Pretensions are out the window when you meet Art Cislo in his studio at his quaint South Side home. Clad in suspender-hung khakis and his traditional blue cotton shirt and sandals, the 58-year-old, balding printmaker cuts a striking figure of humility and grace. Against a backdrop of dozens of wooden blocks and countless paper proofs Cislo exudes a sort of old country image that matches in some ways the directness and simplicity of the ancient art and craft of woodcutting and monoprinting.
A desk lamp and a small radio provide the only links to modernity in the small upstairs quarters of the 65-year-old house where he works. The slight aroma of cherry wood shavings and the tinge of printer’s ink season the atmosphere and trigger memories of bygone, more simple, less turbulent times.
Cislo (it’s Polish, could be rooted in “tree” and is not an uncommon name in Detroit where he grew up) is one of three award winners from Artlink’s 2002 Regional exhibition, and a generous collection of his recent work is currently being featured at the gallery through November 5.
After graduating from Wayne State University where he majored in drawing and sculpture, Cislo found work here at International Harvester (now Navistar International) in the industrial design division where he was initially a clay modeler before retiring as Service Publications Coordinator after 31 years.
A unique career you might think at first glance, until you learn that Cislo’s father also worked in the automotive industry as a designer for the venerable Ternstedt Company which produced those wonderful hood ornaments of days past. Remember those over-the-top rockets, flying ladies, tall ships, gazelles, greyhounds and swans? Eventually all that chrome and the brass moldings disappeared, as designers sought cleaner, sleeker styling, but it’s easy to connect the artist’s gifts for line, form and creativity with his dad’s vocation.
These days Cislo teaches drawing in the University of Saint Francis Art Department where he once earned a graduate degree in Business Administration. When not in the classroom Cislo busies himself in pursuit of his passion which he generously shares with other artists and printmakers. Since he doesn’t have a press at his studio, Cislo is happy for the added value of his job: access to the department presses
A familiar history perhaps, but one that can’t be overtold: woodblock printing originated in Egypt and China and didn’t hit the West until around the 12th century when, along with the oriental gift of paper-making, examples began to appear in Spain. The textile industry was first to make use of block printing, but it took the development of mass-produced paper in the early 14th century before the artistry of the woodcut surfaced.
Initially woodcuts emerged as a medium for mass consumption in connection with the production of religious icons, often as handbills sold to pilgrims visiting holy sites. Profits from these “bull’s eyes” and “evil eye” protectors were used to sustain the Crusades as well as to fund the early attempts by Gutenberg and others to develop the technology for moveable type.
For generations the form was employed primarily to illustrate religious and botanical texts, but by the late 15th century artists like the Italian Titian, the Germans Durer, Holbein and the Dutch master von Leyden began to explore the medium in new and exquisite ways. In their hands, so to speak, the art of the woodcut grew from Durer and others who employed artisans to proliferate their work to mass audiences, and the notion of facsimile was borne.
The artist would draw, scribe or pound their images on wood planks (walnut, pear wood and boxwood), then turn them over to skilled carvers, many already schooled in the arts of metalsmithing, who would render them over and over, not unlike a modern day Warhol and his “factory.” Somewhat later the woodcut as a means of artistic expression gave way to line engraving on metal or its opposite, copper intaglio, although it continued as the main medium for the expanding publishing industry largely because of its economy.
Some 500 years later, in the late 19th century, the art form again became of interest as a means of aesthetic expression. Gauguin produced works based on Japanese prints of the Edo period he saw in Paris, and the Norwegian Munch used the medium to great effect. About the same time the German Expressionist movement explored the form and helped to spur interest in it as a contemporary form. (There are tons of examples available through your favorite search engine, including the incredible Japanese work known as ukiyo-e.)
But it is to these German artists — Kirchner, Nolde, Heckel, Mueller and others known as the "Brucke Movement,” as well as Beckman, Kandinsky and Klee — that Cislo owes perhaps the most. The essence of their spare, primitive and highly personal works is evident in Cislo’s portfolio. The purity and exactness of the carved, gouged and chiseled surfaces and their resultant prints are amazing to behold in the woodcuts and are matched in the deftness of line in his monotypes.
Like his mentors, Cislo has remained selfish about his craft, and he has reserved the right to carve, expose, lift and reveal for himself with tools only slightly changed from the time they were first invented. A hand-full of u- and v-gouges, bull noses and Exacto knives — Dremels are unwelcome — give him the necessary utensils to create the negative space he’s after.
Nearly all the Post-Abstractionist painters — Dine, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Kleinholz, Stella among them — at one time or another explored the possibilities of printmaking, including woodblock, but Cislo holds them to be secularists in a sense, guilty of exploiting the medium rather than embracing it. Not that he doesn’t appreciate their work; it just rubs against the grain of tradition.
Dominant in the subject matter of what is on view at Artlink is a series depicting the last story in the New Testament of John the Baptist, a subject previously visited by the iconoclast Pop artist, Jim Dine in his opus The Apocalypse, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine in 1982. It is no doubt more a matter of coincidence than imitation.
“Maybe because I’m a parishioner of St. John’s it became an obvious choice for a theme,” explained Cislo, “but also it’s a great story. The manipulation of people propelled by self-interest, the psychology of humanity, it’s just all there. Like in Shakespeare and in other great literature, G.B. Shaw’s Joan of Arc and so on, there are lessons there, and in the telling of the tale I found a vehicle that moved me.”
There are other pieces, sans religious themes, like the soft, delicate portrait of a young poet and a table scene, more erasure than carved relief, entitled Fish Today, where Cislo shows off his gifts for subtlety in expressing mood.
Perhaps I’m guilty of hyperbole here, but I can’t escape the notion that, having seen the show and spent time looking at dozens of other pieces in his studio, I have been in the company of a master. I know my assignment here was to look at the Artlink show, but there’s a richer vein that is deserving of more public exposure.
In the late 1980’s Cislo designed the poster for the local Civic Theater production of a play based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which remains outstanding, as do some preliminary pieces on the same theme. A series of colored works done for a contest to illustrate one of James Joyce’s novels (Ulysses or The Dubliners, I can’t recall which) seem to me to be of the highest quality, along with his several studies of the female form.
No epigone here, Cislo is a prolific journeyman and genuine treasure.
by David Tanner
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102