Maria Neil Art Project Remembers Local Artist Anthony Bartholomew With ‘Above the Surface’

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Fri 1/6 @ 5-10PM

Five years have passed since Anthony Bartholomew took his life but left his art to find new audiences.

In a nutshell, that’s the hope Maria Neil Art Project co-owners Adam Tully and John Farina have regarding new retrospective Above the Surface, which opens Fri 1/6 at the Waterloo Arts District venue during the monthly Walk All Over Waterloo.

Within the Northeast Ohio art scene, Bartholomew was a prominent player. Not only was he a printmaking instructor at Kent State University, where he had earned his masters degree, but for five years he was artist in residence coordinator at Zygote Press. He had artist residencies at the Grafikwerkstatt in Dresden, Germany and at Flatbed Press in Austin, Texas. His art was featured in dozens of group shows, and by day he was a commercial screen printer at Jakprints.

CoolCleveland talked to Tully about Bartholomew and Above the Surface.

How did you land on Above the Surface?

It’s a retrospective. Zygote Press did a showing of his work shortly after he passed away in 2011. And since then his work has been under the stewardship of his parents. It’s kind of fallen off the face of the earth. My husband John and I actually became acquainted with his work in 2010 or 2011 through a gallery called Survival Kit, which is now Popeye Gallery at 78th Street Studio. We bought a piece of his work from them shortly after he died. We thought it was incredibly dynamic and engaging. After several years Zygote had a retrospective called The Black Balloon. We asked Liz [Maugans, Zygote’s executive  director], “How do we get to see more of this work? How do we let people know about more of this work?” She put us in touch with Tony’s parents.

What was the reaction from Bartholomew’s parents?

It took about six months to actually have a series of visits, meet with them and talk to them about Tony and what they’re trying to do. We told them we wanted to do a retrospective. They actually pushed us a little bit further. They said we have some work that they were able to salvage from Tony’s cell phone. He had taken pictures of things he was working on. He was in the midst of a brand new project. We decided to not make that necessarily the focal point, but we’re adding it into the retrospective as a way to show where his work was going. Because he’s incredible diverse. He worked with paintings and printmaking and photography. There’s just so many things he worked in, and all of it was again visually engaging and beautiful.

Can you elaborate on what intrigued you about his art and vision?

There was such simplicity to the work, from simple shapes. His work has a very geometric quality to it, and his color choices kind of opened our eyes to the rest of his work. His palette is very particular. He uses lots of reds, blacks, whites, yellows. It’s a very prominent color palette throughout the majority of his work. And then every now and then he’ll include a blue or maybe a green. But it’s just for one piece. It’s never anything that translates to a larger body of work. John and I really enjoyed the fact there was this beautiful, minimal quality to it that just keep drawing us back. We’re very avid art collectors, and his work is just something we’ve never taken off the wall. It’s no bigger than 5×7. It’s a series of black and white squares and then rectangle of red next to it. It’s striking. It really is. It’s beautiful.

Finally, it feels as though while Bartholomew’s story ended tragically, Above the Surface is a way for his story to continue.

The things that really touched me was his mother had a card that a good friend had given her. The theme of the card was “Above the Surface,” which is what we titled the show. It’s about how dragonflies are born underwater. And they begin their life underwater until they understand that’s not where they’re supposed to go. When they escape the water surface, grow their wings and fly away, they understand they can’t return to the water below where they were born. So it’s above the surface where they really come into their own and go about the rest of their life. Tony’s mother said this this is what Tony’s work is. There is a level to it that everybody understands but there was so much more he was working on that nobody really gets. His mother is of the belief that this photography, that we’ll be showing for the first time, was that next level or phase of Tony’s work. It’s where he was going to put himself into a whole other stratosphere.

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