Riffe Gallery Nexus of Art and Health explores illness and wellness – The Columbus Dispatch

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The relationship between art and health is a curious one.
Do paintings and sculptures ease some of the pain and anxiety we feel in health crises? Does art clarify or explain some of the science behind illness? Does appreciating a work of art in any way shed light on the concepts of sickness and wellness?
Fifteen Ohio artists pay heed to these questions in works in the exhibit “The Nexus of Art and Health,” on view Downtown through Jan. 6 at the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery. 
The exhibit, organized by Cleveland Clinic Art Program Curator Sienna Brown, is a diverse and often personal collection of works in a variety of mediums. Here are a few highlights in this thoughtful, intelligent exhibit.
Exploring her treatment for cancer, Akron artist Laura Vinnedge created textured paintings of lymph nodes with white blood cells in oil, latex and resin – four works that are beautiful and unsettling at the same time.
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Living and working with a rare, progressive neurological condition, Lisa Merida-Paytes, of Cincinnati, turned to creating monumental paper sculptures as her disability progressed. Her several pieces in this exhibit – including delicate, hanging bowl-like sculptures in shades of cream, rose and white − are gorgeous.
Glass artist Sean Merchant, of Medina. considered an English church’s stained glass windows depicting acts of mercy including feeding the sick. Viewers that stand before his mirrored piece see themselves reflected as the good Samaritans.
In her work, Suki Kwon, of Dayton, incorporates indigo, which is among the world’s oldest dyes and known to possess medicinal and spiritual qualities. She has arranged fabric squares and blocks of indigo in flowing and geometric installations.
With “Bellwether,” Columbus artist Nate Ricciuto has recreated a Faraday cage, an enclosure that blocks electromagnetic fields. His red-lit, glowing glass edifice also heats up and serves as a sweat lodge, an age-old structure that cleanses its inhabitants from more than just radio waves.
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In her linoleum wood cuts, Yani Sheng, of Dublin, presents nearly 50 portraits of friends and associates, all wearing pandemic masks. Yet remarkably, through the look in their eyes or a wrinkled brow, the personality of each person shines through.
Cincinnati fiber artist Cynthia Lockhart took note of how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black communities. Her two colorful, abstract quilts – that also pay heed to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests – are nevertheless joyful and optimistic.
In his 80s when he contracted COVID, ceramic artist Brinsley Tyrrell, of Ravenna, took the monster head-on and obsessively created “Pandemic Pieces,” with more than two dozen of them presented in this exhibit. Lined up on a table, his bulbous, spikey sculptures seem to cry out in unison, “You can’t kill me!”
“The Nexus of Art and Health” continues through Jan. 6 at the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, 77 S. High St. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Call 614-644-9624 or visit www.riffegallery.org.


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