Looking back on a masterful and varied year in the visual arts

It hardly seems possible that so much good work could be done by Columbus creatives and/or be shown in Columbus spaces in a single year. It also seems impossible to sum it all up here, but I'm up to the task. As always, this is not a “best of” list, but rather an attempt to be representative of the kind of work done and shown in Columbus in 2018.

“Color Experiment #1”
January at Second Sight Project
Tala Kanani took full advantage of her Second Sight residency in creating this immersive installation/experience that moved viewers through three distinct spaces conceived around three different colors and moods. “The hope is that people will feel some type of way, which is what art is in general. I just hope to create an intense and immediate experience,” Kanani said.

Nelsa Abalo
February at Gallery Denmark
This Cuban-American artist has lived in Columbus for almost 20 years, but only recently rediscovered the craft-art technique she learned as a child in Cuba: using colored foil candy wrappers to create stained-glasses-looking pieces of meticulous construction and stunning beauty. “I'm inspired a lot by color, a very Cuban color palette, very bright colors,” Abalo said.

“Finding Peace in a Busy Place”
February at Blockfort
Recent Columbus ex-pat Kat Francis sought calm amid chaos, in part the result of her chronic Crohn's disease and the regular treatments she receives to combat it. A layered, almost dioramic presentation to these detailed pieces gave each a peculiar life and poignancy. “It's really about uniqueness, that finding peace isn't the same for everybody,” Francis said.

“The Black Panther: Celebrating 50+ years of Black Superheroes”
April-August at King Arts Complex
This group show, curated by Bryan Christopher Moss, allowed artists to respond to both the short-term phenomenon in the wake of the “Black Panther” film and also to comment on that title's importance as representation for people of color in comics. “I wanted to show that comic creators do all this other stuff, to basically be like a bridge between fine art world and comic art. Showing the range is equally important as the fact that it's comic art,” Moss said.

“Be a Hero”
April-May at No Place Gallery
New York City-based artist Taylor Hawkins came home to create this experimental installation/performance art/video piece that involved those in attendance at the opening in the creation of a companion video work. “The idea is that these figures are in space, not technically in a space like a gallery, with objects and ephemera you would not associate with a gallery setting,” Hawkins said.

“Beauty Found in Darkness”
May at Kafe Kerouac
A daily writing regimen helped Kent Grosswiler stay clean and become an artist. Nix Comics owner Ken Eppstein convinced Grosswiler to collect some of his haiku into an art book, which was illustrated by two of the writer's closest friends. “I could have turned up dead in a dumpster, but instead I'm making a go of it doing something creative. I'm fucking stoked,” Grosswiler said.

Terry Norman
June-July at Art of Republic
The mural of Norman's Richard Pryor Portrait in the Short North has to be one of the city's most-Instagrammed spots of the year. If response to his charcoal portraiture at this exhibition is any indication, you're going to be seeing a lot of his work around. “I love it when people looking at the pictures think they're photos. It is the effect I'm going for,” Norman said.

“F-Art”
August at the Vanderelli Room
If the low-brow art community in Columbus has a clown prince, it's surely Jay Mueller, who curated this group show. But don't be fooled, Mueller is skilled — and so were the rest of the makers featured in this aptly titled show. “Traditions are meant to be fucked with. If you're not doing that, you're not doing your job as an artist,” Mueller said.

“Out of Hiding”
September at Sean Christopher Gallery
Photographer Julie Rae Powers' concept was to celebrate the assembled “families” of queer individuals in the city — the groups that often substitute for biological families for folks who find joy in shared experience. “That's the broader look [in the exhibition]: That we don't stand alone. We're all here for each other,” Powers said.

“What the Living Know”
October at 934 Gallery
Artist Mandi Caskey was so moved by the work of Ruth Awad that she asked the local poet if it would be OK to make an exhibition of work inspired by it. The work stands on its own, but is buttressed by Awad's words. “Her words are so very visual. It was easy to ‘see' her words, and I wanted other people to ‘see' them, too,” Caskey said.

“Urban Deconstructions”
October at Ohio Art League X Space
It was surprising to learn that stalwart deconstructivist Roger Williams had not had a formal solo exhibition in the city he calls home, so the Ohio Art League decided to rectify the situation. “People recognize the style, because nobody has my style, my lyrics,” Williams said.

“Vulnerable Strength”
December at Fresh A.I.R Gallery
This exhibition was scheduled before Naima van der Does died by suicide earlier this year. Her family and the gallery felt it was apt to present the work in the gallery, given its mission is to showcase work by artists who have substance abuse or mental illness issues. The artist's work continues as an inspiration to others struggling. “I never considered not doing the show. She wanted people to see this work,” the artist's father, Michael Vander Does, said.