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Arts & Culture

Wider views found in exhibition of small works

Jay Moran/WBFO

Now in its third generation as a family business, the deep connections of Meibohm Fine Arts are evident. "We are currently 118 years in business. My grandfather, Carl Meibohm, opened our shop on Connecticut Street in Buffalo in 1901," said Grace Meibohm who now runs the operation on Main Street in East Aurora, its home since 1957.

On the opening day of the exhibition "In a Nutshell," much of the gallery's focus was on the artists who had their works on the Meibohm walls. Over 90 pieces--none larger than eight-by-ten inches in size--offered a wide variety of styles. While Grace Meibohm was welcoming some of the artists for the opening and highlighting their talents, she also took time to reflect on the recent passing of another local artist. 

Frank Toole died in early December, just a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. With sadness in her voice, Meibohm spoke of Toole's legacy as a teacher and as a sculptor.  His hand-cut paper sculptures were the subject of a 2015 exhibition at Meibohm.

The opening of "In a Nutshell" was a daylong event, with many artists making appearances. WBFO had a chance to speak with three of them:

Sean Witucki

Credit Jay Moran/WBFO
Artist Sean Witucki

An art teacher at Buffalo's Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Sean Witucki is the father of two young children. With that full schedule each day, Witucki says he's up at four each morning to focus on his art. Many of his subjects come from the regional landscape.

"We have Niagara, which is wonderful. We have a mixture of hills as well as flatland, which is kind of nice," Witucki said.

"So, you can get a whole bunch of different fields in Western New York. It's not just the same landscape all around."

Asked if he had a favorite landscape, Witucki did not offer full disclosure.

"There's a little piece of heaven that friends of mine own that I hunt on and I do a lot painting out there. A lot of my work comes from there, I'll never tell anyone where it is," said Witucki, who did admit the spot was in Wyoming County.

"It's a beautiful spot. I've created countless pieces from this little tract of land and I love it there."

Raymond Bonilla

It was a good day for Raymond Bonilla. Grace Meibohm said she had a check for Bonilla from the sale of one of his paintings which was featured at his recent solo exhibition. A teacher at SUNY Fredonia, Bonilla sees subjects throughout his everyday life.

Credit Jay Moran/WBFO
Artist Raymond Bonilla

"I guess a lot of my paintings have to do with a memory and the idea of how we remember something," Bonilla said.

"It's usually like a sight or a smell or a certain type of day. And less about sort of actual specifics. You would think specifics lead to things like the feeling of  a place, but it's actually the feeling of a place that helps you recall the specifics."

His portfolio includes some familiar structures from Buffalo's West Side. The paintings bring a mysterious quality to the everyday.

"I see the same type of buildings. Every so often the light will strike that scene in a specific way that makes me want to cherish that moment and so I cherish that moment through my painting."

Thomas Paquette

Based in Warren, Pennsylvania, Thomas Paquette made the journey to East Aurora as a way of staying connected.  As a full-time artist, Paquette admits his pursuits can occasionally lead to isolation. He clearly enjoys sharing notes with Bonilla and Witucki.

Credit Jay Moran/WBFO
Artist Thomas Paquette

"It's beautiful day to be here, for many reasons, the artwork, but it's also a beautiful town," Paquette said.

Three of his paintings adorned the Meibohm walls. One, a small goauche, featured a view of the Mississippi River, a subject Paquette has examined with considerable energy. 

His traveling exhibition "America's River Re-Explored: Paintings of Mississippi from Source to Gulf" enjoyed successful runs at three Midwestern galleries in 2018-2019. Paquette says much of that work will enjoy a reunion of sorts starting in February when "Thomas Paquette: From the Surface" will be shown at the James K. Schmidt Gallery at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.

The exhibition "In a Nutshell" continues at Meibohm Fine Arts through January 25.



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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.