William Snow paintingThere were many surprises at the 42nd annual Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) judged show on Saturday, March 25.

Artists that one might have expected to win this year didn’t. As with all judged or juried shows in the art world, the judge decides on a winner based on criteria of what is strong and worthy of recognition. But it is still a subjective process. No two people judge the same and there are always surprises.

This year’s judge was accomplished and award-winning artist Leah Olivier, who shared her wisdom with FAA artists about their work. Olivier, an expert portrait painter, is a stickler for good anatomy of facial features, animals and figures. Olivier also studied each piece for its overall composition, color and the emotion it evoked. She admitted it was a difficult choice in the intermediate and advanced categories with so many varied pieces in style and medium, including photography and sculpture.

The show communicated to the viewer on many levels with humor, sadness, memorable moments and places, precise techniques and styles.

The novice category was small this year with only four entries. Linda Mullin entered two and won third for Flower Power, featuring colorful free-floating flowers on canvas while newcomer Nancy Shaffer won for her two lovers under water in Deep Love. Also, new to the FAA was Ulli Reynolds, who took first for Awaiting the Harvest, featuring a sweeping landscape with rich vivid colors.

The new category of small pictures featured artists from novice to advanced, which made up an interesting competition in itself with many artists, mostly novice and intermediate, competing. Homeschooled teen Samantha Everett took an honorable mention for her alien cartoon creature while Carmen Gonzalez took third for her appealing acrylic Morning Sunrise, featuring a stark winter morning with bare trees in straight formation across a long canvas. Page Gifford took second for her Butterfly Garden, a colorful zentangle design, and Susan Walker took first for her charcoal of That Looks Different with a kitten lying on her back looking demure, warm and fuzzy. Olivier commented on the kitten’s realistic cuteness.

The intermediate included a wide range of styles and mediums, such as mixed media, acrylic, pastel and sculpture. Three artists took honorable mentions for their work, including Charlotte McDaniel for her Beach Play, featuring her granddaughter hidden beneath a large sunbonnet on the beach. Olivier smiled when she saw Jan Taylor’s Sumatra Swinger, an orangutan exhibiting playful humor, while Lois Manning’s abstract expressionism reminded Olivier of artist Mark Rothko with her bold stripes.

Third in intermediate was first-time winner Sheila Richard, for her gentle and impressionistic Breath of Spring. “Good use of light,” said Olivier.

Tom Ellis took second for his Bully-Chain Pickerel vs. Bluegill sculpture with a large bluegill winding through the imaginary water on the prowl and the pickerel hiding. Viewers are amazed at the realism Ellis displays in his pieces, stunned that they’re wood and not ceramic.

Taking first in intermediate was Brenda Lee Cohen for Memories of PA. “This is quiet,” said Olivier, her eyes traveling over Cohen’s restful painting of a covered bridge in winter. Cohen captured the cool light of winter with strong blues, the solitude of a snow-covered scene in simple perfection.

This was Cohen’s first time exhibiting with FAA. Some of her fellow artists hinted that she would have a surprise when she walked in the room and she did.
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I won,” said an excited Cohen.

Advanced was the largest category with familiar artists and former winners. Honorable mentions were awarded to Betty Scholl for her abstract impressionist Sunshine, Laughter and Tears, and Ellen Keane for her flawless botanical Beautiful Magnolia. Scholl’s colors explode on the canvas, resembling emotion. Among the bright clouds of yellows and reds in this work are misty washes of white, mimicking tears. One cannot explain Scholl’s work, it has to be viewed and felt. This one makes an impact.

Linda Suomi Bethke, who took Best in Show in last year’s People’s Choice Award show, had two exquisite and precise watercolors. Between the two, it was Reef Color that drew Olivier with Bethke’s rich bright colors and details in her undersea world, and won her an honorable mention. Nancy Lovallo always takes a different view of her subject, and Low Tide Cedarmere does just that with a cottage hidden behind the tall, variegated reeds.

Paul Stams took third place in advanced with his haunting Windswept, photo art featuring an ethereal phantom face. Lorrain Momper, known for her beautiful pastels, took second for her pastel Glory in the Meadow, a somber natural meadow in fall punctuated with a pop of red.

First place went to Carolyn Forbs Brown for The Argonaut’s Last Journey: 1996, an account of her father’s last days. Brown’s piece is compelling and one wants to look away from the watercolor of her father dying but feels the strong emotion of impending loss and letting go.

The top spot went to William Snow for his watercolor Primal Light, Ancient Shadows. His painting of an abandoned shell of a mission building with stormy skies above drew onlooker’s attention once they stepped into the room. One thing that stood out about Snow’s work was he had one focal point, which Olivier had pointed out is the key to good composition.

“Have a focal point but do not have so many focal points that they are all competing, screaming pay attention to me,” said Olivier.

The exhibit will remain open to the public at the Fluvanna County Public Library until April 21.