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Summer Group Exhibit, Corners Gallery 2017

Fresh paint is coming to Ithaca — and so is the Fresh Paint exhibition.

Corners Gallery’s newest exhibition, Fresh Paint, will feature new pieces from local artists John McLaughlin, Tim Merrick, Suzanne Onodera, Barbara Page and Stan Taft. And for a couple of them, their works explore new mediums and styles.

Onodera, an artist who typically works with oil paints, dabbles in watercolors for her latest pieces. Though there is one oil on canvas painting, the rest are watercolors inspired by the landscape of Wyoming. During the month of May, Onodera was a fellow at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. Many of her works capture the landscape of Brushcreek, a 30,000-acre working ranch at the base of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming.

“You have all day to make art, and [watercolors] dry fast,” Onodera said. “I was able to get a lot of ideas out in a short time, and I went through a lot of paper — it was a little scary. But watercolors are a really immediate expression, and I enjoy the challenge of that.”

Something else new for Onodera are her panorama shots. Swirls of clouds on wide, short papers give the viewer an illusion of floating.

Unlike Onodera, Merrick doesn’t have one distinct medium. He’s done work in sculpting, printmaking and other forms, but his latest works are oil on canvas. Inspired by patterned books from the 1800s, architectural patterns for houses and buildings and ancient Roman culture, Merrick layered oils on canvas to give the impression of patterned panels.

“People talk about [these paintings] as being abstract, but really they’re as realistic as possible,” Merrick said. “I really like the paintings are ones that acknowledge what they are. You’re removing that illusion that it’s something else.”

Merrick’s paintings, rustic and textured, hang near Onodera’s soft and dreamy landscapes. While their inspirations and styles don’t align, both collections go beyond the boundaries of what is “realistic.” Their works challenge reality and how reality is perceived by others.

Onodera’s panoramas and landscapes, while drawing inspiration from the landscapes of Wyoming, are actually reinterpreted versions of what she saw during her fellowship. She tried sitting in front of the creek and painting what she saw, she said, but what she painted didn’t get properly filtered through her artistic lens. She set back to her studio, image in mind, and painted something that she felt — not just saw.

“I wonder if people are becoming conditioned now to think of art as blurring the lines between the human touch and the machine touch,” Onodera said. “We want repetition and we want manufactured art — something that’s multiples and can be reproduced fairly quickly that’s clean and perfect — but really that’s so far from what people really want, which is the sense of the human touch.”

The human touch in Merrick’s paintings presents itself through different filters and passions. Merrick works across different areas, weaving his job as a construction worker, his knowledge of art history and his love for ancient Roman culture and mythology into his paintings. While these areas are an odd combination, they are undoubtedly Merrick: even the mistakes.

“I really like the mistakes and the attempt to make things perfect because if you make the perfect painting, why paint?” he said. “It’s not about that, it’s about the working process for the future. I never know when the endpoint is going to be when I work.”

Both of the artists’ works capture the human experience: be it through what they see or what they love. They’re not afraid to be human, and they’re bold enough to challenge what it means to be an artist.

“That is one of the hardest things about making art: you can do things, but you really need that time to process what you’ve done before you move on to the next one,” Merrick said. “Successful paintings are produced by figuring out a working process.” •