It was my honor and pleasure to serve as juror for the 11th Annual Eastern West Virginia Juried Exhibit at the Berkeley Arts Council. My thanks to the Berkeley Arts Council for trusting me with this endeavor and walking me through the process to ensure its success.
It was inspiring to see the wealth of talent we have here in the eastern panhandle. The abundance of strong entries presented a challenge when narrowing down the number to be exhibited.
In reviewing the work submitted I found myself drawn, not exclusively but to a certain extent, to that which suggested how living in this region of our state might have influenced the artist. The goal was to use this concept to build an exhibit in which each piece enhances the other so that together the grouping makes a valid statement as well as an appealing presentation.
A work of art becomes powerful when, through either subject matter or execution, it reveals something of its creator. When there is also mastery of a chosen medium the combination holds us and it becomes memorable.
Both of Michael Rivalland’s paintings, Cherry Blossom Season (Best in Show) and My Backyard, invite us to join him as he immerses himself in nature and the outdoors. In the manner of early American modernists Arthur Dove and John Marin, Rivalland uses his materials expressively in the wispy translucence of the pink blossoms and the organic shapes that dance in the foreground. We are transported to that sunny meadow and reminded of the smell of warm earth.
Cindy Adams is another painter who lets us into her thoughts and experience. Her fine crow, in a pose more human than bird, becomes a way for Adams to express herself with the title I Look to the Heavens (Honorable Mention).
The challenging and highly skilled paintings of Susan Loonsk involve us in an entirely different way. Bat on a Drainpipe (Merit Award) makes the grotesque sublime. We try to make out the animal’s features in the mess of dried skin and bone until, giving up, we marvel at the powerful yin-yang image produced by the vivid contrast of not only light and dark but also the varied surfaces organic and metalic.
Kristen Colebank handles two difficult media with expertise. Her oil, Across the Valley is peaceful and evocative at the same time. The subtle tones suggest an ambiguous time frame. Red, White and Farm Use Blue (Merit Award) is realistic watercolor at its best, balanced in a pleasing composition.
Jack Chromey works with layers to meticulously build depth into his watercolors. The dark tones produced serve to intensify luminosity as in Forest Light (Honorable Mention).
All of the photographers in this show give us the opportunity to see the ordinary through their unique vision. There are many images that take on qualities of fine or graphic art. Gary Bergel’s squares of enlarged details become abstractions. The balanced composition of Lilly Tillman’s Bicycle (Honorable Mention), reminiscent of posters produced in Europe in the early 1900s, is modernized with brighter colors and fun patterns. The delicate Passages (Honorable Mention) by Leslie Williams could be a watercolor. This contemplative image, perfectly centered yet suggesting movement by the spinning inner openings, is completed with a calming border of vivid green grass.
Congratulations to all who are included in this exhibition and those who won awards. You can be proud of being a part of this impressive display which represents some of the best creativity of our region. May you be inspired to get back to creating excellent work.
Rebecca Grace Jones