Seeing the forest through the treelines at Fitton

By Eric Robinette

Staff Writer

HAMILTON — Joyce Kilmer famously wrote, “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.” But he never said anything about paintings.

Even if he had, a new exhibit opening today at the Fitton Center might make him change his mind. “Treeline” takes a look at the famous plants through the eyes of three artists: Kent Krugh of Fairfield, Robert Mullinex of Oxford and Robert Robbins of Westerville.

Mullinex uses a technique that he calls a “fusion or combination” to depict treelines.

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“I frequently start with a photo or a print, and I enlarge that on a stand with a photocopy machine,” he said.

From there, Mullinex adds his own touches, like a kind of dot matrix or pixilation pattern to give the painting a unique look.

“Lots of people transfer, but I’ve never seen people fuse it quite the way I do,” he said. But that’s not the only technique he uses. In other paintings there’s “projection, inventing my own light or my own color as I continue to work,” he said.

These techniques spring naturally from his background.

“I grew up on a farm in the woods, so I spend a lot of time outside. We still have this ideal of nature being beneficial.... There’s a long tradition of landscapes suggesting this grand potential,” he said.

While Mullinex’s portrayals of treelines are mostly realistic, Robbins takes it to an almost surreal plane. His paintings explode with color, revealing layer upon layer of plant life. Some of his works cover entire walls, making a viewing potentially overwhelming.

“I definitely give you something to look at. There are these lush, rich areas and it’s more than you can take in,” Robbins said. “It can consume you, with the benefit of there being no mosquitoes and snakes,”

Often, his paintings are works in progress. They ebb and flow, as Robbins sometimes adds to them after he thought maybe they were finished. He knows a painting is finally done when “all the parts are doing what they need to do, and none of them drive me nuts anymore,” he said.

Krugh’s photographs depict trees with large and/or unusual shapes. On his website, he describes his modes as “inquisitive and experimental.”

“These two traits drive his fascination with the natural world and his eagerness to experiment in photographic technique. The motivation for much of his photography is spiritual; an attempt to reflect the beauty, mystery and glory of creation,” his biography reads.

The exhibit came together sort of by happenstance, said Cathy Mayhugh, Fitton’s director of exhibitions.

“All the artists proposed their series separately, and they were all strongly reviewed by the committee. I saw the opportunity to bring these landscapes together with three artists with three very different perspectives,” she said.

The exhibit’s opening reception will be 6 to 8 p.m. today. There will also be a “Gallery Geeks” event, in which all three artists will discuss their work, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 14.

Krug’s photos will be on view through Aug. 6; Mullinex’s work through Aug. 16 and Robbins’ paintings through Aug. 26.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2836 or erobinette@coxohio.com.

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