Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Southern Oregon Society of Artists Annual Award Banquet

The other day, I was asked to pass judgement and rank the paintings made by members of the Southern Oregon Society of Artists.  In principle, I am very uncomfortable with this sort of practice, and yet the promise of a free lunch at the Country Club outweighed my better judgement. 

Before I arrived, I convinced myself that I would have no trouble picking a winner.  I figured that I would simply trust my instincts and let my personal tastes run wild.  Little did I know that I would be handed a microphone and encouraged to talk.  Couldn't I simply slap some ribbons on the frames and order a Bloody Mary?  Or vice versa? 

As it turns out, Hannah West (who is creator/editor of the Southern Oregon Artists Resource and its companion blog, Art Matters!) was there and somehow recorded what I said and transcribed my ramblings into the following "Judges Notes". . .  I am so glad I didn't know this was happening at the time, or I would have tried too hard to keep my thoughts in a straight line.

The following is Hannah's blog post about the lunch and award ceremony:

SOSA Annual Luncheon at the Rogue Valley Country Club, November 2012
Rogue Valley Country Club did a beautiful job with the lunch offerings
Not getting away from my computer as much as I should, it was my great pleasure to step out and attend the annual awards banquet of the Southern Oregon Society of Artists on Saturday. This is the first time they held their year-end event at the Rogue Valley Country Club; around a hundred artists and their guests were seated at tables in the Country Club’s ball room where we enjoyed a beautiful luncheon with wine.
Tom Austin, Winner of the People's Choice Photography Award
Tom Austin, Winner of the People’s Choice Photography Award
We were happy to see several members of the Southern Oregon Artists Resource there, among them Anna Chauffe, owner of the Creator’s Gallery in Jacksonville, and artists David Landry and Steven LaRose.

Abstract painter Alx Fox, who was reelected for a second term as the group’s president in October, was a delightful MC. She announced the winners of an array of donated (and many very enviable) raffle items and silent auctions while we ate. Then, after a silent vote, photographer Tom Austin’s image won the People’s Choice Award for Photography, complete with a ribbon, a check for $50 and free 2013 membership. Tom seemed rather crowd-shy and didn’t say too much, but was clearly overwhelmed at the honor from his creative peers. He did wind up cracking a smile just long enough for me to snap a good shot of him with his award-winning image.

There were nearly 20 paintings on display which had won awards in SOSA’s Juried Critiques in contention for SOSA’s Painting of the Year, so there were many artists with a chance to win this coveted honor. Steven had been invited to judge the paintings lined up for year-end honors, and shared the thought process that led to his decision on the winner and runners-up in an engaging, informative and wonderfully humorous commentary on each painting. It was wonderful to see the support and genuine enthusiasm everyone extended to the winning artists ~ Not the first time the art community of southern Oregon has impressed me with its warmth and unity!

 Painting of the Year Results

Artist June Shepherd with her award-winning painting
Artist June Shepherd with her award-winning painting
Third Place: “Mr. Shepherd”, by June Shepherd

Judge’s notes: “When looking at these paintings…I realized what I was doing was…I couldn’t decide. I finally resigned to [thinking of this as] Oh, I’m curating a little show. And it’s a show that has three steps – it just so happens that it will go 3-2-1… landing on first place, but that’s at the end of the little pitch I was making.”

“The guy in the suspenders…so that would be Third Place (big applause). But wasn’t it like First Place for a little bit in your head?! (assenting laughter) Because there’s profoundly the Holy Shhhhugar factor (more laughter) in the attention to detail…it’s almost psychedelic on its level of ‘No way! That really happened?!’ I guess, where I’m coming from, I look at that – and it’s fascinating to me when I look at a portrait painting – that I came to the face later.  Mind you I’m a painter, so I look at paint before the subject matter often, and sometimes I’ll think ‘Oh, there’s a person in there.’ If it’s a really great painting, because I’m actually looking at the quality of paint, the way it’s put down. That takes me through a spiral of…you know, look at those stripes, that background, I love this background! And then I get sucked into the hair, the brush marks, and then I land on that eye…that’s just…that mischievous little grin he’s got, and then I bounce back out to the shirt again! So it’s like a little loop-de-loop that keeps me engaged, where it’s not just a painted thing of a person. I mean there is that guy, you get that story going, but there’s a composition that does a push-pull for me. That’s why I really love this one.”
Congratulations to Third Place Winner June Shepherd, who won a ribbon, a check for $50 and a free SOSA membership for 2013!

Artist Dorothy Swain with her award-winning abstract painting.
Artist Dorothy Swain with her award-winning abstract painting.

Second Place: Abstract by Dorothy Swain

Judge’s notes: “So I imagine going from that [the third place winner]…and this becomes my Second Place winner. (Delighted laughs from my table, where Dottie was seated!) And it gets better in the light… Wow, what is that? What is that? And that’s why it’s second place, because if I had this painting in my house, I’d get up every morning and say ‘What is that?’ (more laughter) It’s not a one-hit wonder, right? Hopefully you’d be sitting there arguing with people – Is that micro? Is that macro? Is it sufficient just to be beautiful?  But I actually think it’s got a long-term read. It’s not just a joke, you know, it’s a great painting.”
Congratulations to Second Place Winner Dorothy Swain, who won a ribbon, a check for $75 and a free SOSA membership for 2013!
A lively and animated Steven continued…
“So then I’m thinking, how did I get from that (pointing to June Shepherd’s portrait of her husband) to that (Dottie’s lovely blue and green abstract) and still think, do I have taste? Again, I love painting, and again, it’s fundamentally about paint, the nature of paint and how it’s moved. And, seeing the human hand. I like that more than anything. I like the nuances of the brush.



Artist Charity Hubbard with her 2012 Painting of the Year
Artist Charity Hubbard with her top award winner
Painting of the Year: “Grandfather’s First Job” 18×24 Oil by Charity Hubbard

Judge’s notes:  “So then, I have my little story going in my head about why I like painting, and I thought what combines both of those two worlds? What succeeds in making me engage on a micro level and a macro level, and I love the paint and there might be a narrative, something that unfolds over time…and that’s when I kept looking over at this one. (Quiet as he walks over to the painting and admiring applause as he picks it up and brings it over to the stage) Okay you know what, that one just kills me because my first response initially was ‘Oh it looks so much like a painting.’ What does that mean? I didn’t even know what that meant to myself, it just was such a beautiful, almost cliché, the painting, in that I didn’t want to like it, because it was…is it perfect? What’s going on is this really subtle spiral composition, not really spiral because spiral implies flat, but a helix. A helix goes through space, into the painting, and you get sucked in from the words to the man pointing, the truck, and then the deep space, you really get driven into it. And then, this is just beautiful. The paint handling is gorgeous. Yeah, the more I looked at it, the more that combined those two [second and third place] worlds.”
Congratulations to Painting of the Year Winner Charity Hubbard, who won a blue ribbon, a check for $100 and a free SOSA membership for 2013!
For a better look at Charity’s winning painting, go to her website and see it on her home page.


Prize winning artists June Shepherd, Dorothy Swain, Tom Austin and Charity Hubbard with judge Steven LaRose
Prize winning artists June Shepherd, Dorothy Swain, Tom Austin and Charity Hubbard with judge Steven LaRose

Steven LaRose and President Alx Fox, with SOSA's 2012 Painting of the Year, "Grandfather's First Job" in the background
Steven LaRose and President Alx Fox, with SOSA’s 2012 Painting of the Year in the background

Alx then presented an appreciation gift from SOSA to Steven LaRose for the critiques and judging, too.  Asking Charity and Steven, both on stage as Charity received her award, to smile for a picture brought a hilarious response from Steven. After all those humorous but very sincere and artistically literate comments on the paintings, he struck a hang-ten skateboarder pose and took on a street artist spirit. Oh, how I wish I had managed to capture that on camera! Trigger finger having failed me and having recently watched “Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Film by Banksy”, I couldn’t resist saying “Very Banksy, Steven!”, which led to the event’s most memorable quote from Steven’s lady friend Demaris: “He IS Banksy!”

Banksy’s true identity not having been revealed to date, it’s tempting to believe that southern Oregon’s art community might well be hosting the famous English street artist unawares in the founder of Talent’s Atelier LaRose. If so, he’s managed to replace his British accent convincingly with an American one, but let the rumors fly and we might begin to see some great street art cropping up in the Rogue Valley, too…
SOSA's returning President Alx Fox embraces artist Katharine Sloan
SOSA’s returning President Alx Fox embraces artist Katharine Sloan
The most poignant moment came after the award ceremony, when Alx choked back tears as she explained how member artist Katherine Sloan uses art to help retired military personnel when announcing SOSA’s donation to Laurel Pines Retirement Home.

In closing, Alx pointed out that one of the artists volunteers to bring live plants to serve as centerpieces on the tables at all the SOSA meetings. She had done the same for this banquet, and the lucky artist at each table who had a sticker under their coffee cup got to take the centerpiece from their table home with them. A lovely way to send everyone off.

Speaking to Alx on the phone on Sunday, I learned that just last week her longtime feline companion Lily passed away. I have met Miss Lily, a sweet and loving black and white kitty, and know how much they loved each other. I marveled that Alx was able to entertain so many so well as Mistress of Ceremony for SOSA’s event so soon after such a piercing loss. She’s not only an accomplished and successful artist and businesswoman, but a very sensitive soul; I’m sure she had to draw from deep within for the strength to pull it off. We offer our deepest condolences as well as kudos for her professionalism, and hope Lily is happily chasing mice and enjoying long sunny days on some warm windowsill in kitty heaven.

After a day to reflect on the event I have to say I was moved by the congenial atmosphere amongst the members of SOSA. If there are artists who have considered joining but are procrastinating, or those who are new to the Rogue Valley and would like to find a nest of support, encouragement and experience to help advance the honing of their talent and establish them in southern Oregon’s art community, don’t wait! With monthly demonstrations from guest and member artists, quarterly juried critiques with awards, and an annual social event like this one, membership is worth more than the $30 yearly fee. The Society’s website has this Open Invitation to Artists on their home page:
Experience the excitement of watching guest artists as they demonstrate the techniques they use to produce award-winning art. In addition to demos, SOSA offers critiques that are held quarterly at the January, April, July and October meetings. Critiques are a great way to improve your art in a fun and informative manner. Only paid members may enter art work into the critiques.
Enjoy meeting with other artists who share their love of art and are always ready to answer questions or give helpful tips.

All images by Hannah West. Apologies for blurry ones!

2 comments:

Eva said...

You know that my mother was in the Southern Oregon Society of Artists for many years. They showed in Lithia Park every summer ... and also in Jacksonville and the park at the old Medford library. What happy childhood memories I have of hanging out during those shows, running wild. Hope you had a good time!

PS Your paintings rock!!

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