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From The Dirt to The Skies: Chad Grohman

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature. 

Executive director and curator Bradley Butler sat down with each of the artists and asked them some questions about their work and what inspires them to make it. Up next in this series, Buffalo artist Chad Grohman.

From The Dirt to The Skies: 
Chad Grohman


Q: What inspired you to make this body of work and how is it different from other work you’ve shown here in the past? 

A: With work I’ve shown in the past at Main Street Arts, I am usually focusing on landscapes and trying to show “the big picture”, the larger view. There are a couple of paintings like that included in this show but what’s different about the other pieces is that I am focusing more on specific branches and the fruits and vegetable that comes from the branches. A little more focus to provide more intimacy with the natural world. 

Stylistically it is done different as well. To differentiate from previous paintings I tried painting smaller objects with bigger brushes, bringing the viewer closer into the individual
object of nature rather than providing a larger scope of nature.

"Organics" by Chad Grohman

“Organics” by Chad Grohman

Q: What’s on your mind when you’re making your work? 

A: The act of painting a specific object with more focus requires more focused thought. So when I’m painting a landscape that’s seen from across a lake for example, I’m trying to get a sense of the day in the entire landscape, even if I’m not physically capturing all of what I’m seeing. With this group of paintings, I’m really focusing on what the object is and where it came from. For example, in the painting “Organics” we ate those things after I painted them. So there’s a definite connection to our everyday lives. We have an organic
share that we get, so these are things that I’m coming into physical contact with and so I’m remembering those moments or appreciating the work that went into the harvesting and everything else that goes along with providing organic food to a community. This series is really about community.

"Pieces of Hiking" by Chad Grohman

“Pieces of Hiking” by Chad Grohman

Q: Can you talk about a specific piece that is included in the show?

A: The painting called “Pieces of Hiking” is one that I’m the closest to. My wife Kristen and I were going on a hike and I was looking for things that were interesting as we were walking. Whether its specific plants pointed out by Kristen who is an herbalist or maybe something laying next to that plant. I remember that day so clearly
and I remember coming home after the hike and starting that painting right away. I feel like out of all of the paintings in the show, that’s the one I think of first from the group.

“Organics” brings back a memory as well but not as vivid. The tomatoes and peppers were good and made a nice addition to our dinner but “Pieces of Hiking” reminds me more of the day I had with my wife, talking about plants. So I’m closer to that one because the memory is about personal interaction, which is important. With this series of paintings I’m trying to bring people into the work rather than having them looking from across an expanse to see something.

"Organic Turnips" by Chad Grohman

“Organic Turnips” by Chad Grohman

Q: Your color palette shifted a bit in this series, can you talk about that?

A: I hadn’t worked in this way before. I started each piece with a very bright and saturated underpainting of magenta. First, I used this as a way to unify everything. And also, I liked the way it affected the color balance of warm and cool. Then it also started to serve as a way of covering and revealing things. I stayed with the pink color even though I had planned to do some paintings with a blue underpainting. I felt like the pink color really brought joy to the work. I feel that these objects and these things I’ve painted should be celebrated and I feel like the bright pink added to that positive
approach to looking at nature. 

"Wedding Poms" by Chad Grohman

“Wedding Poms” by Chad Grohman

Q: How does your environment impact your work?

A: I live in a rural environment and I’m involved in the community through our various activities. We organize in our community to bring people together and a lot of it has to do with how we’re interacting with nature. Whether that’s through plants or beneficial action to aid the community, like a clean up or something like that. All of these things require us to be in nature and to be around these objects. We aren’t just getting together, we are getting together in nature. Every time we do, it involves observing our environment.

"Sapling" by Chad Grohman

“Sapling” by Chad Grohman

Q: When you’re painting these natural objects and images, you aren’t painting them on site, you’re taking photos and bringing them back and working in your studio, right?

A: That’s right. I’m always using photographs. I appreciate plein air painters and I do that sometimes too but that’s not my standard practice. I’m an illustrator so that’s just the way I’m comfortable working, in the studio using references. 

What’s funny is that this is the first time I’ve painted vertically using an easel! Normally, I work flat on a table. That’s a huge difference and I was very comfortable and welcomed the change.

From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Rowan Walton

Rowan Walton, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of April 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Rowan some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Rowan Walton

Artist Rowan Walton

Q: Please you tell us about your background?
I grew up on a ridge of Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California; about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. A winding road snakes itself up to my house, often through heavy maritime fog, so it can feel like an island up there (which is why I tend to identify with the mountain and surrounding shoreline rather than the town below). As a kid on this conifer-covered island, I rarely enjoyed reading, so while my twin brother flew through books like a falcon, I drew or even just sat with our dogs and thought for an hour. My brother’s vocabulary grew to an intimidating extent, but so did my ability to draw—especially dogs! Did one of us benefit more than the other? The jury is still out. However, I have been exploring art ever since then.

Heading into college, I was well on my way to an extraordinary art school on the East Coast until I realized that as an artist, especially a young one, I need more than art. A month later, I was pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies in Seattle…as well as a degree in Visual Arts because…well…who I am kidding?…I can’t shake it.

"Yours", graphite, 2017, Rowan Walton

“Yours”, graphite, 2017, Rowan Walton

Q: How would you describe your work?
My work is a bit of a mixed bag. Pieces can be cheeky; charming; challenging; and often a bit peculiar. I have a tendency to convey concepts through something I’d put as “anatomical narrative”— gestures depicted by human or nonhuman subjects that serve as emphatic reflections of my own perceptions based off of assumed associations, be they conscious or not.

Moreover, I typically draw with a graphite pencil because it gives me direct control over what I am trying to visually articulate. I also enjoy challenging myself with other mediums like painting and sculpture if the materials and space are present. Similarly, if I have new materials and/or tools to work with, I am almost always inspired to use them.

"Tangerine Lizard", tangerines, wire, tape, papier-mâché, thread, net, 2015, Rowan Walton

“Tangerine Lizard”, tangerines, wire, tape, papier-mâché, thread, net, 2015, Rowan Walton

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Complicated, but well worth it. Feel free to reach out for the full story!

Q: Do you collect anything?
Jars, exhibition cards, cafe cards, some records, and the odd thing or two.


"Alternative Self-Portrait", recycled plywood, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, 2014, Rowan Walton

“Alternative Self-Portrait”, recycled plywood, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, 2014, Rowan Walton

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Music is vital to my life. Frankly, I believe that its power to connect and comfort individuals outweighs that of visual arts, but I also think it’s no coincidence that most musicians explore other artforms and vice versa. It’s a topic I shamelessly nerd-out about, but I’ll keep it to a minimum for now…

I worked for my university’s radio station as a disk jockey and booker, so I made a lot of promotional art for shows back then. Most recently, I created a drawing inspired by the macabre lyrics and cheeky wit of Marika Hackman, an all-time favorite of mine. Aside from that, I’m not usually inspired by music in that way, I use it more as a vessel for productivity and a soundtrack for “The Zone.”

The genre changes with the time of day, but I often need some kind of softness in the sound. For example, some classic go-to’s are Mazzy Star, Jessica Pratt, Stereolab, Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, John Maus, Natural Child, Widowspeak, Allah-Las, Celtic fiddling, and roots reggae.

"Indulge", Acrylic and ink, 2018, Rowan Walton

“Indulge”, Acrylic and ink, 2018, Rowan Walton

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I am currently preparing to apply to graduate school, so initially, I had applied to this residency because I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to help me discern what sort of program I want to pursue. In particular, if it would be a studio practice or a research program.

My goals for the residency are to champion some of my longstanding ideas, build up my portfolio, rollout my social media presence, and to simply grow.

I am currently working on a series of ¼” plywood pieces that are inspired by the air fresheners that hang in cars. Each piece is a painting of one of my favorite vintage car models (like a 1970 Ford Bronco), about a foot or so in height and 2-3 feet in width. The final products will have a resin finish with a secret ingredient, so you can hang the car on a wall and get a whiff of something pleasant as you walk by (fingers crossed). I am also working on concept art for a hypothetical children’s book about crows.

A few of the pieces I am currently working on.

A few of the pieces I am currently working on.

Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Lean into it. If you want your artwork to go anywhere, it’s your responsibility and no one else’s.

Move at your own pace. Whether it be quick or slow, let it happen and trust it. Life is ultimately a matter of timing, so the sooner you can accept that not everything is in your control, the better off you’ll be.

Keep learning more. Artists should not be boring.

Cultivate that sense of humor. You can virtually forgo the aforementioned tips if you honor this with all you’ve got. Humor is the flesh that connects us to ourselves and gives us patience.

Challenge the traditional/societal notion of the artist. Unless you want to make money off of your art, the only person who truly needs to know you’re an artist is you.

"Seacret Puppets", acrylic print, graphite, 2015, Rowan Walton

“Seacret Puppets”, acrylic print, graphite, 2015, Rowan Walton

Q: What’s next for you?
Graduate school!? Also, hopefully a show this summer to unveil those cars pieces.

Q: Where else can we find you?
On Instagram @slowwag. It’s a bit misleading due to a lack of posts, however they’re on the horizon and I am indeed in the background of it all. Please feel welcomed to reach out!

Meet the Artist in Residence: Maliya Travers-Crumb

Maliya Travers-Crumb, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the month of August 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Maliya some questions about her work and studio practice:


Q: Tell us about your background. I grew up in Avon, NY outside of Rochester. My mother is a quilter so our house was full of fabric and craft supplies for me to experiment with.  I was always making something or other, attempting to make my own clothes or scribbling in my sketch book. I currently work as an administrator for the University of Rochester Urgent Care system. I spend most of my free time making pottery.

 Q: What was your experience like at art school? I’ve always been a big reader and literature is an integral aspect of my practice. I studied English and studio art at Oberlin College as an undergrad and did a lot of conceptual work. I went back to school and got a second bachelor’s degree in illustration from RIT where I specialized in digital techniques. It was at RIT that I rediscovered ceramics and it was sort of the missing piece in rounding out the way that I think about and approach my art.


Q: How would you describe your work?
I mostly make pottery, but my work is very informed by my background in illustration. I like to think of clay as a different kind of canvas, and I really enjoy pairing flat  drawings with more dimensional forms. I work primarily with graphic black and white painting which helps to create a sense of continuity between my work. My illustrative style gives me the freedom to go in a lot of different directions with the pottery I create. I gravitate toward simpler forms which I paint in a whimsical style with a lot of cats and other creatures.


Q: What is your process for creating art? I had hand surgery about 6 months ago, which has significantly impacted my process and how I make art. I had a repetitive strain injury to the sagittal band on my dominant hand, which was very painful and made it almost impossible to hold a pen. I couldn’t make art for a year and a half and I refer to it as my personal dark ages. Making art is very tied into my sense of self.  When I wasn’t able to throw or draw, I thought about art constantly. What I would make, what I would change when I was able to get back into the studio. I thought more intellectually about form, about making intentional art rather than just working intuitively. Although the process was inarguably terrible, the shift in my art since being able to make again has definitely been a positive one. In a time where throwing on the wheel is something that has come more into vogue, it’s interesting for me to focus on something different and how I can approach a fresh type of making. How does creating multiples affect the preciousness of an object? How does this change if you add in more of the decorative arts? What does a piece from a mold need in order to be its own unique work of art? 


Q: Do you collect anything?
 I’m really into strange natural bits of detritus and decay. I have a collection of pinned beetles, shells, little animal bones, pressed flowers, and rocks. There is something very satisfying about tiny things.
Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I have always loved fairy tales, and am particularly drawn to the work of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. I also love the graphic style of Aubrey Beardsley, his drawings for Le Morte d’Arthur are strongly influential to my own work.

Q: Who inspires you and why?
Reading has always been something that I go to when I need inspiration or comfort. Audiobooks have been the perfect tie in to how I create art. I love fantasy and storytelling, and something about listening to stories when I work helps me to create narratives within my own pieces. Anything by Neil Gaiman is on the list, but particularly Neverwhere which he narrates himself. I also love the Series of Unfortunate Events, which I didn’t originally like as much until I started listening to them narrated by Tim Curry who is over the top hilarious and amazing. My all time favorite will always be the Harry Potter audiobooks, which were an enormous part of my childhood and my development as a person.
Q: What are your goals for this residency? My goal for this residency is to create a new practice of mold making with a focus on form and function. I’m looking forward to having the chance to spread out a little in this space and maybe create some larger pieces. I didn’t study ceramics in school, so I’m excited to learn more of the technical aspects of the process. I will be firing a kiln for the first time during my residency!  (With a little help from previous artist in  residence  Zoey Murphy Houser so I don’t melt anything J).

Q: Where else can we find you?
Instragram: @mtcpottery
"Bad Seed" by Chad Grohman

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chad Grohman

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Landscape painting by Chad Grohman

I am from Buffalo, NY and have spent all but one year of my life there, minus the four years of undergrad at Rochester Institute of Technology. I didn’t really live in Rochester so much as the college itself, so I don’t really count that. My MFA was in a distance program so I stayed in Buffalo.

That being said, I have shown mostly in Rochester and other other cities besides Buffalo. As a commercial illustrator, I draw or paint many subjects in many media. When my personal artwork is shown in galleries, I tend to mostly paint landscapes. I paint landscapes because the landscape is where I prefer to be; outside. That’s the great thing about being an illustrator —as a freelancer, I can use what ever minutes I choose to be outside. While there walking or sitting, I began to draw and paint from life, as well as in the studio from photos. It was not until about 2010 that I really began painting landscapes.

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Many years ago I began practicing and studying Buddhism. Outdoors is a wonderful place to practice. The school I belong to has a beautiful liturgy that is well suited for outdoors. Holding an outdoor service for the land and painting the land is an amazing combination.

School Days by Chad Grohman

“School Days” featured in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

I am a Nichiren Shu novice Buddhist priest. In the CULTIVATE exhibition, I am showing artwork inspired by recent training trips to Japan — both rural and urban. The cats included in many of the pieces represent all realms of existence, primarily the bodhisattva (concern for others), human, animal, hell realms. The cats are spiritual — they suffer, they are beneficial, and are often confused.

"Original Disciples" by Chad Grohman

“Original Disciples” by Chad Grohman, included in the CULTIVATE exhibition

The artwork is mounted on cardboard. I prefer the basic nature of using cardboard and watercolor paper. I have long been attracted to and inspired by hobo art and the limited materials they use.

"Bad Seed" by Chad Grohman

“Bad Seed” by Chad Grohman, included in the CULTIVATE exhibtion

Chad Grohman is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. He is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Chad and his work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Chad Grohman on the gallery’s Artsy page.