101st Member’s Medal Show at the Plastic Club – A little nostalgia and a brush with the technological present

—Ali finds that the big group show at the Plastic Club has some gems and the building sparks some memories.–the Artblog editors—————>

Despite its name, The Plastic Club is not a clubhouse made out of plastic, nor is it an organization devoted entirely to the shiny polymer  stuff. Founded in 1897, The Plastic Club began as an art association for female artists but has since opened its doors to members of all genders, shapes, sizes, hair colors and affiliations. The “plastic” in The Plastic Club actually refers to any type of art that is unfinished and largely symbolizes the club’s mission: to promote the exchange of artistic knowledge and ideas.

The club’s 101st annual Member’s Medal Show is on display from May 5 until May 23 and features work from 97 of the 200 club members. It is judged by this year’s selected juror, Sharon Ewing, the current director at the Gross McCleaf Gallery.


The artists submit pieces that they feel will resonate with the juror and the show usually caters to his/her opinion and taste. As to who wins, VP Michael Guinn explains, “The juror picks pieces that speak to her, that are relevant to her personal world.” One would think that this is somehow unfair or discriminatory but Guinn responds with a fair point, “There is really no way to accurately judge art, it is really in the eye of the beholder.”

Wonderfully diverse show

Admittedly, determining the winner can be somewhat of a “crapshoot” but the resulting show is a wonderfully diverse mixed-bag of work. With ninety-seven completely different pieces to choose from, it is quite difficult to find an overarching subject, tone or commonality and so like the juror, I will review those pieces that strongly spoke to my personal experience as a viewer.

“Spring Forward,” Bob Jackson
(Junk and Stuff)

Featuring symbols of growth, birth, baby animals and blooming flowers, Bob Jackson’s “Spring Forward,” a collected assortment of Barbie-sized junk attached to a photograph, contains every thinkable image typically associated with springtime. Amongst a sea of paintings and primarily flat works, this piece stands out in its three dimensional quirkiness. Centered around a black and white picture of a baby-turned-angel, there is something eerie and shrine-like about the piece. I especially love the pair of legs pinned on to the baby’s feet, as though to suggest that it has grown right out of the frame!

"Primordial Sun," John Baccile Photograph, photo courtesy of The Plastic Club
“Primordial Sun,” John Baccile
Photograph, photo courtesy of The Plastic Club

Keeping in mind this idea of childhood and warmth, John Baccile’s color photograph “Primordial Sun” reminds me of those summer afternoons I spent drawing on my driveway with pastel chalk. To me, the photo’s title refers to the sun’s status as a “choice doodle”- meaning, since the first human wielded a drawing tool, men and women have been doodling pictures of suns on cave walls, pyramid murals and sidewalks alike. In the vein of hopscotch courts and love hearts with arrows, this image captures the universal symbol for light, life and vibrancy- all it’s missing is a pair of sunglasses!

"Code," DoN Brewer (Ink Jet Print/ QR Code)
“Code,” DoN Brewer
(Ink Jet Print/ QR Code)

In the midst of nostalgia, an encounter with QR codes

The most frustratingly intriguing piece is most definitely DoN Brewer’s “Code.” “Code” is an interesting work that features eight colorful QR Codes that the viewer can scan on her smartphone. My frustrations were hardly the artist’s fault- I left my cellphone at home. This piece presumes a sort of exclusive/inclusive dichotomy where those people still using “old school” flip phones are left to ponder what sort of evasive wonders they’re missing. To be honest, I like that. Sure, I didn’t actually get to admire the work, but I appreciate the drama that “Code” creates and the mystery of the unknown. If the point of art is to teach, then Brewer’s piece taught me to always bring my phone!

“Breaking Borders,” Carla Ligouri (Terracotta, Acrylic, Gold Leaf)
“Breaking Borders,” Carla Ligouri
(Terracotta, Acrylic, Gold Leaf)

I appreciate the cheekiness of Carla Ligouri’s statue “Breaking Borders” and love the originality of her concept. Is this a sculpture being framed or is it the artist’s portrayal of a subject trying to squeeze out of its frame à la The Fat Lady in Harry Potter? The ornate eyeballs painted down the torso of the woman suggest that the art observes us just as we observe it and I appreciate the subtle humor.


Between the cozy atmosphere (the space dates back to 1824 and is a certified Historic Building), the creaky floors, the pervasiveness of lace doilies and the various works of art crowding every wall, ledge and open space, viewing the Member’s Show feels like a warm and comforting trip through my Great-Aunt Ida’s house. With such a vast range of styles, subjects and mediums, every visitor gets the chance to play juror and each guest is bound to find something that strikes her fancy.

The 101st Member’s Medal Show is on display at The Plastic Club from May 5 until May 23. The exhibition is open to the public during workshop hours or by appointment only. For further information, please click here.