Nails in the Burlap: Fine Art in Downtown Galleries

Photo by Billy Ludt.

By Billy Ludt

Photo by Billy Ludt.
Photo by Billy Ludt.

Overlapping pieces of burlap and paper cover the walls of the Nove Gatto Gallery in the Erie Terminal building. Upon these skyscraping canvases are the brush strokes of a man brought back to the place he was born — a man who knows the phrase “starving artist” all too well.

Youngstown-born artist Maple Turner III returns to display his artwork in downtown Youngstown. His work is being shown in the Nove Gatto Gallery on the bottom floor of the Erie Terminal building and the McKelvey Gallery located on the third floor of the Knox Building.

The Maple Turner III show will be held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 20, 2015. An opening reception for the event was held Saturday in the Nove Gatto.

“I am just so thankful that I could bring this body of work downtown,” Turner said.

Turner’s career as an artist began at the collapse of the steel industry. He worked at J&M Steel in Youngstown, and then shortly after losing his job enrolled and graduated from Youngstown State University.

Turner studied painting at YSU, as well as theater design and silk screening.

Turner lived for 10 years in New York City, taking on several jobs to support himself in a city abundant with artists. He attended the prestigious Parsons School of Design.

“I work in unorthodox material like burlap, collage, pieces of paper — scraps thrown in the dumpster in Soho,” Turner said.

When money was tight, Turner took to the streets of Soho in search of material. By picking up old flyers, scraps of paper, long pieces of burlap and paper left behind by businesses, he found his canvas.

Jacob Harver is the owner of Lemon Grove and a dear friend of Turner’s. Harver met Turner through a mutual friend.

“I thank God for Jacob, because he has a vision — he has a dream,” Turner said. “You don’t have to go to New York City to go into a major gallery. You can come to downtown Youngstown.”

Harver organized Turner’s art exhibition. Partnering with the NYO Property Group, Harver was granted access to renovate the Nove Gatto in order to present Turner’s work.

“It was pretty crazy this last month,” Harver said. “We were getting both Nove Gatto ready and the third floor ready. It’s been around the clock for the last month.”

Harver was awake for forty hours straight before the event Saturday, putting some final preparatory touches on Nove Gatto and the McKelvey Gallery.

“It was a lot of hours, but luckily I was not alone for all of them,” Harver said. “His artwork speaks for itself, but he’s a great person and a great character. Maple’s a wonderful human being.”

Harver said that his favorite piece by Turner is the 15-foot high painting called “Let Us Not Forget 9/11.”

“It really civilizes what the people of the city were going through during the tragedy,” Harver said. “It’s a powerful piece.”

Last year, Turner’s work was put on display in the Bliss Hall gallery. His larger pieces of work were not suited for the space available.

Thousands of pieces of Turner’s work are available for purchase. Tours of the McKelvey Gallery and Nove Gatto Gallery are available. For more information visit the Knox Building’s Facebook page.