IF YOU GO
What: “Obelisks & Odalisques” by Daniel Marlos
Where: Knox Building, 110 W. Federal St., Youngstown
When: Opening reception is at 6 p.m. Saturday
Hours: McKelvey Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the third-floor gallery is open by appointment (call 330-502-8982)
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The obelisks of Campbell are not just a crumbling network of stone street signs. Each one is also a memorial marker for a bygone era.
The Depression-era sculptures were erected by the Works Progress Administration in Campbell and other Valley towns roughly 80 years ago.
They have been steadily disintegrating over the years, which begs the question: When the last one is gone, what will memorialize the obelisks?
The markers will at least live on in a photo exhibition by Campbell native Daniel Marlos that will open Saturday in the Knox Building, downtown, and run through July 25.
The world premiere of “Obelisks & Odalisques” – a two-part exhibition – will be hung in two galleries. The obelisk photos will be in the McKelvey Gallery, which is on the first floor of the Knox, while the odalisques – a series of reclining female nudes – will be on the third-floor gallery.
Marlos left the Mahoning Valley for Los Angeles in 1979 after completing his degree at Youngstown State University but regularly returns to visit family. He also holds a master’s degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
Marlos is currently the department chair of media arts at Los Angeles City College and is an instructor at the Art Center. An artist and filmmaker, his works have been shown in galleries nationwide.
Marlos put his art on a backburner years ago because of the demands of his academic career, but he is now returning to the field.
The obelisks of Campbell reflect not only his memories of growing up in that city, but his desire to preserve a piece of history.
The vertical, black and white photos were shot between 2013 and this year.
“When I lived there, the Mahoning Valley was starting to change and disappear,” said Marlos. “I see these obelisks as a sort of nostalgia. There was one across the street from where I grew up, but it’s no longer there. They are vanishing, disintegrating, getting hit by cars. Part of this exhibition is about documenting them before they are gone. But I’m also fascinated with history and the historical record.”
In his show statement, Marlos writes: “Many of the remaining obelisks have been struck by vehicles and possibly been vandalized, but because of their rigid construction, they remain, though often jutting off into oblique angles far from their original, perfectly vertical position. Ranging in height from about three feet high to as tall as nearly six feet, the shortest obelisk is still standing on the two-block long Main Street, where but two homes remain and where it marks a path into the woods.”
As for the odalisques, Marlos describes these photographs as a series of reclining nudes that pay homage to 19th-century paintings of voluptuous women, most notably “Olympia” by the French artist Manet.
The word “odalisque” is defined as “a female slave or a concubine in a harem,” according to Merriam-Webster.
In each photo, the woman is lying on a quilt handmade by Marlos, and each is shot from directly above. Perhaps most notably, the photos in this exhibit are very large – life-sized.
“The viewer interacts with the photographs on the same scale that a real-life encounter would produce,” writes Marlos in his statement. “The odalisques are beautiful and unapologetic.”
Marlos said that, taken together, “Obelisks & Odalisques” is about nostalgia and desire. After the exhibit closes at the Knox Building, he plans to show it at other galleries.
Marlos will give a gallery talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday that will include a presentation of other historic photos he took in the Mahoning Valley in the 1970s, depicting the demolition of some of the area’s most impressive buildings, as well as the old Market Street Bridge.
The demolitions are part of the context of the photos, which are character studies that document a time of change and uncertainty precipitated by the collapse of the Valley’s steel industry.