Works by Martha Cliffel, Gadi Zamir, Misty Lindsey & Reverend Albert Wagner
I SCARCE CAN TAKE IT IN is a lyric drawn from the gospel song How Great Thou Art, a Christian hymn based on a Swedish traditional melody. The line was later appropriated into a poem by the well-known 19th century Swedish poet, Carl Boberg. In Boberg’s poem, the line expresses the spiritual force that the reader/listener experiences from a story of inspiration and hope told by an ordinary man seeking solace and inspired by church bells ringing during a wild thunderstorm.
The work of Martha Cliffel, Gadi Zamir, Misty Lindsey and Reverend Albert Wagner possess a rawness and tactility that in each case conveys its own positive spiritual force. As self-taught artists, their work escapes the imprint of formal pedagogy or tradition. Instead, it conveys inspiration and an invigorating beauty, expressed through the lens of their personal and sometimes rebellious views of faith and mysticism. Utilizing cast-out, recycled and reclaimed materials, each weaves romantic narratives of everyday faith and foibles.
Martha Cliffel’s re-imagines her Catholic upbringing through both irreverent revolt and a progressive look forward. Cliffel “saves” and creates shrines, assembling them from debris discarded from flea markets, bodegas and thrift stores. She praises, preaches, prods, pokes and throws punches as she considers her complex relationship with Catholic life.
Cliffel is the mother of 7 children and a former school teacher. She splits her time, working at the Screw Factory in Lakewood, Ohio and tending 240 acres in Western New York.
Gadi Zamir, is an Israeli-born Cleveland-based artist, community activist, and founder of Negative Space Gallery. Zamir scavenges wood and then overlays its knots and grain structure with his own iconography, rendered through carving, marking with a blowtorch and applying fabric dyes. The birds, sculls and other symbols that he summons, magically transform these found forms into tableau constructions that may alternatively take the form of ordinary objects or altar pieces elevating the aura of his gallery. In all cases they signify escape, freedom and transformation.
Negative Space Gallery is a meeting ground for creative people who want to make a difference in the world by enacting their dreams with art. The gallery provides emerging visual and performing artists with resources to experiment, stretch, fail and transform. “It is a platform for all kinds of genres - music, film, etc.,” says Zamir. The gallery also provides a space for Zamir to create and showcase his own work. Zamir received a Community Partnership for Arts and Culture Creative Workforce Fellowship in 2013.
Misty Lindsey is a Chattanooga-based artist that has been represented at the Outsider Art Fair in NYC and exhibirted her work nationally. Her work is filled with expressive characters that comment on universal hopes and dreams, fears and worries. Her text based work is confessional and represents the voice of the last, the lost and those that have the least.
Reverend Albert Wagner was born in 1924 in Bassett, Arkansas. Wagner went to work in the cotton fields as a water carrier for the pickers when he was ten years old. In 1941 at the age of 17, he moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a dishwasher before starting his own furniture moving company. Years later, while cleaning his basement in preparation for his fiftieth birthday celebration, he noticed some paint spatters on a piece of wood and was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of his childhood and with inspiration for works of art. In the years that followed he made hundreds of paintings and sculptures to "get the Word out."
Turning his house on Cleveland's east side into an environment he called "The People-Love-People House of God," the Reverend Albert Wagner decorated the outside of the building with found objects. He crammed the interior with enormous sculptures around which he counseled members of his small, informal congregation, which met regularly at a nearby store-front church. Albert worked in his home studio creating over 3,000 paintings and sculptures for 32 years, until his death on September 1, 2006 at age 82.