People’s Choice Awards celebrate final year

By Page H. Gifford, Correspondent

The Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) hosted its annual People’s Choice Awards Show at the Fluvanna County Library Saturday (Sept. 29). This will be the last year of this show.

The People’s Choice has been intriguing over the last few years because it is a one-of-a-kind show in which the people judge who should win.

The FAA board made the decision to move in a different direction with non-judged exhibits featuring themes for more cohesive shows. This is standard for art shows. Its goal is to celebrate the accomplishments and diversity of all artists rather than continual competition.

The room was brimming with talent from every category; the walls were lined with familiar artists and those new to FAA. This also makes it difficult to choose winners because of the artistic diversity.

Accomplished and award-winning artists like Lorraine Momper did not win any awards in this show. Momper went beyond her comfort zone with her usual landscapes, exhibiting two works featuring old railway cars. Her pastels are always flawless in their execution, and these show emotion through the shifting daylight and the haunting feeling of the abandoned railway cars. Some may miss the stories behind the paintings and artists strive to tell them through their work.

Paul Stams, known for his photography, told a different story with a hand holding a cell phone blending into and floating above an isolated and tranquil early morning on the beach. Stams admitted the story is evident in the juxtaposition of two opposing themes: technology and its interference with people living in the moment, seeing and hearing what is around us.

Topping the list of the public’s favorite art subjects are landscapes, local scenes, abstract and semi-abstract. In the Novice category, Debbie Merrow took two awards for her work: first and second for her paintings of a farm and her watercolor still life of a vase with flowers. Third went to young Samantha Everett, known for her pen and ink work, who ventured into color with a value study of four birds in different colors.

Youth seemed to dominate in the show. In the Intermediate category, one could not ignore the enormous pen and ink done by Fluvanna County High School student Andora Gamage. The amount of painstaking work done on such a large scale was impressive to say the least. A dog licking his lips had emotion and movement. She won first for her efforts, followed by Leona Bittner for her landscape featuring sharp peaked, rugged regal mountains. Sheila Rockholt won third for her figure study of two little girls in yellow raincoats in the rain. Her approach was abstract, almost like stained glass, with a myriad of rainbow colors.

A new category added to the judged shows is 3-D. Todd Mathes, clearly happy, won first for his beautifully sculpted harp and Tom Ellis took second for his skillfully crafted raccoon peering out of a tree hollow. Doreen Gullo took third for her 3-D collage.
In the Advanced category, Deborah Nixon won first place for her seascape. Nixon was amazed, particularly since her fellow members said she ought to be in the Advanced category rather than Intermediate. Though she showed reluctance it was obviously a good move for her. Her seascape was a departure from her familiar figure work featuring children to a lively seascape with a sailboat tossed around in the high seas.

Sara Gondwe, known for her enormous, colorful abstracts made with melted crayons, took second. Third went to Susan Walker, who demonstrated noticeable skill and color that is often lacking with artists who try colored pencil, but Walker had command of her medium. Her elephants, done in watercolor, featured a strong composition as well.

Masters, also a newly added category, showed off the best of the best. With landscapes at the top of the subject list, Linda Bethke won first again for her Blue Jewel. Bethke pulled out another winner with her water landscape, showing deep blues and blue-greens aglow with soft afternoon light. Anyone who loves Bethke’s watercolors and loves blues and blue-greens will fall in love with this one.

Taking second was newcomer Janie Prete for her figure study of an elderly woman in various colors of purple watercolor. The eye is quickly drawn to this piece. Its presence is demanding through its intensity. It is impressionistic and less defined, which is clearly her style. Prete’s other piece, a cat, would not otherwise be unique, but her style transforms it and makes it so.

Third went to Jane Skafte for her morning glories. More than the lovely morning glories, the piece has a haunting, mysterious feeling with the weathered door and a hidden story.

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