Fluvanna Art Association has first judged show in two years

By Page H. Gifford

It was spring of 2019, and the last judged show for the Fluvanna Art Association before COVID hit. The current show at the Fluvanna County Public Library opened Saturday, Nov. 13, and was well attended. Pre-COVID, the FAA decided to do away with the People’s Choice Show and have two judged shows. However, last year, a few artists participated in an online show with no judging.

Laura Foussekis, a board member and volunteer with the Purcell Gallery at the Louisa Arts Center, was the judge in 2019 and returned this year to judge this show.

“Once again, I am impressed by the broad range of media which your artists use.  Choosing a winner in each category, as well as Best in Show, was difficult — there was so much great art to choose from,” she said.

There were 31 entries and normally there are more than double that. Pre-OVID, the 2019 spring show had 90 pieces of work but this year the members opted to put only one piece per artist in the show. Visually, the art work was hung well by members Nance Stamper and Autumn Wall for the best viewing experience.

Familiar watercolor artist William Snow (Masters Category), won Best in Show for “Silent Hunter,” a painting Foussekis said, “was well executed in every way.” While she noticed the owl was skillfully painted there were other elements that were equally well done, including the texture of the tree bark and the clouds.

“It gives the viewer the sense that you could reach out and touch its roughness.  And the clouds in the background add nice detail without distracting from the foreground.”

The novice category only had two artists, both newcomers, Tammy McKee, who won first for her abstract “Eudaimonia” (Greek for good spirit), aptly named for its bright colorful spirit, and Bonnie Mackey who won second for “Summer Harvest.”

Tom Ellis won first in his category of 3-D for “Camo Comanche” without competition but Foussekis, who is a fan of Ellis’ work, said hands down he would have been the winner regardless.

“Tom Ellis’s 3-D art exhibits his skill not only as a sculptor but also as a painter. The birch trees create an interesting environment for the Native American on horseback. All aspects of this scene are well done,” she said, recognizing his accomplished skill.

In the masters’ category, Sara Gondwe took first for her “Which Path Should We Choose.” Foussekis noted Gondwe’s unique style and use of mixed media in her abstract.

“Colorful and interesting with many repeating shapes and colors drawing the eye around the painting. An interesting style and technique which seems unique to this artist.”

Newcomer Susan Edginton, won second for her detailed colored pencil piece featuring her dog.

“This piece of artwork is another example of the great breadth of media which the members of this group use.” Foussekis had commented at the opening that she liked the artists’ work in the FAA because everyone was different; no one was doing the same thing or using the same media. “Many people would not think about ‘fine art’ being done in colored pencil. But one look at “When I Grow Up” would certainly make anyone reconsider this opinion. The dogs are well done – just looking at the detail in the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and the coat – and the background complements the main image.”

Janie Prete’s “The Outing” won third in the masters. Prete’s lively, slowing style is evident in this painting featuring two women walking their dogs.

“This joyful, colorful painting gives you a sense of the friendship between these two women, out for a walk with a dog. The whole scene allows the viewer to construct a story around what they are seeing,” said Foussekis, citing one key element for artists to be successful is to tell a story and Prete always does this well. Foussekis added that Prete’s use of color and brush strokes also create a sense of place.

Honorable Mention went to Debbie Burke for  “The Last Time Brooke Did Dishes.” Many elements of Burke’s painting were noted for being well-executed.

In the advanced category, Foussekis admitted she had difficulty choosing between William Snow’s “Silent Hunter” and Maria Carter’s “Let Me Out of Here” for Best in Show. She awarded Carter first in the advanced category for her abstract painting of an explosion of color, shooting upwards in a frenzy of emotional expression.

Second was Bev Bowman’s “Butterfly Weed Seed Pod,” a botanical rendered in delicate realism.

“A beautiful example of botanical illustration,” said Foussekis.

Third place went to Lucy Kinsey for her lovable donkey in “Got Carrots?” Foussekis liked Kinsey’s use of color, the shades of white, mixed with other colors in the wall surrounding the window, “drawing the eye to the focal point while creating some texture and interest in the background.”

Three honorable mentions went to JoAnn Braniff, for her tranquil scene of “VanBuren Cove,” Nance Stamper for “Yakking it Up,” and Page Gifford for “Dance II.” Stamper’s painting  catches the onlooker’s eye from a distance, drawing them in closer to see the colorful kayakers gathering and paddling on the lake. Foussekis said “the palette is very pleasing,” Stamper’s use of bright primary colors is stunning and makes her subjects stand out in motion.

“I have always been drawn to the impressionists and this painting catches the light so well. The reflections and the paddlers create a sense of movement but not too much movement,” said Foussekis.

Regarding “Dance II,” three dancers in movement, an abstraction done with zentangle patterns, she said it is mixed media work that has such interesting detail. The textures within the ink portion are drawn from the details, the closer you are, the more you can study. The colors also unify the figures and the entire piece gives the viewer a sense of movement. Lovely.”

 The intermediate category is usually the largest and the most varied regarding skill and media. Ande Kirchenheiter has built her skills up to a level that those who view her work appreciate. Her “Gorilla in the Mist” won her first in this category.

“Well done paintings of animals and people capture that spark of life. This painting of the gorilla captures that spark of life so well in the eyes,” she said. “The use of a limited palette is often difficult, especially if the colors are in the darker range of shades, but this artist did a remarkable job. I am fond of this painting.”

Autumn Wall got third for her pen and ink of a horse in “Longing For Freedom.”

“It is well composed and executed,” said Foussekis, who noted that the windblown mane of the horse gives us the feeling and the presence of a breeze. “Pen and ink can be an unforgiving medium and this artist has done very well.”

Another newcomer Marcie Stahl, won third for her collage “Memoirs,” which Foussekis found interesting.

“We don’t see collage as often as we should. The various items used in the collage create a sense of a scene. The viewer has to fill in some gaps — but that is what makes it fun.”

Honorable mentions in this category went to Linda Mullin for “Mystic River,” an acrylic pour. This is an abstract form of expression Mullin was praised for.

“Acrylic pour paintings are very interesting to look at. However, many times the composition ends up with a single area of interest. What is so wonderful with this painting is that there are multiple areas of interest which let your eyes move around the entire composition. You would not grow tired of this piece of art.”

Cindy Stenz’s “Olivia’s Circle,” was precise and detailed in its geometric forms.

 “It is always interesting when an artist incorporates mathematics into their painting. While many artists utilize the rule of thirds, this artist’s work is truly based on geometric shapes. The individual shapes are interesting and the unified whole is wonderful.”

The members of FAA came out of COVID stronger than ever and the work produced in isolation showed talent and skill, something Laura Foussekis recognized.

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