Local artist Roy Bigler passed away in March 2014 at the age of 58. To honor his life, legacy and influence, Gallery East at Tri-C’s Eastern Campus hosts a very special exhibition — Good Things to Life: The Art of Roy Bigler — which opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. this Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“Roy, has been for all of us, that have had the great fortune to know him, one of those singular really kinda magical beings,” reflects longtime friend Mark Palombo. “I met Roy at Kent and soon became what I have since discovered, one of many of his quietly adoring fans and friends. Roy had a way through his wit, his spirituality, his gentleness, his generosity, his genuine concern for those for whom he cared, his honesty, his humor, his intelligence, his sensibility and his otherworldly works of art to draw you in. There are people who collect people and then there are those who people collect around and Roy was truly the latter.”
Bigler studied art at Kent State University, earning a BFA in 1984. His talents were diverse. In addition to assemblage art, Bigler curated and installed exhibitions as the longtime Assistant Gallery Manager at Gallery East, which honors Bigler and his dedication with this exhibition. He was also a professional piano tuner, studying at the Perkins School of Piano Tuning and Technology. In his later years, he became more active in social and environmental issues.
These diverse experiences impacted his unique assemblage art, which he passed along to local school students through programs exploring found art and assemblage in Cleveland and Kent school districts. Bigler’s assemblages incorporate mini collections of found objects. Bigler would carefully select each object and re-contextualize its meaning by juxtaposing different objects around it. These juxtapositions create an active viewing experience and encourage viewers to imagine their own meaning for these objects. In this way, the viewer completes the creative process. While each individual object is interesting, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
"When I think of Roy and his work, the pieces are like little universes,” says friend and sculptor Lisa Kenion. “Textures and colors and surfaces converse with content and image. The pieces themselves are the petals of a multiverse that correspond to the petals of multiverse inside the mind of Roy. Gentle, quiet, thoughtful with a beautiful mystery and poetry mixed with a dose of mischeivious winks."
Good Things to Life includes a selection of unfinished works, offering insight into the artist’s creative process. In addition to Bigler’s work, the exhibition contains new work by more than two dozen artists who knew and admired him. Many of the artists incorporated items from Bigler’s studio, found after his passing. These objects add a direct, personal element to this homage to a friend.
“Roy was an avid collector of objects,” Palombo remembers. “He had a way of collecting, these were not random things but rather objects which telegraphed the era and spirit of the era in which they were made. I was often taken aback at not just the uniqueness some of these objects but the way they would conjure up the worlds in which they came. As though you were seeing the child or the housewife or the gentleman that might have once owned them.”
Contributors include Jane Baeslach, Jeffry Chiplis, Terry Durst, Bruce Edwards, Michael Loderstedt, Mindy Tousley, Douglas Max Utter, Laila Voss, Beth Wolf and more.
While many of Bigler’s works are on loan (not for sale), proceeds from the sale of objects by the 25 guest artists will go towards preserving Bigler’s legacy through (hopefully) archiving at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, publishing a potential book and/or establishing a Tri-C scholarship fund.
The exhibition will conclude with a closing auction from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.
(Gallery East at Tri-C Eastern Campus) 4250 Richmond Rd., Highland Hills, 216-987-2095, tri-c.edu