2020 Art Show Award-Winning Art
Best of Show
Mary Burns • “Rachel Carson” • Hand-woven Jacquard Weaving
Judge's Comment: I kept coming back to Mary Burns’ hand-woven jacquard portrait of Rachel Carson. This photo-realistic fiber tribute, to a marine biologist and conservationist whose work advanced the global environmental movement, stood out from all the entries as one of great craft, energy, and topical relevance. From the gleam in the subject’s eye to the thought of the labor involved, the artwork provoked deep curiosity in me, both about the subject of the piece, a woman I was happy to learn more about, and the maker of the piece, whose commitment to her craft is impressive.
Richard Remy • “Dragonfly” • Watercolor
Judge's Comment: This collage-like watercolor offers the viewer at least two distinct layers for consideration. The foreground is devoted to the star of the piece, a bright and colorful dragonfly. Remy paints related silhouetted forms of insects and plants on a geometric background composed of the same family of colors that we see in the work’s namesake. The total composition results in a pleasant homage to an essential character in Wisconsin’s aquatic ecology.
Christine Alfery • “Dam” • Acrylic Painting
Judge's Comment: Full of expression from the artist’s rich inner world, this painting, about entrapment and the freedom that comes from escaping, vibrates with rhythm and action. Thin black lines punctuated with dots, and white dots creating spiral lines that seem to extend like stars into a dark blue sky seem almost musical in their proclamation of independence. Indeed, Alfery creates enough visual space for all to feel a sense of liberation in this work.
Ellen Compere • “Snowy Owl” • Watercolor
Judge's Comment: I enjoyed all three of Ellen Compere’s works in this year’s show, but ultimately I selected Snowy Owl for the merit award because it weds accessibility to abstraction. The artist filtered what information she chose to show us: a wing, a feather, the owl’s characteristic big round eyes. She painted her abstract owl and its surroundings with a subtle earth-toned palette. That, and a hint of flight motion, is all the relevant information the viewer needs to see the Snowy Owl in this whimsical piece.
Zoe Botes • “Winter Birch” • Watercolor
Judge's Comment: Zoe Botes is also a Scholarship Winner. Among this year’s submissions there are several depictions of the beautiful birch trees that light up Wisconsin’s Northern forests with their stunning white bark. The watercolor Winter Birch, by Zoe Botes, stands out because of her brilliant value contrasts. She captures both the beauty of the birch tree’s bark as well as the snow-muted starkness of winter.
Sandra Cashman • “Spring Thaw” • Oil On Canvas
Judge's Comment: There is a special kind of optimism, unleashed in early in spring, when the winter releases its grasp on the land, water, and even sky. The light shifts, the ice melts, the earth itself seems to liquefy into mud soup. The music of trickling water and bird songs seem loud in contrast to the silence created by sound dampening snow. Cashman’s painting celebrates that early spring moment with a strong composition that marks a time near and dear to the Wisconsinite’s heart.
Jesse Johnson • “A Father's Love” • Oil Painting
Judge's Comment: In the digital painting “A Father’s Love” by Jesse Johnson, the universal value of parental love and guidance of a child are relatable. I loved that the father gazes directly at the viewer, while the child focuses on another object of interest. I also appreciate the vertical format of the work.
Bill Kingsbury • “Socrcerer's Cookie Jar” • 3-Dimensional Art
Judge's Comment: Bill Kingsbury’s turned maple jar provides an excellent example of the beauty of embracing imperfection in making art. He seems to work with the burls unique grain patterns in genuine effort to understand what the wood wants to be. In the 1940’s Disney film Fantasia Mickey Mouse starred in the cartoon animation of the Goethe poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The popularity of that short later inspired a Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey Mouse cookie jar, now a rare collectible. In the Disney version of the cookie jar, the prominent sorcerers hat, functioned as the lid. In Kingsbury’s version, the peaked handle of the lid is reminiscent of the sorcerer’s peaked hat. I expect this jar will soon be filled with magical objects.
Sheri Smith • “Button Shawl” • Fiber Art
Judge's Comment: There is no garment, which makes a Wisconsin woman’s life more bearable, during long, cold months, than a hand-made shawl. The shawl is the comfort food of accessories, somehow attending to the emotional and physical needs of the wearer in one wrap. Sheri Smith’s Button Shawl is one of honesty, functionality, simple beauty and most importantly warmth.
Aline Fetter • “Relics of Rest Lake Logging” • Photography
Judge's Comment: Before even noticing the title, the reflection and repetition in the composition of this photograph drew me in. The logging industry that once drove Wisconsin’s economy declined in the 20th century. The timber pilings in this photograph are simultaneously architectural relics from days gone by and structures supporting new life. The sepia tone Fetter chose for the image adds to its nostalgic pull. Sepia also softens the image, as well as the harsh reality that change is inevitable.
Mary Finlay • “Coils & Quills” • 3-Dimensional Art
Judge's Comment: What drew me to this basket was the detail of the diamond form created by the stitching between the coils. This basket, largely made from nature, sends a strong message about the human relationship to the physical world. Baskets are one of the earliest forms of art making. They hold, carry, and hide our things. Finlay’s coiled baskets, which incorporate long-leaf pine needles and porcupine quills, offer us beautiful examples of this time-honored traditional craft.
Mimi Exon • “Clouds” • Oil on Canvas
Judge's Comment: Whenever I see paintings of clouds, I wonder if the artist is a fellow dreamer or a romantic. I think too, of the last two lines of Charles Baudelaire’s poem, “The Stranger” Then, what do you love, extraordinary stranger? I love the clouds the clouds that pass up there Up there the wonderful clouds! In Mimi Exon’s Clouds, she paints the light upon ice crystals floating through the sky in a way that captures the wonder of spending many long hours gazing up at the untouchable, ever-changing, brush strokes in the sky. It is a bold act to try to capture their mystery and majesty on canvas.
Norma Dycus Pennycuff • “Ice” • Photography
Judge's Comment: This cyanotype image provides a literal blueprint for ice. Dycus Pennycuff’s photograph shows the lines and geometric shapes formed when temperatures drop. Ice captures the brittle delicacy and awesome power of colorless, transparent, frozen water. When H2O is liquid, it forms the basis of human organisms, and when solid, it becomes Wisconsin’s biggest natural obsession. When will the lakes freeze? Will the storm make the roads glaze over? Can we drive on it? Careful not to slip out your front door. Dycus Pennycuff’s photograph offers a simple tribute to this basic transformation that dominates our psyches for much of the year.