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Longtime YSU art professor inspires Trumbull Art Gallery exhibition

Staff photo / Andy Gray Adrien Lucas talks about some of the artwork she created that was inspired by the work of her father, former Youngstown State University art professor James Lucas. Their works will be shown together in “This Is Not Nostalgia: Works of James and Adrien Lucas,” which opens Saturday at Trumbull Art Gallery.

Stories about James Lucas flow when Robyn E. Maas and Adrien Lucas are together.

Adrien Lucas is the daughter of the longtime Youngstown State University art professor, who died from COVID-19 in 2020.

She recalls the wild parties she got a glimpse of as a child, her father’s penchant for wearing socks with his sandals, his love of language and growing up in a home where art and creation was encouraged.

“He was studious,” Lucas said. “He wasn’t pedantic, he wasn’t obnoxious, but he loved words. He was a smart man.”

For Maas, James Lucas taught the first art class she took at Youngstown State University, leading to a career as an artist. She worked for 18 years as exhibition design and production manager at McDonough Museum of Art and now is an interior designer for La-Z Boy.

“Had I not had him for my first class, I might not be here,” Maas said. “I’m using (what he taught) to this day … He’s like our godfather.”

“Our North Star,” Lucas added.

Father and daughter will have their work shown together in “This Is Not Nostalgia: Works of James and Adrien Lucas,” which opens Saturday and runs through March 29 at Trumbull Art Gallery.

There wasn’t a lot to pick from for James Lucas. He destroyed much of his work before he died.

“He was very editorial,” his daughter said. “It was his right to do so. We all said, ‘No, no, please don’t.’ I think when you told him no, it made him dig in even more. He was such a punk, and he liked destruction, from teenage on, and control about what would be shown. He would look at, grow to hate something and either change it or destroy it, which I can respect. If Robyn hadn’t persuaded me to do this, it (her work) would have stayed in my house.”

Several of James Lucas’s remaining paintings are on display, and all of the work will be for sale.

Before her father’s death, Adrien Lucas found slides of some of his destroyed paintings and talked him into letting her keep them.

She used those images to create three-dimensional multimedia pieces inspired by the work preserved on those slides. They are full of bright colors – Adrien Lucas worked as a costume designer in Los Angeles and outfitted rock bands and described herself as a fan of “flashy, glitzy things” — and many also incorporate tightly rolled pieces of paper with Lucas using her father’s art magazines and crossword puzzle pages.

“I have horrible OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder),” Lucas said. “Instead of vomiting, bulimia or anorexia, I would twist my eyelashes (until they came out) … When I was really stressed out during the pandemic, I started rolling papers like joints so I wouldn’t pull my eyelashes out.”

In addition to the work of James and Adrien Lucas, the exhibition also includes submissions from some of his contemporaries, former students and friends.

“Luke was very much a feminist, so I wanted to make sure it was half women and half men,” Maas said. “I just think it was really, really important to do.”

While many of the artists still are local, some shipped pieces from as far as Florida and New Mexico to be included.

The other artists are Nancy Bizzarri Aleman, Mary Lou Alexander, Corinne Bishara Bako, Lynn Cardwell, Kate Ramunno Finney, Susan J. Klein, Nancy Sontich Lenhard, Maryann Limmer, Maas, Margo Miller, Carol Opatken, Susan Russo, Tracy Segreti, Georgia Tambasis, Karen Bizzarri Timlin, Clara K. Wick, Tony Armeni, Al Bright, Jack Carlton, Patrick Crowe, Bob LaCivita, Carl Leet, James Lepore, Russ Maddick, Richard C. Mitchell, Michael T. Moseley, Scott Pergande, James Pernotto, Redhand, Michael J. Walusis, Jason Van Hoose and Bryn Zellers.

If you go …

WHAT: “This Is Not Nostalgia: Works of James and Adrien Lucas”

WHEN: Saturday through March 29 with opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Trumbull Art Gallery, 158 N. Park Ave., Warren

HOW MUCH: Admission is free. For more information, go to www.trumbullartgallery.com or 330-395-4876.

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