective spirit, I offer the following excerpts from some of my past commentaries. I first encountered and wrote about Belfiglio’s work in 1998.

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   From New Art Examiner, May, 1998:

   …In Angled Ascent, we look upward at an L-shaped concrete staircase to the entrance of a red brick building. A patch of geraniums grows against the brick at ground level. Most notable in this painting is the handling of the shadows from the ornate green railing cast upon the steps. The shapes of the shadows jump off from the steps like gentle graffito, a signature, a calligraphic sign of light. In the real world, we often take for granted such settings as this one—stairs to a building—as unremarkable and pedestrian. But in the hands of Belfiglio, a clearly accomplished technician in the realm of drawing and otherwise rendering reality, the common becomes the extraordinary…

 

   From Dialogue Magazine, January, 2001:

…There’s magic in the minutiae. Belfiglio’s images are not frontal views of facades with panoramic surroundings. Rather, she focuses on an isolated corner or dormer here, an unusual window adornment or staircase there. The shapes of shadows cast by sunlight take on a distinct physicality, as if built into the surfaces on which they rest. In Victorian Vignettes IV, a steely blue shadow protrudes across the bright pattern of hexagonal shingles like a dancer darting along a tile floor.

   For all of their meticulous faithfulness to something recognizable, the paintings never succumb to the often-pointless technical flamboyance so common in Photorealism. On the other hand, there is no liberal application of paint, no tactile surfaces, no frenetic brushwork. Yet the paintings are nonetheless sumptuous in their luxuriant light and playful rhythms of form and shadow. At times they conjure the spirit of Edward Hopper minus the angst, or the great Impressionists sans impasto.

   There is something akin to reverence in the way Belfiglio approaches her subjects, as indicated in her statement for the show: “I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and ‘in-your-face’ commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls.” True to the works’ raison d’etre, these are contemplative visions for our thoughtless times. As such, they are acts of courage on canvas.

   - From ARTWACH, July 2009,

 

 http://artwach.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-medium-massages-message.html

 

  …Belfiglio pulls it all together via a combination of highly skilled draftsmanship, masterful composition, and a remarkable (and absolutely necessary) understanding of color. And so it is that while the raison detre behind Belfiglio’s most recent work remains consistent with her past acrylic architectural series, the overall look has undergone a significant evolution, due in large part to her shift into oil pastels…

…Perhaps one way to fully appreciate the new direction in Belfiglio’s work is to think of her earlier paintings as boldly voiced sentences, or matter-of-fact statements articulated with muscular and cerebral confidence. These new pieces are quieter, though no less engaging. Like ballads beautifully sung.

  

A portfolio of Belfiglio’s work can be viewed on her website:

 https://www.belfiglio.com/

Posted by Tom Wachunas at 10:01 AM


ARTS IN STARK
Monthly Archives: January 2016

Stark County Artist Profile: Diane Belfiglio
January 21, 2016   News

Each week in January and February we will be featuring a different Stark County artist. Get to know the amazing talent in our community.
By Laurie Fife Harbert


A prolific and accomplished member of the area’s creative community, Canton artist Diane Belfiglio has participated in over 170 solo and group shows, earned numerous art grants, and has been featured in a variety of art publications. Her work is in the art collections of museums, universities, businesses, and individuals both nationally and abroad, including the Canton Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art, and singer Patti LaBelle. Diane holds a B.F.A. in drawing, painting, and graphics from The Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in painting from Syracuse University. She has shared her artistic talent and knowledge with students as a professor at Walsh University for the past 15 years.


Belfiglio’s artwork depicts contrast and organization, and strong color choices. Her style is realistic but takes on a sense of the abstract through the shapes and the minute attention to detail, resulting in a kind of heightened reality. Her distinctive compositions of close-cropped subjects are readily recognizable. However, the medium she incorporates tends to change, based on both her chosen subject matter and on her natural desire for new challenges. While the crisp lines of her historical architectural pieces are enhanced by acrylic paint, she found that oil pastels better lend themselves to the softer edges needed for plant life and floral depictions. Colored pencil and her latest sculptural designs in wood currently round out her media preferences.


Light, most notably sunlight, nearly always plays a starring role in Diane’s compositions, with the resultant shadows being an important feature of her paintings and drawings. “Ethereal by nature, shadows become a structural part of my compositions,” she states. Interestingly, her latest foray into the medium of wood sculpture also exemplifies this signature element of her work. The sculptures cast distinctive shadows depending on the angle of the light source. Her venture into the three-dimensional realm was quickly rewarded, as ‘Repetitions II’ was accepted into the 2015 ‘Stark County Artists Exhibition’ at the Massillon Museum.


An additional part of Belfiglio’s work is community art installations. She has partnered with local organizations for several large-scale group artworks, including Walsh University, GlenOak High School, Habitat for Humanity, and the Canton Symphony Orchestra. She enjoys the outreach aspect of these projects and takes special pride in involving those with no art background who don’t necessarily feel as if they are creative or artistic. Her next group art project, with Walsh University and St. Thomas Aquinas School, will be completed by April of 2016.


Not one to remain stagnant, it will be exciting to see future offerings from this dynamic artist. Continued growth—be it regarding subject matter, style, media, or even the size in which one works—is arguably the mark of a true artistic soul. Diane seems to have been abundantly blessed by the muse, as she has the talent, skills, and inner drive to unceasingly seek out new ways to express her creativity. That she finds joy in sharing her gifts with others is icing on the cake. Further images of her work may be seen at www.belfiglio.com. Though her plate is full with family, teaching, her art, and the community art projects, Diane does accept commissions, mostly over the summer months. She may be reached via email at diane@belfiglio.com.

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June 2011
North Canton Artist Diane Belfiglio Discovers a New Direction in Latest Exhibit
by Aaron Fowler (Reprinted by permission) North Canton Patch


North Canton native Diane Belfiglio was destined to become a staple of the art scene. Though it may sound a bit clichéd, in Belfiglio's case it rings true. "Art is a way of life," she said. "Being an artist is what I am and how I think. I really have no choice."
As a child, she was always drawing and her first piece was published at the age of 7. Her love of the art form continued to blossom, and by the seventh grade she knew exactly what she wanted. "When my art teacher at Middlebranch Junior High, Mr. Morman, put an Ebony pencil in my hand and I saw how black it could get, I was hooked," Belfiglio explained. "I signed up as an art major at (Ohio State University), and the rest, as they say, is history."


Belfiglio said ever since visiting some of the landmark museums in Europe, she couldn't get Monet's use of color and light out of her mind. No matter what her subject, Diane tends to bring her focus back to strong sunlight and color. Though her work has made it all the way to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, Belfiglio currently is basking in the addition of her oil pastel exhibition at the Massillon Museum.


"Diane is extremely passionate about her artwork and she invests a great deal of energy into articulating her vision through meticulously executed formalist renderings," said Alexandra Nicholis, curator at the Massillon Museum. As Nicholis puts it, Belfiglio's current exhibition "offers a unique glimpse into her transition away from hard-edged architectural studies into a softer world of floral subjects." "She focuses on the unique patterns cast upon otherwise ordinary objects like chairs, concrete driveways, fences, building facades and forces the viewer to reconsider their design and function," Nicholis said.


Belfiglio, who received a mini-grant from ArtsinStark to help fund this exhibition, will be selling catalogs for the show at the Massillon Museum gift shop for $6 each. As if being an artist wasn't enough, Belfiglio also spends her time as an adjunct professor at Walsh University while also teaching privately through her own studio.


Though art means the world to her, every Halloween her focus is drawn elsewhere, where she truly gets a chance to show off her charm and charisma. "Every Halloween for the past 13 years, I literally dress up my daily exercise. My husband attaches broomsticks to my bike, I don my witch costume and fly through three neighborhoods cackling and screaming out lines from the Wizard of Oz," Belfiglio said. "It is a neighborhood tradition."

 


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March 2011
Local Artist Exhibits Work in Youngstown
by Suzi Starheim (Reprinted by permission) Kentwired.com


Branching out into the unknown is not easy for those who are comfortable with a daily routine, but it was the decision to branch out in her artwork that earned Ohio artist Diane Belfiglio an exhibition in The Butler Institute of American Art.

The Butler currently holds the exhibition, titled "Diane Belfiglio: Transitions," in its Butler Giffuni Gallery of American Pastel Art. What makes this exhibition different than past ones is that this is Belfiglio's first exhibition of oil pastels, which she describes as similar to "drawing with lipsticks." This is her first exhibition using what she considers a drawing medium rather than an aqueous medium, as she has traditionally painted on canvases.


For this exhibition, Belfiglio focused on the flowers she sees every day. These include everything from the daffodils in her front lawn that she sees before her morning bike ride, to the red and yellow tulips she noticed on Walsh University's campus while teaching there. She even admits to finding inspiration in the potted plants on the front porch of her home.


And while the flowers are delicate, yet definite in appearance, the strongest part of each of her pieces is the shadows cast by each flower. These shadows are the main similarity between this exhibition and earlier exhibitions by the artist, and Belfiglio ensures she captures the real shadows from the flowers she sees by photographing what she later plans to draw.


This exhibition was a big jump for Belfiglio, who was used to painting and spending close to 300 hours on one piece of art, mainly focusing on buildings and architecture (and the shadows produced by them). "I love painting. I love it," Belfiglio said. "And there's part of me that misses it, but for right now, this is where I need to be." Belfiglio said she can now finish a piece in 12-60 hours, and she finished the last of the 39 pieces of art for the Butler exhibition two days before Christmas. Working on these pieces was a spiritual release, she said.


"This is two years of my life," Belfiglio said. "If you told me a year ago that I'd be doing flowers, I would have told you you were crazy." Belfiglio's surprise at moving to producing flowers in her artwork exists because of her initial focus on realistic architecture and the shadows that went along with the architectural structures. These paintings involved harsher, straighter lines than the flowers she produces with oil pastels. And while this exhibition is drastically softer than her earlier works, her distinct style, involving the fascination with light and shadow, remains a prominent theme throughout.


Belfiglio's inspiration for her pieces comes from her favorite three artists: Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe and Charles Sheeler. She clearly remembers the first time she saw Hopper's piece "Morning Sun" at the Columbus Museum of Art, where she stood in front of the painting and "didn't blink or breathe." The painting, which shows a woman staring out her window toward the morning sun, shows strong shadows from the natural light throughout the room she calmly sits in. Belfiglio was a junior at Ohio State when she saw this painting, and she was working to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing, painting and graphics.

 

In addition to working on her art, Belfiglio also made time to teach part-time at Kent State, Syracuse University and The University of Akron. She currently teaches at Walsh University. Belfiglio earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Syracuse University in 1980 and has since become a widely known artist. Her work is now in the permanent collection of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Tokyo.

 


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August 2009
Diane Belfiglio Profoundly Captures Our Past
By Jessica Bennett (Reprinted by permission)
Heart Stark Art www.heartstarkart.org


This week's hearted artist, Diane Belfiglio, is without a doubt the epitome of artistic skill. She's technically vivacious, capturing richly by hand the same moments in time a photographer captures by lens. The historical buildings and monuments that serve so often as her subjects arrive on paper and canvas resolutely whole and resoundingly profound. The clean lines of these architectural conquests are clearly captured by steady hand and triumphant heart. Diane's innate grasp of the fundamentals – specifically her mastery of the temperate elements, light and shadow – are something to marvel at. Though her work is vastly literal, she calls forth the conceptual, intangible components underlying each of her subjects, bringing to life aspects of history unseen by others.

 

Diane has an incredible career resume: she's exhibited in more than 150 shows, has pieces in the permanent collection of Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, National First Ladies' Library here in Canton, dozens of corporate offices and private collectors, and most recently, she had the honor of being selected for the permanent collection of the Butler Museum of American Art. She's also an incredibly precise, patient instructor of the arts, having taught at schools throughout the area. Currently, she's an adjunct professor at Walsh University, my alma mater, where I was fortunate enough to learn under her watchful eye. This week marks our fifth hearted artist – five times that we've recognized the incredible artistic talent right here in Stark County, Ohio. We've seen all manner creativity in all variety of media, and the best news is that we're just getting started.

 


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July 30, 2009
Around Town: Walsh Professor's Art Chosen for Gallery's Permanent Collection
The Repository (Reprinted with permission)


The work of artist and Walsh University Adjunct Professor of Art Diane Belfiglio has been accepted into the 73rd annual National Midyear Show at the Butler Institute of American Art and received its Art Spirit Award. This is a purchase award funded by Dianne B. Bernhard's Art Spirit Foundation, recognizing "outstanding work in the medium of pastels."Receiving this award means that Belfiglio's oil pastel drawing, "Potomac Patterns II," will be part of Butler Institute's permanent collection.

 

The exhibition is one of the oldest and most respected juried art shows in America. It surveys the best in American painting and other two-dimensional work, and presents pieces by artists living in the United States or in U.S. territories. Only 74 of 758 entries from all over the country were accepted into the show by this year's juror, New York gallery owner and art historian George Adams of the George Adams Gallery in NYC.

 

In addition, the Ohio Arts Council selected two of Belfiglio's paintings to be displayed in the Ohio governor's office lobby. Two of her oil pastel drawings were selected to be displayed in the governor's mansion. These works are on loan to the Ohio Arts Council for a year. In February, Belfiglio's art was accepted for the All-Ohio Juried Art Exhibition at Ohio State University Mansfield Campus. Of 210 applicants, 26 were accepted for that show. She has been elected to Cambridge's 2009 "Who's Who Registry of Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs."Belfiglio has served as an adjunct professor of drawing and design at Walsh University since 2000.

 

The Midyear Show runs through Aug. 23 at Butler Institute of American Art at 524 Wick Ave. in Youngstown.

 


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July 1, 2009
When the Medium Massages the Message
By Tom Wachunas (Reprinted by permission) www.artwach.blogspot.com


Over a considerable period of years, North Canton painter Diane Belfiglio has honed a particularly crisp style of realism that eschews expressive or generous paint application in favor of a more photographic presence. That is neither to say her acrylic canvases look like photographs, nor that Belfiglio intended as much. In her methodology, photographs do, however, serve as an inspirational starting point from which to design her tightly rendered, smooth-surfaced paintings of what she has described in past artist statements as "closely cropped architectural images bathed in the play of sunlight and shadows."

 

Indeed, the operative term in her description is "play," as the pictorial language she has fashioned is a startlingly clear and strong point-counterpoint between solid forms and their shadows (which are, to be sure, forms in themselves), all subtly illuminated by and interacting under an unseen sun. While her paintings are certainly faithful representations of recognizable "scenes," they yield an even richer viewing experience when that "play" is regarded as an abstract dialogue between forms. Belfiglio pulls it all together via a combination of highly skilled draftsmanship, masterful composition, and a remarkable (and absolutely necessary) understanding of color. And so it is that while the raison detre behind Belfiglio's most recent work remains consistent with her past acrylic architectural series, the overall look has undergone a significant evolution, due in large part to her shift into oil pastels.

 

Currently there are two of the recent pastels on view at Second April Galerie in downtown Canton: "Jamestown Geometry I" and "Jamestown Geometry IV." Both drawings are close-up views of fence-like structures made of logs and standing in sand. As in earlier acrylic paintings, the pastel images exude a meditative energy. But here the overall pictorial information seems distilled, simplified, or "minimalistic" when compared to many of the more formally complex compositions of the paintings. And while clarity of line is still very much at work, edges are softer, and color transitions of one form into another are more subtle. In fact, the Impressionist technique of "filling in" the forms with tiny, accumulated flecks of varying colors is clearly more painterly here, providing a new dimension of surface interest and spontaneity, and a generally lyrical sensibility.

 

It's worth noting that another of Belfiglio's recent pastels, "Potomac Patterns II," earned a purchase award in the 73d National Midyear Exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, and on view until August 23. Hers is one of only 74 works chosen for this prestigious exhibit (one of the oldest juried exhibitions in the country) out of 758 entries received. Perhaps one way to fully appreciate the new direction in Belfiglio's work is to think of her earlier paintings as boldly voiced sentences, or matter-of-fact statements articulated with muscular and cerebral confidence. These new pieces are quieter, though no less engaging. Like ballads beautifully sung.

 


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September 2003
The Paintings of Diane Belfiglio: Forms in Light
By Dan Kane,  Repository Entertainment Editor

Reprinted with permission from The Repository, Canton, Ohio.


For Diane Belfiglio, it's all in the details.When she sets her sights on an historic building, she doesn't paint the entire structure but instead zeroes in on a corner of the roofline or a portion of the steps or a section of windows. The resulting paintings, while almost photo-realistic, are also compositions strong on color, line and shape. Describing the 20 lustrous and pristine canvases in her current solo exhibition at the Canton Museum of Art - close-up views of the McKinley National Memorial, Zoar Village and the National First Ladies Library - Belfiglio talks about them in terms of their geometry and "abstract play of shadows and light."

 

"I'm obviously a realist, but I'm a formalist, and my paintings are conceived in an abstract way," she says. As she puts it, "My work has always expressed my passion for closely cropped architectural forms bathed in sunlight." Belfiglio traces her interest in shadows, angles and architecture to her childhood in Plain Township, when she would lie in bed in her attic bedroom, stare up at the sloped ceiling and "imagine what it would be like if the world were upside-down." Her affinity for realism was discouraged by her art professors at Ohio State University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1978. "I used to have to defend myself in school a lot to my teachers, who were all working in this Hans Hoffman mode," she recalls. "My realism was frowned upon, so I became a surrealist."

 

At Syracuse University, where she earned a master's degree in 1980, "I felt free to explore realism. It was good for me intellectually to dissect my work." Over the years, Belfiglio has displayed her work in more than 100 group and solo exhibitions regionally, nationally and internationally, and has work included in 11 corporate art collections. Each painting in her current museum show is available for sale. Architecture has long been the focus of her paintings, which are done in acrylics, but her style is ever-evolving. "The abstract formalism of my past art is still the foundation," she says, "but my images have taken on more complexity, with a more contemplative tone."

 

The artist's favorite piece in the museum show is one she feels many people would walk past: a geometric composition centered around an empty window, the image drawn from a house in Zoar. She speaks proudly of its "formalist play of rectangles." After deciding to do a series of Zoar paintings, "I picked a sunny day, hopped in the car with my Pentax K1000 and just walked around," she says. "That garden house was just gleaming. All the colors were so vibrant."

 

Because the important elements of sunlight and shadow are ever-changing in real life, Belfiglio works from photographs, but is not chained to them. "I will change things to strengthen the composition," she says. "I never just copy a photograph. I always mess with it." Case in point: She added a vividly red carnation to the lapel of William McKinley in her painting of a granite statue of the late president at the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles. Belfiglio's paintings are so precise and meticulously rendered that they take up to 200 hours to complete. "I take these images and bring them so close to the picture plane that you have to include all the significant details," she says, although surfaces are often streamlined.

 

In addition to her demanding painting schedule, Belfiglio is an adjunct professor of art at Walsh University. She lives in North Canton with her husband, Mike Bastas, and their two children, Michael and Adrianne. These days, the artist is scouting locations for new subject matter, with a commitment to historic homes and other structures. "I do a lot of my photography in September," she says, "due to that gorgeous blue sky."

 

You can reach Repository entertainment editor Dan Kane at (330) 580-8306 or e-mail: Dan.kane@cantonrep.com

 

WHAT: Diane Belfiglio: Architectural Glimpses into Local History. WHEN: Through Oct. 26. WHERE: Canton Museum of Art, Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Ave. N. HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday; evening hours 7 to 9 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, closed Monday. ADMISSION: $4 adults, $2.50 for senior citizens and children ages 6-12. Free admission on Tuesdays

 

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January/February 2001 CANTON

Victorian Vignettes: The Saxton House and Other Regional Architectural Reflections: Paintings by Diane Belfiglio McKinley Museum

November 17 - February 4 by Tom Wachunas

Reprinted from Dialogue magazine January/February 2001

 

For some local residents, driving by Canton's Saxton House might bring to mind vague recollections about its claim to fame. It is the family home of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley. It is also a fine example of architecture that is regrettably among the last beautiful buildings to grace an otherwise lackluster downtown. Happy for its preservation, we go along our mall-bound way.

 

But painter Diane Belfiglio takes time to savor what many of us would miss in our over-the-shoulder glance. Her recent series of six acrylic canvases are more than an arresting homage to an historic structure. The paintings are a stunning addition to a maturing body of work that has sharpened its focus on the marriage of light and architecture. This exhibition is as much a retrospective as it is a showcase for new work. As evidenced here, Belfiglio's fascination with the interplay of natural light and man-made spaces dates back to 1980, in predominantly white paintings imbued with an austere delicacy.

 

In her 1992 series of paintings, Uncommon Views of Society, her palette and drawing skills had become more muscular. The contrast of intricate floral designs--the kind found in cast iron fences--against brick and stone walls was a recurring theme that clearly laid a compositional foundation for the newest works, all executed in 2000.

 

There's magic in the minutiae. Belfiglio's images are not frontal views of facades with panoramic surroundings. Rather, she focuses on an isolated corner or dormer here, an unusual window adornment or staircase there. The shapes of shadows cast by sunlight take on a distinct physicality, as if built into the surfaces on which they rest. In Victorian Vignettes IV, a steely blue shadow protrudes across the bright pattern of hexagonal shingles like a dancer darting along a tile floor.

 

For all of their meticulous faithfulness to something recognizable, the paintings never succumb to the often-pointless technical flamboyance so common in Photorealism. On the other hand, there is no liberal application of paint, no tactile surfaces, no frenetic brushwork. Yet the paintings are nonetheless sumptuous in their luxuriant light and playful rhythms of form and shadow. At times they conjure the spirit of Edward Hopper minus the angst, or the great Impressionists sans impasto.

 

There is something akin to reverence in the way Belfiglio approaches her subjects, as indicated in her statement for the show: "I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and 'in-your-face' commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls." True to the works' raison d'etre, these are contemplative visions for our thoughtless times. As such, they are acts of courage on canvas.

 

Tom Wachunas writes, paints, and gardens in North Canton. This year he intends to conquer carrots.
 

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May 1998 OHIO

Diane Belfiglio Whistlestop Art Gallery 4202 Portage NW North Canton, OH 44720

By Tom Wachunas

Reprinted from New Art Examiner May 1998

 

Negotiating the artfully cluttered space of the new Whistlestop Art Gallery, one had to gaze toward the rafters to examine Diane Belfiglio's ten acrylic paintings hanging in the air of the small transformed railroad station. Her paintings are just large enough to withstand such a distanced mounting from the viewer. The resultant effect here literally heightened the already upward perspective so prominent in the best works.

 

While Belfiglio rightfully observes that she is not an Impressionist per se, her paintings clearly demonstrate a reverence for the formal concerns so central to the great Impressionist masters: color and light. In an early piece from 1983, Nostalgia: Sandy's Tree, grass, bark, and foliage are meticulously blended into delicate harmony via the almost golden light that bathes the scene from the right side of the image. Nestled far in the background is the subtle indication of a house. The painting is significant beyond the beautiful, intense brushstrokes reminiscent of Monet or Van Gogh. It points to the artist's evolution toward a more refined joining of architecture with the amorphous forms of nature--a meeting between the hard edges of man-made constructions and the irregular shapes of flowers.

 

In Angled Ascent, we look upward at an L-shaped concrete staircase to the entrance of a red brick building. A patch of geraniums grows against the brick at ground level. Most notable in this painting is the handling of the shadows from the ornate green railing cast upon the steps. The shapes of the shadows jump off from the steps like gentle graffito, a signature, a calligraphic sign of light. In the real world, we often take for granted such settings as this one--stairs to a building--as unremarkable and pedestrian. But in the hands of Belfiglio, a clearly accomplished technician in the realm of drawing and otherwise rendering reality, the common becomes the extraordinary. She has an uncanny ability to capture light and color (not unlike Edward Hopper) so that we might stop and admire the bricks, marvel at cast-iron railings, and at least touch the geraniums.


Tom Wachunas is a writer in North Canton, Ohio, where he can't wait to use his new garden tools.

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1995 Drawing at the Turn of the Century in Ohio

Emily Davis Gallery at The University of Akron

Statement reprinted from the exhibition catalogue:

 

Diane Belfiglio

Until eight years ago, I was primarily a painter. My subjects were dramatic, closely- cropped, sunlit architectural detail. But in 1988, when my son was born, I temporarily stopped painting. During that time, an acquaintance hired me to help him restore two antique carousel horses. This enabled me to research the history of the carousel and to learn about the great carvers of the early twentieth century. I have been researching and photographing carousels ever since.

 

Originally, I painted my first carousel images. But painting became too time consuming after my daughter was born in 1992. Drawings were more practical because they could be easily interrupted when the children needed attention. Illions Horse VII is one in a series of twelve drawings done from the Marcus Illions carousel at Geauga Lake. In these pieces, I carried over the intense sunlight and cropping techniques of my architectural work because it increased the psychological tensions of the subjects.

 

These horses' acrid colors and glass eyes which seem to follow the viewer everywhere can bring an almost sinister quality to a ride we generally think of as benign and carefree. I wanted to capture both the excitement and apprehension children feel when approaching these large beasts for their fantasy ride. Marcus Illions' fiery steeds are perfect for projecting these sensations.

www.belfiglio.com       Tel. 330-494-8459      diane@belfiglio.com

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