Parkersburg Art Center shines light on outsider artists

PARKERSBURG – Four artists on display at the Parkersburg Art Center exemplify the reason why Executive Director Abby Hayhurst wanted to do an outsider show.

Outsider in this case doesn’t mean the artists are from out of the area, she said. It means they had no formal training, Hayhurst said.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not artists,” he said.

The exhibits from four artists will be on display until the end of the month. An opening reception was held on Friday.

They are Rick Crooks of Crooksville, Ohio; John Taylor-Lehman of Zanesville, Ohio; Jim Trivett of Jackson County and the late Pete Rogers of Williamstown, an avid whittler who died in January.

Crooks is a descendant of the postmaster for which Crooksville was named. That isn’t what makes his work significant.

Crooks has been blind since he was 16 and describes his metal creations to a helper who does the welding. He uses familiar metal items like nuts, bolts, rod, seats, springs, wire and even a 275-gallon fuel tank, which he turned into an elephant.

“A lot of my stuff is off old farm machinery and farm equipment,” he said.

The Ohio University graduate has created more than 2,000 works of art, starting in 2002 when he and a friend welded springs together and made a dog.

“I called it a springer spaniel,” Crooks said.

Art is an avocation, he said.

He creates his metal sculptures from March to November, but much of his work goes up in smoke because after November, he sells firewood, and a lot of it.

Crooks will cut and sell from 100 to 150 cords of firewood a season, usually around 125 cords.

“Firewood is where I make my money,” he said. “It works out well because it gives me something to do in the wintertime.”

Taylor-Lehman also has no formal art training.

He is a retired science teacher from Zanesville who began creating his art 20 years ago. He has evolved to specializing in repurposing materials, much of which he finds in the woods and along the road, including beer cans from his friends and old tires. The show includes a fish made from a tire.

“Those are incredibly hard to cut,” he said.

From his travels and studies, many cultures have had to reuse material from necessity to survive, Taylor-Lehman said.

“I’ve always admired that,” he said.

He also sandblasts images onto sheetmetal and stone, such as the Mona Lisa. Fish are a favorite subject and reflect his interest in the ocean.

Trivett, a New Jersey native who has lived in Jackson County for the last 40 years, has had a formal art education. He attended Essex County (N.J.) College where he majored in art, was influenced by the modernist, cubist and impressionist work at New York Museums and studied art in Karlskoga in Sweden.

“I’ve always been an art enthusiast since I was a young child,” said

Preferring to paint with acrylics rather than oil, Trivett describes his work as non-representational abstract art. He exhibited at the art center about a year ago with the Allied Artists of West Virginia show.

Trivett is a retired carpenter and contractor.

“But I sold some artwork along the way,” he said.

Rogers was a major inspiration for the show, Hayhurst said. Earning a master’s in horticulture at West Virginia University, he was in the Army Reserve during the Berlin Wall crisis and whittled in camp to earn money and keep busy.

He opened a landscaping business when he returned home to Parkersburg, but kept whittling.

The art center acquired many of his pieces after his death in January, Hayhurst said.

His work exemplifies the meaning of the show, Hayhurst said. It’s fun and joyful, she said.

“I’ve been wanting to do an outsider show for a long time,” she said.

Folk art has several names, such autodidact or “art brut” in Europe, she said. Looked down upon and considered inferior, it’s no less artistic than a creation by someone who has had formal art training, Hayhurst said.

“How egotistical,” she said. “Pete is no less an artist because he didn’t have a college art education.”