Local Artists Reach Beyond Cincinnati

Japanese-born and Cincinnati-based artist Shinji Turner-Yamamoto's ongoing 'Global Tree Project' creates ecological awareness; Joe Walsh of Camp Washington designs the 20th-anniversary edition of David Foster Wallace's 'Infinite Jest' and more.

click to enlarge Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s “Istanbul” (detail) - Photo: Courtesy of Shinji Turner-Yamamoto
Photo: Courtesy of Shinji Turner-Yamamoto
Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s “Istanbul” (detail)

From time to time, I hope to use “The Big Picture” as a space for news about what area artists and curators are doing beyond Cincinnati. To do that, I’ll need help — emails from artists and others about what they’re involved in. Fortunately, some have been keeping me informed all along. So here is the first such column:

• Shinji Turner-Yamamoto is a Japanese-born Cincinnati-based artist whose ongoing Global Tree Project seeks to create artistic wonder and ecological awareness by often placing plant life in the built environment in ways that make us appreciate the beauty and resilience of both.

His 2010 “Hanging Garden” was a live white birch tree suspended atop an upside-down dead one in Mount Adams’ deconsecrated, decaying Holy Cross Church.

He has continued to do Global Tree Project work worldwide, exploring his poetic ideas about art and nature. 

In May, Turner-Yamamoto presented his latest work, “Istanbul,” in the ruin of an abandoned Jewish orphanage in that Turkish city. It was commissioned by the Besiktasş International Garden and Flower Festival.

For this two-room installation, the smaller room had an opening through which one could see a large evergreen tree swaying in the wind. Also in the room was a Japanese maple tree suspended horizontally with wire cables. Its root system was wrapped in burlap and covered with plant-fiber twine, soil/clay and gold leaf. 

In the second room, a Japanese maple sapling was inserted into a wall opening so it appeared to be floating mid-air above a mist cloud. In a niche, Turner-Yamamoto placed a painting that used such materials as cocciopesto (pulverized brick made from the building’s debris), local soil and a Turkish yogurt beverage.

“Conceived as a symbol of peace and serenity, the Japanese maple, with its storied and emblematic color, floats over the cosmic ocean — representing infinite possibilities and renewal,” Turner-Yamamoto says via email.

For his first book design ever, Joe Walsh of Camp Washington couldn’t have found a more impressive project: the 20th-anniversary edition of David Foster Wallace’s contemporary masterpiece, Infinite Jest.

He won a contest sponsored by publisher Little, Brown. His design, a relatively simple drawing of an eye staring out from a TV set and accompanied by an understated red title, owes something to Keith Haring, Iggy Pop and certainly the late Wallace.

“The central theme, what the title references, is a piece of entertainment so entertaining that people are content to watch it until they die,” Walsh says.

He received a moderate payment for his work. Walsh, 24, son of prominent Cincinnati photographers Tony Walsh and Maureen France, is currently doing freelance design, video and animation work.

A fan of Wallace’s difficult and lengthy novel, Walsh has read it twice. “I still find myself wanting to read it again,” he says. “Especially now that I have the cover.”

A regional variant of Buildering: Misbehaving the City, the international exhibition about artful pranking that the Contemporary Arts Center’s curator Steven Matijcio staged last year, is on display at Louisville’s Zephyr Gallery now through Aug. 20. 

Called Re: Place, it was co-curated by Matijcio and Linda Schwartz, who handles marketing and sales at Carl Solway Gallery but is working independently on this. She says this is her first time curating a gallery show since she closed her own here in 2004.

There are eight regional artists in the show, including several from Cincinnati. Schwartz will give a brief gallery talk at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by two artist performances. For more information, visit zephyrgallery.org.

• Jay Bolotin’s superb, painstakingly created The Book of Only Enoch, a portfolio of 20 woodcuts and relief etchings along with plates used to create the prints, currently is on display at the Bates College Museum of Art in Maine. The story concerns, as Bates describes it, Only Enoch, a Jewish boy from Kentucky named after an apocryphal book left out of the Hebrew Bible. The show is on display through Oct. 8, and Bolotin will be at the campus Oct. 3-5. 

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]