Winners from the 37th-Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition Print
Art - Feature Stories
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Tuesday, 02 April 2013 10:25

For the 37th-annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition, the River Cities’ Reader invited winning artists – selected by juror Pamela Blotner of California – to write about their work. Their statements follow.

The exhibit runs through April 21 at the Augustana College Art Gallery (inside Centennial Hall, 3703 Seventh Avenue in Rock Island). The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays for the duration of the exhibit. A reception will be held on Friday, April 5; awards will be presented at 5:40 p.m.

Pam Echeverria, 'Qutang Gorg'

First Prize: Pam Echeverria (Cedar Falls, Iowa), Qutang Gorge, acrylics.

Teresa Mesich, 'Bird Circus'

Second Prize: Teresa Mesich (Rock Island, Illinois), Bird Circus, acrylic on canvas. “Color, movement, and figure are very important in my work. It all comes together in the idea of ‘circus.’ Bird Circus evolved over two years and is the first in a planned circus series. I love the swaying shapes of flags and tents, and the criss-crossing ropes that divide space, and the over-the-top colors and costumes of humans and animals.

“Technically, my paintings are additions and subtractions. After much over-painting and wiping out, I study what is left to re-create, all the time thinking ‘circus.’ People become animals, lions become ruffled birds. Shapes change. Colors change. This evolution leads to constant surprise and discovery, until finally I am satisfied that the work is finished.”

Tom Voss, 'East by West'

Founder’s Award: Tom Voss (Bettendorf, Iowa), East by West, wood – black walnut and American chestnut. “Three-dimensional work for the RIFA show has the size restriction of 30 inches by 30 inches by 30 inches, which means my finished piece has to fit within that. My design this year is a bench built to showcase the woods used: black walnut and American chestnut. The bench is of an Asian flavor, with rather complex geometric shapes in the base, which is walnut. In contrast, the chestnut top is a simple, graceful shape. Because American chestnut trees are endangered, lumber is difficult to obtain. Usually it is only available from storm-damaged trees or recycled from old buildings. The wood for this bench is from a storm-downed tree from a small town in Illinois. I like to showcase the wood I use through my design and finish.”

Rosalie Waranius Vass, 'Spinning'

Sally MacMillan Watercolor Award: Rosalie Waranius Vass (Batavia, Illinois), Spinning, opaque watercolor. “It is an abstract composition of a series of circles. The inspiration came from the windmills that are displayed throughout my home town of Batavia, Illinois (also known as the City of Energy). It is noted for its past manufacturing of several brands of windmills.

“Instead of painting the actual windmill, I wanted to convey the action or motion of the object. I have painted the windmills themselves and another abstract depicting circles attached to triangle forms that might suggest windmills. Spinning addressed the intention of the windmill for me.”

Peter Xiao, 'Six Heads to Be Hatted'

Two-Dimensional Entry Award: Peter Xiao (Rock Island, Illinois), Six Heads to Be Hatted, oil on canvas with wood. “I have been working on an autobiographic series about my China background, and my piece in the show fits into the period of cultural revolution when having a person ‘hatted’ meant having him/her condemned for some political crime, which was the misfortune of many by factions of red guards or politically zealous colleagues who in turn could suffer the same. What I did was to select some faces of buddies on a farm whom I used to know well, and imagined them to be hatted as they could have been a decade earlier. To relate the idea to viewing space or experience, ‘hat hangers’ were furnished to allow the work be hung in a row or two rows. Actual hats could be hung, of course, and if the show allows greater width, I would not mind presenting the piece in one row, which enhances the idea of hangers. Materiality of the surface is in keeping with the sculptural-ness of a piece like this – not portraits of people, but ideas of gravity-pulled heads. As with any work, the viewers bring what they will to it, of course, but cleverness, as someone remarked on this, is not what I had in mind.”

Dean Kugler, 'Blind Control'

Three-Dimensional Freestanding Entry Award: Dean Kugler (Davenport, Iowa), Blind Control, resin. “This is the first piece that I have brought to completion in 15 years. It represents a new phase in my life in which I am beginning to pursue a passion in sculpture that has always been there. The title of the sculpture speaks to the work itself as well as an idea that I am working out in my current pieces: the idea that while we may feel in charge of who we are and what we experience, there is always something limiting our understanding of the ‘big picture.’ The cloth covering the face, limiting the subject’s view of his surroundings, represents his inability to see and therefore manipulate his surroundings; juxtaposed against the strong nature of the figure and the grace of the pose, it works to create a puzzle for the viewer to solve.”

Peter Van Ael, 'Swimmingly'

Honorable Mention: Peter Van Ael (Montgomery, Illinois), Swimmingly, reduction woodcut montage. “My creative research is informed by my interest in pattern, camouflage, mimicry, layering, and relative scale. I find inspiration both in the natural and human-made worlds, creating abstract and nonrepresentational works of art that gradually reveal and obscure information in richly textured layers.

“Since 2000, I have focused my studio practice on the reduction woodcut. I find its sculptural physicality and working immediacy that requires the gradual destruction of the matrix during the creative process very appealing and seductive.

“In Swimmingly, I elaborate my exploration of pattern and camouflage by expanding the traditional boundaries of reduction-woodcut printing, creating a montage of multiple and varied impressions from the same block, adding depth to a grid in which multiple fishes both emerge from and recede into the picture plane, mimicking the commotion of a spooked school of fish.”

Richard Ankeney, 'Lobster Buoys'

Honorable Mention: Richard Ankeney (Galesburg, Illinois), Lobster Buoys, digital photograph. “I make photographs that call attention to things other people overlook. This exploration of the overlooked helps me engage more intensely with where I am in space and time. The exploration is more about structure and geometry than subject.

“The choice of subjects (and therefore their structure and geometry) comes from my interest in visual beauty and emotional connections. I didn’t set out to produce photographs about one subject or another. I didn’t set out to be a landscape photographer or create artwork relating to social commentary, but as my portfolio developed and people started to review my work, the descriptions started to emerge and I began to notice patterns I hadn’t intended but am now pleased with. Although my photographs are intentional and deliberate, the themes I am currently working on have all developed and evolved over time. My photographs are composites of all their given parts, from my vision and technical skills to the choices of camera position to the selection of subject. Bad choices at any of these levels can cause an image to fall short of my intentions in terms of aesthetics, integrity, and longevity. Good choices provide for a more confident future for the image. My images are a small study of the various structures that provide an insight into how choices can affect the final image.”

“I am often amazed at the shapes and forms that have appeared in my work. My intention is always to explore. I want to find the camera angle from which the forms can be the most that the can be ... whatever that is. And so I work on; to explore the angles, lines, space, reflections, and light. I try to honor the subject of the photograph in all that I do.”

Jane L. Koski, 'Stillness on a Cool Summer Morning'

Honorable Mention: Jane L. Koski (Rock Island, Illinois), “Stillness” on a Cool Summer Morning, watercolor. “I’m calling myself an ‘escape artist’ these days, instead of a painter. When I work, I want my art to give the viewer the experience of a moment of peace and reflection. I guess it’s a reaction to our modern world where we cannot escape technology and mental clutter. The texting, the e-mail, iTunes, the constant TV all create a tension and negative energy in our every waking moment.

“The tree is a common subject for me. I’ve explored it for years and even did a very similar composition years ago. This one has more texture and more color. The juror told me that part of what she enjoyed about it was that it wasn’t full of heavy symbolism. She told me that on the West Coast the painting would have to had a ‘dead bird’ or ‘evidence of pollution’ in it. Instead I called it “Stillness” and wanted the viewer to imagine looking up and seeing the tree in a quiet moment . I like the idea that art can transport us. Going to an art museum, walking in a park, sitting and watching the river. These are now guilty pleasures that we seldom allow ourselves. Americans seem to have lost this ability. We need to take a moment, sit at a café, look at the clouds moving through the sky, attend an art show, and gaze at a tree.”

George Olson, 'Prairie Study: White Vervain'

Honorable Mention: George Olson (Woodhull, Illinois), Prairie Study: White Vervain, watercolor.