Nutting Gallery Heats Up with “Fire and Fanfare” 

Gabriella Pozell, Contributing Writer

I hate to admit it. Sometimes art gives me anxiety. Don’t get me wrong; I like viewing art, but I still find it incredibly intimidating and something outside of my comfort zone.

So, I found myself in an interesting situation when I attended, or was politely coerced into attending actually, the opening of “Fire and Fanfare” that was held on Feb. 25 in the Nutting Gallery. However, I was happy to find that the whole event was the complete opposite of intimidating.

The exhibit featured the works of two WLU alumni, Jonathan Walsh and Gary Henzler. Jonathan Walsh, an art teacher at Parkersburg High School, creates ceramic musical instruments and functional pottery. He explained that while at WLU, his circle of friends consisted of both art and music majors, being both an art student and a member of the marching band. So, it was then, that he got the inspiration to combine the two and make his musically-inspired artwork. 

One of my favorites of his works was “Digeridoo.” I was fascinated with the attention to detail and the piece’s uniqueness. Didgeridoos are not one of the most common instruments that are usually on the forefront of people’s minds, so it was a nice surprise to see one transformed into a piece of art. I was also impressed by his efforts in making his ceramic instruments playable. He discussed having to do research into physics and even using apps on his phone to aid him in selecting the right wavelengths for the desired pitches. 

Gary Henzler, an adjunct art instructor at a charter school in Pittsburgh, featured works created from a variety of media. They ranged from watercolor to oil to linocut to embossing to mixed media, according to his list of works. He explained that his creative process begins with finding ordinary things in his everyday life that inspire him. Some of which include cuts of meat, insects, scenes of nature, lollipops, among others. He then takes photos of these objects, sketches them, and then modifies them in depth with different media. 

A common favorite of Henzler’s work was “Legs.” Both Henzler and Walsh selected that as their favorite piece of the evening, as well as many students. This watercolor of an octopus really stood out to me because of the bright, fiery-looking colors, and I loved the piece even more when I found out that the octopus’ name was “Bubbles.” Henzler describes his work as an “escapist’s reality.” He explained that he found art to be an outlet where he could create his own world and be free. It was an escape from his difficult childhood where he was marginalized as different.

His concept of an “escapist’s reality” really resonated with me and put a lot of my fears of art into perspective. Even though visual art is intimidating to me, I realized it is not really that far out of my comfort zone. As an English major, I could draw the parallel between an “escapist’s reality” and another form of creative expression, literature. Any form of creative expression is an opportunity to explore new worlds, meet new people, and can help us cope with whatever anxiety or burden we are currently dealing with. Art does not have to be intimidating. It should be freeing, both for the creator and the viewer.

Find that out for yourself by visiting “Fire and Fanfare.” The exhibit will be open until March 12. Gallery hours are 8:30 am to 2:30 pm on weekdays or by appointment. For more information, contact Robert Villamagna at [email protected]