ELKTON — Hearts covered the ceiling of the Cecil County Arts Council Friday to commemorate the opening of the “Stupid Cupid” Valentine’s Day exhibit. 60 different pieces demonstrated how each artist took a different approach toward love, some sentimental, some humorous, showcasing the many ways someone can interpret a prick from Cupid’s arrow.
Maggie Creshkoff finds her inspiration on the side of the road, taking broken windows, crutches, and other objects to create freewheeling, irreverent works. Her piece “Peeping Tom,” blurs the line between love and obsession with three scrap metal faces staring through a window at the viewer.
“I’ve always been interested in things in their original and elemental form,” said Creshkoff. “I’m a bit of a collector, and my late husband was a bit of a collector. It’s more interesting, I think, to find coherence in very disparate objects.”
“Love me Love my Dog” features two dogs made out of bed frames, with white piano keys for teeth barking at each other.
“Sometimes I’ll be driving along, and I’ll have to circle back and pick up a piece of metal that catches my eye,” said Creshkoff. “I don’t steal anything. I pick up things. I figure if they’re throwing it away, I assume they don’t want it anymore.”
Colleen Tiefenthal works with mixed media to express a more traditional view of love rather than a humorous commentary, one piece has the words “believe there is good in the word” written on a plank of wood with repurposed paper mache on top. Reading the secondary colors gives the piece a new meaning, as it reads, “be the good.”
“It makes you look at things a different way,” said Tiefenthal on using recycled materials. “There’s no trash; everything can be made into something new, given a second life.”
Irene Stoss likewise works with an unconventional material that gives her work a greater sense of texture than painting alone. Stoss uses felt that she creates by hand from wool to create different shapes and designs. Stoss said the technique, called wet felting, enables her to create large pieces, like sweaters, out of felt, compared to needlework. She made dozens of small hearts inside of a giant felt bowl. Above the bowl hung an array of hand sized hearts, with hollowed-out centers containing a letter just large enough for a love poem or Valentine’s Day note.
“I love the hearts, they’re so much fun to make, and everyone needs a heart to hold,” said Stoss.
Instead of using commercial paints, Stoss uses household objects to create homemade dyes. She uses onion skins for vibrant yellows and greens, and a rusted washer turns a felt flower into a deep bronze color.
“All my friends know I want onion skins, so they save them for me,” said Stoss. “I go to grocery stores and clean out their bins for them.”
Though the first Friday events have continued throughout the pandemic, the scales have decreased massively, going from 200 to at times only 30 pieces in any given exhibition. Usually, the February exhibit features art from Cecil County Public School students, according to Arts Council Vice President Gaby Coutz. The school lockdown made that impossible, so this year’s exhibit featured work by community artists, including 30 pieces from a class led by Lorraine Haggard, an adjunct instructor at Cecil College.
“Some artists said that they don’t inspire themselves. They need a place to go,” said Executive Director Annmarie Hamilton. “We open the gallery up twice a week for artists to come, bring their supplies, and hang out together. “
Hamilton added that the artists are kept 10 feet apart from each other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has closed many avenues artists use to sell their art, making events like Friday’s exhibition even more critical. Ray Briscoe, who left his job at Terumo to become a full-time artist, said when street festivals, like the Brandywine Festival of the Arts in Wilmington, closed, he began showing his wood carvings at the Arts Council. His work is whimsical, featuring smiling hearts with wings and small animal figures.
Cecil County Arts Council Board of Directors President Gene Daley said the pandemic forced them to become more creative. Along with events, the Council gave out $80,000 of grants to help struggling artists.
“Painting for me is one of the great mysteries of life,’ said Daley. “I don’t know how people can take paint and a brush and create an outstanding picture. I wish I had the skill and imagination that these artists have.”
“Stupid Cupid” will run at the Cecil County Arts Council from February 5th until February 28th. The exhibit is part of the city-wide “Stupid Cupid” contest; if someone finds five arrows at participating local businesses before February 12th, they are entered to win a romantic dinner for two.