On Friday, July 11, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance will hold a grand opening reception and tour for its fifteenth annual Art in the Heart of the City outdoor public art exhibition. This celebration, held in conjunction with First Friday Gallery Night, will commence at 6:00 PM outside the Tompkins County Public Library. This year’s show is an especially eclectic one, showcasing eleven pieces by seven different professional artists from all over New York State, which will remain on display through mid-November.
Says Gary Ferguson, Executive Director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, “For fifteen years, we have worked to bring sculptures and murals to the streets and parks of downtown, integrating art into our day-to-day experience. Since we initiated Art in the Heart of the City, we have exhibited over 225 different pieces of every conceivable style and medium. We offer our sincerest thanks to the artists, the jurors, and the City crews who have worked so hard to make this show possible.”
Sam Castner of Dundee, a favorite from 2012’s Art in the Heart, returns this year with two new large-scale metal sculptures sited outside the Tompkins County Public Library. While his 2012 pieces were strictly abstract, his recently-completedMoonshadow is topped with an intricately rendered hawk – a harbinger of Castner’s renewed interest in figuration and a testament to his tremendous dexterity with rusted iron. Also on display is Eclipse, whose concentric openwork orbs bring to mind celestial bodies as did 2012’s Cosmos.
Andrew Hellmund of Geneva, who was Castner’s studio apprentice during the creation of Cosmos, is well-represented in his own right this year with three dynamic weathered metal sculptures directly across from the Library on South Cayuga Street. His piece Amigo, outside Evolution, was created especially for Art in the Heart andUprising and Urban Rising were part of Hellmund’s 2014 thesis show at Hobart College that sought to “explore where industry and nature converge using industrial elements to create fluid forms.”
Jim Garmhausen of Ithaca is exhibiting Tree of Life, a lighthearted acrylic-on-plywood diptych on the metal fence outside the Green Street parking lot, opposite Green Street Pharmacy. Garmhausen, a resident of Ithaca, spent many years as a cartoonist for a variety of weekly papers, and his fascination with comical figures, bold linework, and monochromatic palates is readily apparent in Tree of Life, which grows out of the shell of a bemused human-tortoise hybrid sporting a bowl cut and ill-fitting porkpie hat.
Brandon Lazore of Syracuse graced the Green Street parking lot helix with Women’s Nomination, a large and vibrant mural dedicated to Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women. The composition depicts Skywoman falling from Sky World and, in the foreground, a grandmother, mother, and infant daughter. In Skywoman’s hands are the three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – and enveloping the three earthly females is a Woman’s Nomination belt, representing the right of Haudenosaunee women to choose clans for their children and chiefs for their confederacy.
Ryan McGuire of Ithaca, best known for his whimsical Bananapillar in 2013’s Art in the Heart, is back again with another amusing installation outside the State Theatre Ticket Office. This year, it’s Mighty Balloon: a buoyant red balloon – of the sort that is found at children’s birthday parties – tied to a ten-foot lamppost that is apparently contorting under the balloon’s improbable strength. This illusion is achieved entirely with cast plastic, plus a solar bulb that adds a genuine glow at night.
Glenn Zweygardt of Alfred Station returns for a third year with two new multi-media sculptures opposite and kitty-corner from Mighty Balloon on North Cayuga Street.Celestial Trace is sculpted primarily from Verde Antique, a beautiful metamorphic marble from central Vermont; its striated mass is punctured by a constellation of cast glass orbs. Going Clear employs the forms of a lone architectural column and a leaf-bare maple tree as metaphors of aging as Zweygardt approaches his fiftieth year as an exhibiting artist.
Frank Leahy of Trumansburg, a first-time Art in the Heart participant, created Ibeji Twin Arches as a special commission in consort with the Art in the Heart committee. Frank Leahy’s work is eminently sustainable: constructed from yew branches hand-pruned from his yard after the deer have eaten the green matter. For this project, these naturally rot-resistant branches were symbiotically attached with the sparing use of a nail gun to form two organic archways – one scaled for children and one for adults.
With the exception of Lazore’s site-specific mural, all pieces in this year’s show are for sale. At the behest of the artist, all proceeds from the sale of Castner’s Eclipse will be donated to the Amanda Bush Memorial Fund. Frank Leahy has also kindly allowed his arches to be auctioned off in late November to benefit next year’s Art in the Heart show. Further information and prices will be available on http://www.downtownithaca.com and in a print guide to be published shortly.