MassMu to Exhibit John W. Carlson: Set the Twilight Reeling

MassMu to Exhibit John W. Carlson: Set the Twilight Reeling


The Massillon Museum will exhibit John W. Carlson: Set the Twilight Reeling in its Aultman Health Foundation Gallery from September 16 to November 12, 2023. A free public reception will be held from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 16. No reservations are necessary.

Set the Twilight Reeling is poised to be an emotional experience for visitors. Carlson (1954–2020) communicated using a language of line, colors, space, form, contrast, and gesture to express narrative, and above all, feelings. The artwork draws in visitors and reminds us to recognize the experiences of others and find ways to connect.  

Carlson wrote of his own work, “It is important to me, to paint my conviction about the subject, the spirit and less of the details. I choose the most barren, perhaps most brutal way to say what I want strongly and with the fewest possible things necessary.” The artist was dedicated to creating and to the creative process, working constantly in multiple media.

Alexandra Nicholis Coon, MassMu’s executive director, noted “John channeled the weight of his emotions into a creative process.” She explained he had so many stories to tell and were it not for his life being cut short, would undoubtedly have continued to impact the Northeast Ohio art scene, and the country, with his powerful paintings and expressive artistic voice. “Massillon Museum is honored to represent a portion of John W. Carlson’s prolific career in the form of this exhibition and full-color catalog.”
This exhibition and the accompanying catalog introduce the complexity of Carlson’s artistic life. The exhibition’s aim is to create an atmosphere of connection, a goal aligned with that of the Massillon Museum’s mission. Set the Twilight Reeling includes videos, sketchbooks, and items from Carlson’s studio to communicate his intention, thought process, and working environment.  The studio objects function as the record of a process. 

Carlson makes it clear through the videos in the gallery that he is speaking directly to his audience, acknowledging them in a direct, informal manner that creates a connection through the screen. Although not present in person to experience audience responses and people responding to one another at this exhibition, the spirit in which the artist created, and lived, will undoubtedly be alive in the gallery space. 

“There is something conjured through the display and arrangement of artifacts from his workspace; they possess a certain magic that remains beyond the artist’s physical presence,” said Emily Vigil, MassMu Studio M and Silk Room Coordinator, who has helped curate the Set the Twilight Reeling exhibition. 

Set the Twilight Reeling, like Carlson’s studio, offers an invitation to visitors to enter a welcoming space, read the catalog, and respond. It celebrates all the ways he was engaged with the human form to reveal the human condition, sourcing personal and shared experiences. It demonstrates how he workshopped ideas, discovering the best way to communicate through color, line, and media. “It is a reminder we all have something to share with each other,” Vigil says.

Carlson’s paintings and drawings were first featured in the Massillon Museum in 2017, when he had a solo Studio M exhibition.

MassMu will host bluesman Austin Walkin’ Cane for its Rhythms concert on Thursday, September 28, at 7:30 p.m., in tribute to Carlson’s passion for blues. Tickets ($12 or $10 for MassMu members) are available at or by calling 330.833.4061.

MassMusings podcast related to the Set the Twilight Reeling exhibition will be posted on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:00 p.m. EST. The exhibition catalog will be available in the OHregionalities, the Museum shop.

The artists’ reception for the Artists Group of Ten exhibition, Ten Point Perspective, will be held concurrently with the Carlson reception on September 16. It is also free and open to everyone with no reservations required.

The Massillon Museum appreciates operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark, marketing support from Visit Canton, and the support of the citizens of Massillon. Both exhibitions have been funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Exhibitions can be seen during regular MassMu hours, Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. 
MassMu is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. A visit is always free and everyone is welcome. Free parking is available on adjacent streets and in nearby city lots. For more information, call 330-833-4061 or visit
Media Contacts:
Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Massillon Museum Executive Director • 330-833-4061 x111
Margy Vogt, Massillon Museum Public Relations Coordinator • 330-844-1525
John W. Carlson, Digital photograph by Byron Miller, 2017, Courtesy of Shari Wilkins

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