PLATE 1. “The painting Around the Bend is the westward view of the Finley River from the Highway 160 Bridge. I was inspired to create this painting by the contrast of the warm afternoon sun on the water and the deep, cool shadows of the enormous trees. The kayakers were added for a color center of interest and to give more scale to the painting.” — Tanja Ware, Spokane, Missouri
The Art Show of the Ozarks 2010
BY JOSHUA HESTON
Art is emotion. Art is memory. Art is time and place — a moment of perspective. A heart standing still — a window to the soul.
Once upon a time, a deeply talented artist right here in the Ozarks, a classically trained commercial artist, teacher, contemporary of Thomas Hart Benton, and artist-in-residence at the College of the Ozarks, founded The Art Show of the Ozarks.
It was the late 1960s. His name: Steve Miller.
Miller’s son, Ron, reminisces, “That first show was a rousing success. He had invited his friend Thomas Hart Benton down from Kansas City.
“One highlight I recall about those first Art Shows of the Ozarks is that dad made it a point to have a showing of works by his local beginning adult students — in a separate section but in the big showing. They were excited getting in on something like this with the advanced students seeking blue ribbons and money prizes too.
“Dad’s art philosophy was Always have fun with art.”
Over 40 years later, it is a tradition continuing.
Last November, the walls of the Edwards Art Gallery (within the College of the Ozarks’ Ralph Foster Museum) were adorned with regional art celebrating the Ozarks: the White River Painting Exhibit 2010.
Fifty-six artists participated.
The goal? To represent unique views of the White River Valley and the Ozark Mountains. Jurist Manuela Well-Off-Man, assistant curator of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art, explains, “I think the Ralph Foster Museum plays an important role in support of regional art — there are not many art museums and art galleries in this area where local and regional artists can exhibit their work.”
The Edwards Gallery became a world unto its own: traditional music played in the background. Historic quilts guarded the entrance. It was a warm, comforting sort of place.
What follows is but a small selection of art from the 2010 show. As Well-Off-Man notes, “Although I could only award a few prizes, there were many more Ozarks artists who deserve a prize.”
Many participating artists were kind enough to share — with StateoftheOzarks — their inspirations and technical approaches in the gallery below. Each viewpoint adds a special dimension to the experience…
“I love to paint the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks for the subjects are so varied and endless. I was born here and have lived in other states but I have come back here because wherever I lived I was constantly painting the Ozarks.
“I paint a lot of mountain scenes and God’s Hand is one. I chose the name because as I looked out over the rolling Ozark Mountains, it looked as though a giant hand had curled its fingers toward the palm — and then I thought, “That’s God’s hand and his handiwork.”
“To me, it was both a physical resemblance and a spiritual one for you see God’s fingers everywhere in this beautiful country and I try to capture that feeling in my paintings.
“God’s Hand is done in pastel. I often use pastel to achieve a soft, dreamy quality to a painting and to mimic the variety of atmospheric moods of the Ozarks, from clear, sunny fall days to foggy, chilly winter days.”
“This winter scene is technical, gorgeous,” noted jurist Manuela Well-Off-Man. Bench In Snow is mixed medium of acrylic, casein, pastel, charcoal on paper. Be sure to focus on the amazing textural qualities of light on snow, of shadow and afternoon (or is it early morning?) light. This piece once again proves that our true perception of color is anything but simple.
“Standing at the sink in the kitchen was a great place to watch the cardinal and dark-eyes juncos at the feeder,” writes artist Hardin. Look carefully at the wood grain of the weathered feeder, the splash of color denoting the feeding cardinals, the all-but tangerine of a winter sky fading fast.
A favorite of the show, Joy To The World has been described as whimsical, surreal, symbolic, even religious. For me, it’s classic, down-home Ozarks (and I’m just hoping Big Smith will license it for a Christmas album one of these years).
Be sure to check out the details of this oil: the three-toed stockings, a piece of ribbon-bedecked cheese for the mouse beneath the rug and the Mardi Gras-brilliance of the chicken’s tail feathers.
Krisik, writes, “I have a true affection for these birds (and would have them as pets if I lived in an area that allowed them).”
Joy To The World is one of a series of 12 paintings currently on display at Gene Brantley’s Gallery in Harrison, Arkansas (next to the Hotel Seville). The display will remain through this month.
“Childhood Prayer depicts the house where I spent my favorite years of childhood. I painted it as I remembered it: brimming with life and energy. That house was one of the main characters of my childhood.
“The house was right beside a country road. The goat in the foreground symbolizes my transition into the burdens of adulthood — as I had to leave my wonderful childhood paradise and all that was precious to me.
“There is a story in the Bible about the original scapegoat. The Israelites were to place their sins on the head of a goat and release it into the desert: an early picture of forgiveness offered by God.”
“An acrylic painting,” details Nicholls. “I wanted to show that out of ordinary ancestry can come extraordinary individuals — treasures to be found and enjoyed. I believe this is true of chickens, gardens, and Ozark folks (even if some of us are transplants)!”
There’s extraordinary detail in this piece. Stare at the blue cloth for a minute and you’ll swear you can feel its softness.
“Throughout my life I have been taught to be creative and to love and respect the out-of-doors. Our love of fly fishing for trout on the White River in the Ozarks was one reason my husband Bill and I moved near Cotter, Arkansas, seven years ago. We were also drawn to the beauty of the Ozarks. Not only did I want to fish the White River and capture it in my artwork, I wanted to live near it.
“And from the river came the trout. As beautiful as trout are naturally, I became aware of a creative desire to paint trout not only as I saw them, but as colorful as I could imagine them. The trout in my mind developed personalities and a social life under water. I wasn’t willing to be limited by painting representational art true to the various species of trout. I wanted to explore new colors, designs and patterns with vivid value and color contrasts applied to these magnificent creatures.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I see it everywhere I look. I want all my artwork to capture that beauty.”
“This piece, Cool Drink, was created from a scene I photographed on our family farm in Douglas County. An oil on canvas, I just thought it represented the Ozarks well,” shares artist Giles. “Ozarkians love their animals,” muses curator Well-Off-Man, “And the light treatment and mood is beautiful.”
“A watercolor, Door To the Past, focuses on the two-piece door and lock of a very old building on our property. This outbuilding, as well as our home, is over 100 years old, hence the title.
“I was particularly interested in the beautiful variety of colors and textures in the wood of the building (and the rusty old lock as well). The painting is done on 300# arches paper using transparent watercolors, my favorite medium.”
“As I was riding my bicycle in the countryside around Harrison, I came upon this Mennonite family working in their strawberry patch,” states Chatterton. Sugar loaf mountains frame the background. Bright red berries jump from the frame. A sallow sky and the exhortation “Lost? Seek ye the Lord?” give this pastoral scene a sense of question… or mystery.
“I love old, worn-out dolls. It all started a few years ago when I found a doll at a yard sale. I fell in love with it. “She” was a mess… most of the hair had been pulled out, face chipped, but the doll was old and that is what I really like about it. It was in a box for 50¢. “I did a painting of it and some other old dolls and — even though it was a bit eerie — I won an award in a large exhibit in Siloam Springs. The judge said it was like something out of a Steven King novel. “I now have many of such paintings.”
“I am in a phase of painting straight out-of-the-tube color and enjoying skewing the real-life colors to a totally different palette. Leatherwood Drive is my real-life driveway and I see it continually change with the time of the day (and the time of year). Our youngest son was taking photographs of the sun coming through the trees and his photographs inspired four separate paintings (of which this is one).”
“When the lilies began to bloom, I grabbed my camera so I wouldn’t miss the display. This year I may take my easel out and paint without photos.”
“Hiking through the Ozarks, I have always liked the very presence of boulders. I wondered what they would be like when we are not around. They might just dance and play! So I painted them with an inner glow of life and without the limitations of gravity. They rock and roll, man!” exuberantly notes Thompson.
Powerful, stark, vibrant, Boulders Alive has been described by Well-Off-Man as “authentic, willing to take risks, and an expression of personal view.”
“The Ozarks are a very mysterious place, especially in the forests,” mused Manuela Well-Off-Man.
“I’m sorry to say I do not remember the exact location,” divulges Johnson. “I was with a friend who was driving and, since that time, he has passed away. When I look at it, I think of him. He always loved my work.
“I have been painting for approximately 40 years (with most of my training in southern California where I was born). However, my mother was born in Huntsville and I have such fond memories visiting my grandmother and grandfather every year on their farm.”
“My painting was inspired by a picture I saw that reminded me of my father,” says Hensley.
A cold autumn afternoon. Vibrant maples. Black trunks. Cold grass, thick with the lateness of the season. An elderly couple, bundled against a damp chill. A poignant goodbye to our beloved Ozarks.
Originally published JUNE 4, 2011