In Otherworlds is a two-man exhibit of paintings and prints by painter-digital collagist Dan Hernandez and master draftsman-printmaker, Craig Fisher, on display now through September 30 at downtown Toledo’s 20 North Gallery. These two Toledo art visionaries allow imagination to take them— and us— to places that seem at once familiar and uncanny. The source materials for each artist, along with differences in technique and material, resulting in two very different, but complementary, bodies of work.
Craig Fisher, a designer of business-to-business learning tools in addition to his prolific artistic output, works within the confines of traditional fine art printmaking. For this exhibit, he has created worlds that incorporate recognizable elements in improbable ways, transforming and recombining features from Renaissance landscapes, natural history illustration, classical architectural drawings and more, into intriguing and often surreal scenarios.
The print Astronomie Nova illustrates Fisher’s method: juxtaposing an aerial view of a gothic church ruin with a schematic drawing of a complex geometric form, setting up a complex tension between physical environment and the unseen— but just as real— universe. One of his most satisfying pieces, Tower of Babble combines an over-scale rotary phone in the foreground with a period illustration of the tower itself in the background. Communication technology surrounds the tower, making it difficult to determine if the tower is being built or destroyed.
Sometimes less is more: Fisher’s strengths as a draftsman can occasionally result in over-elaborate and confusing compositions. But it’s hard to second-guess the artist’s single-minded pursuit of his vision.
Dan Hernandez, currently a University of Toledo associate professor of art, creates paintings where saints and angels mix freely with computer gaming figures. Elements of Persian miniatures, Renaissance urban landscapes, and Chinese pavilions collide and morph into a persuasively imagined and often beautiful world. This oddly convincing pastiche of styles and periods is the product of Hernandez’ youthful gaming hobby and his studies in art history, which included a college trip to Italy, where he was captivated by the ancient frescos of Pompeii.
Hernandez maintains a large archive of online images, from haloed renaissance saints to invading space ships, which he repeats and re-combines imaginatively in his world-building endeavors. He uses photo transfers of these seemingly incompatible images to create realities that possess internal consistency while projecting a mood that is both comic and mysterious.
In The Annunciation, he has imagined a funny and improbable street rumble between the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in a medieval Italian town.
In another artwork, The Massacre at Intelari Chapel, a battle between computer gaming figures and renaissance-era characters rages across the bottom of the composition, while above, three levels of coins similar to those in a computer game imply ample rewards for the victors, as saints look on from the heavens while consulting a Super Mario map.
In Otherworlds provides a provocative look at imaginative visual storytelling by two talented Toledo artists and is well worth a visit. “Despite the dramatic differences in media, visual style and subject matter, the works of these two distinguished area artists juxtapose like themes of science and technology with spirituality, as well as the combination of old and new media, to explore the metaphysical concept of the ‘otherworld’— the varying layers of existence between humankind’s experience of the ‘real’ world and the world of belief. This combination creates an intriguing, thought-provoking and unquestionably beautiful exhibit,” explains Condessa Croninger, 20 North Art Director.
Gallery hours are Noon-4pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. Patrons also have extended opportunities to enjoy the exhibition during after-gallery hours at Venue, 20 North Gallery’s cocktail lounge, which is open 4:30-9pm Wednesdays through Saturdays.