OH+5 at Dairy Barn Art Center

My painting, Puppet Parade, is currently on view in OH+5, Contemporary Art of Our Region at the Dairy Barn Art Center in Athens, Ohio. The show was juried by Quinn Alexandria Hunter, Emily Prentice and Shoji Satake. It includes artists from Ohio and its five bordering states. A wide variety of works representing sculpture, ceramics, fibers, painting, drawing, installation and performance were created by emerging and established artists. It runs through March 13th, 2022. While the show is up, I will have smaller paintings of the characters from Puppet Parade available for purchase in the Dairy Barn Shop.

Here is a Zoom conversation that I participated in with OH+5 artists Lily Erb and Beth Nash, organized by the center’s exhibition director Holly Ittel.

OH+5, 2022 Artist Talks with Tom Sarver, Beth Nash and Lily Erb.
Puppet Parade, Tom Sarver, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 30″, 2021.

Puppet Parade is part of a series of paintings that I began in July of 2021 as I began to reflect on the Black Sheep Puppet Festival, an international festival of puppetry that I was involved in from 1999 through 2008. The event took place at the Brew House, an artist cooperative on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The venue was formerly part of a massive Duquesne Brewery complex. Artists began moving into the vacant facility to live and work starting in the 1980’s. In 1998, I had recently arrived back to Western Pennsylvania after art school and got a job working at the new Utrecht Art Supply that opened a few blocks from the BH. The neighborhood was buzzing with artists, musicians and lots of creative projects. I was immediately drawn to the work of Industrial Arts Co-Op, artists making large-scale metal and found materials sculptures in a large garage space at the BH. They were also curating wild performance events in their shared studio. I arrived just as they were brainstorming ideas for an edgy, experimental puppetry production.

The first two years of Black Sheep were times of raw creative energy and collaboration from a community of artists determined to go big. The BH gallery exhibited puppets. There were workshops, parades, marathon performance events and rooftop parties. Puppeteers arrived from Chicago, Philadelphia, Australia, New Orleans, New York City and Baltimore. Pittsburgh artists and musicians rounded out the events.

Puppet Parade depicts the moment of spontaneous street spectacle erupting next to the BH after a family puppet making workshop in the gallery space. Children, families, festival performers and people in the neighborhood watched as Knee High Puppeteers (Australia), Environmental Encroachment (Chicago) and others celebrated the art of puppetry.

Detail of Puppet Parade. The audience looks up at a massive android puppet performed by Knee High Puppeteers.
Detail, Puppet Parade.
Detail with Brew House windows. Puppet Parade, 2021.
Snake Puppeteer (8″x8″) and other small paintings are available in the Dairy Barn Shop during the show.

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