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Arts & Culture

Akron Soul Train artist Gregory Hatch weaves pop culture into wool

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Kabir Bhatia
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Ideastream Public Media
Gregory Hatch says his piece "Hang in there XII" (right) is an intentional homage to the 1970s Victor Baldwin poster, with the number alluding to the 12th Tarot card. It's on view now at the Akron Soul Train gallery.

Tarot cards, classic cartoons and drag are just some of the influences in Gregory Hatch's work featured in the Akron Soul Train's CapSoul gallery in Downtown Akron through July 9.

Hatch works in the medium of needle felting, using undyed and naturally dyed wool.

“I use hot, soapy water to shrink the wool fibers together,” he said. “I use a barbed needle tool to compress the fibers together to make the imagery.”

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Akron Soul Train
"Hobhole!" is one of Gregory Hatch's wet-felted pieces on display at the Akron Soul Train gallery.

Hatch has found that felting allows him to create images using the sense of depth and dimension within the material – something he discovered in parallel with his career as a performer.

“When I started doing drag, and I started doing makeup, I started understanding the idea of highlights and shadow. [Using] my face as that canvas and understanding how to render and change my bone structure through the use of makeup is actually what helped me be a better drawer. It made it much more hands-on and it just made it stick in my head for once,” he said.

The Portage Lakes native learned felting while he was a student in the late 2000s, and says it was the first medium through which he could “make the things in my head appear in front of me.”

Many of his pieces at the gallery share the motif of a somewhat primitive, almost cartoonish individual – which inspired the name of this show. “That's All, Folk” is an homage to Looney Tunes as well as to folk traditions.

“I love titles, and I probably have way too much fun with [them]. It really shows my art history, nerdy aspect when I make titles: very bad inside jokes that probably don't make much sense, other than to me,” he said.

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Meryl Engler
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Akron Soul Train
The Akron Soul Train is hosting its second annual Members Show in its gallery in Downtown Akron through July 9.

“I take huge inspiration from cartoons and comics and visual culture,” he said.

He specifically cites artwork he saw at the Akron-Summit County library system while growing up as well as Akron’s WPA-commissioned murals.

“I think we're really fortunate all these wonderful pieces are still present and still in their original location.”

Another piece which enchanted Hatch as a child was the night sky ceiling at the Akron Civic Theatre – which is across the street from the Akron Soul Train’s CapSoul Gallery at 191 S. Main Street. It’s open Wednesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.