The second annual 2020 juried art exhibition presented by Artists Collective | Spartanburg has eight winners from the Carolinas, awarding a total of $4,500 in cash prizes.
The four-state show (South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia) had 2-D and 3-D entries from all four states but only 67 were chosen. The show opened Sept. 15 and will end Oct. 17. The public can see these outstanding works Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at no charge. The gallery adheres to all social distancing protocols in its efforts to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winners were announced virtually Saturday, Sept. 26.
“We are very pleased with this year’s show,” the Collective’s Management Board Chair Beth Regula said. “Especially in light of the pandemic. A lot of the work this year addressed social issues that the world is now facing, something I believe is very telling about how stress influences the creative process. Also, I think overall the work is very accessible to non-artists. This is a show that anyone can visit and take away some thought-provoking concepts, as well as some great beauty.”
First place was taken by Gregory Wilkin for his oil painting — Harriet Hancock Center, Melrose Heights, Columbia. “I am very flattered by the win because the quality and creativity of the other entries were so strong that I really had no expectations,” Wilkin said. “Watching the video of the announcement of winners was a big and very pleasant surprise.”
This image of a house and parking lot has many messages — everything from gay pride to urban trash hidden behind walls — and is presented very cleanly, as if to make sense out of the conflicting morals of today’s woke culture. Each element — the lush greenery, the modern architecture of the white house, the red pickup truck, the trash bins, the rainbow flag — seems isolated and carefully placed in the composition to find tenuous balance and create contrast in the overall image. It is thought provoking in both its subject matter and applied technique.
Wilkin’s first place gives him $2,500 from The Wendy Mayrose Memorial Award.
“I have been working on scenes of Melrose Heights in Columbia, where we are living for the past couple of years,” Wilkin said. “It is a mix of influences that have driven my recent work. This piece was attempting to capture a moment in time that normally would have been overlooked and yet when examined closely actually carries in it the currents of our time and the beauty of the eternal.”
Wilkin was reared in southeastern rural Ohio, and he and his wife Candace have three children. For 26 years, he worked as a graphic designer in New York City for most of the major publishing houses, art directing book cover designs. In his spare time he painted and showed his work in several solo exhibitions at the Frank Miele Gallery in Manhattan. His work was chosen by UNICEF to grace its Christmas card in 2000 and has been exhibited in the US Senate Building in Washington, DC. His work has been featured in Country Living Magazine, Down East Magazine, Yankee Magazine, and Maine Boats and Harbors. He has been profiled many times by the news media.
Second place was taken by Seth Scheving of Anderson, SC, for his work Ignorance Was Bliss, a watercolor and ink on paper work of a blindfolded white man wearing a shirt made from an American flag. He received $1,000 from the Friends of Artists Collective | Spartanburg.
“I actually watched the video at 10 a.m. (Saturday, Sept. 26) with a lot of nerves,” Scheving said. “I just had a weird feeling, I guess. I kept watching and waiting as they were announcing the pieces, and when they got to the third-place winner, I was at the edge of my seat – hopeful but keeping my expectations low. Then they changed scenes, and they were standing in front of my piece, and I got really overwhelmed. I cried. I’ve never won anything on this level. The piece was my most politically driven, and I didn’t know what the response was going to be. I was content to be included – never would’ve thought it would win an award.”
This entry is a wonderful example of hyperrealism used sparingly to drive home the political message. Front and center is a blindfolded white man wearing an American flag that is in contrast to the white-on-white background all-cap letters that repeatedly spell WHITE PRIVILEGE. The man is expressionless, however, he wears a Cleveland Indians baseball cap with the red-faced Chief Wahoo logo bearing teeth and raging eyes. Careful examination shows the man’s skin is a rainbow of colors.
“As a middle-class white male living in the Southeast, this painting is for all my white peers who do not realize the privileges we have benefited from,” Scheving said. “I am more speaking to the crowd who think they have no part in it. Choosing to remain ignorant or uninvolved is just perpetuating the problems. We need to be aware of our failings and teach the next generations how to make meaningful change in our country. Equality needs to be an equal opportunity for all, but before we can have that, we really need equity -– we spread the resources to those who need them most, so we can all have an equal starting point. No one is born racist: It is a learned behavior. We need to teach our youth that everyone belongs.” He plans to donate a portion of his winnings to the Urban League of the Upstate.
Scheving grew up in North Dakota before moving to the Anderson area in 2008, where he attended Anderson University. As an undergraduate, he discovered his love for watercolor and has been painting with the medium since 2009. He specializes in watercolor and producing work that illustrates vulnerability, dark undertones, self-reflection, or subtle humor. During the past decade, Scheving ventured into graphic design and marketing for about six years, until ultimately becoming a high school art teacher in 2019. He has also served as an instructor at the Anderson Arts Center and has been on the curation committee since 2019. His work has been shown in various South Carolina galleries and shows. Most recently, he has been invited to head an Anderson Mural Project, hoping to raise awareness for social injustices.
In third place is Bennett Stowe for her impressionistic Dining Room, a vibrant still-life that accentuates a large dining table in a refined room with red wallpaper. The work is in acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastel. Stowe, who lives in Charlotte, received $500 from the Collective.
This exaggerated and impressionistic image of a dining room gives the patron a sense of luxury gone awry. A passionate red used in the wallpaper and intermixed throughout the image dominate the palette, but the room is grounded with darker colors in the floor rug and lighter — airy — colors on the ceiling. The dining room table is grossly exaggerated from the back of the room to the edge of the canvas, making it both inviting and revolting at the same time. It is the sort of image a patron can study for a long time, taking in the various elements and wondering how they come together to create a dreamy room that just might be nightmarish.
“This work was inspired by my childhood home and the often troubling and unstable conditions that surrounded growing up there,” Stowe said. “This dining room is the space where my family and I had dinner together most evenings -- or, at least, that’s what I remember. When my parents began their divorce and things started to fall apart more, I remember walking into that room and it felt so dark and cold and vacant. All of those feelings had dissipated and the warmth that was once there only existed in my memories. When I worked on this painting, I used a photograph of the house as a reference, but the majority of my decisions were made through those feelings and memories.
“I would define my work as having both expressionist and impressionist qualities,” she continued. “I tend to focus a lot of attention on light and color but also find that much of my stroke-making becomes very intuitive and reflective of the energy and emotion I feel while working through a painting that is very charged for me personally. I want people to take with them that although things may seem pristine or straightforward on the outside, they can often be far more troublesome and turbulent on the inside. Whether that may be a family, a home, or someone’s mental state: it can often be difficult for us to see the reality of someone’s circumstances.”
Stowe grew up in Charlotte and attended Virginia Commonwealth University to study art. She graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking with a double major in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, as well as a minor in Art History. She has a passion for animals and worked as a veterinary assistant while living in Richmond before moving back home to Charlotte because of COVID-19. “I honestly don’t find painting to be very easy or even very fun a lot of the time, but I do feel it is something that is an important part of my identity and a way that I can conquer my own internalized feelings and ideas that I often have trouble dealing with in real life,” she said. “The challenge of working through a painting and creating an outcome that exceeds my own expectations is one of the most rewarding feelings.”
In addition to the first, second, and third place winners, there are five merits award winners, each of whom received $100:
Wendy Converse of Salem, SC, was recognized for her wood-fired ceramic, Twisted Barrels Tested by Fire, which is organic and almost biological in its conveyance of three opened-end tubes that melt and merge downward to a singular base.
Tomya Henderson of Greenville, SC, won for her abstract The Essential Worker painting of crowded black handprints holding cotton bolls against a red, green, and yellow backdrop.
Aldo Muzzarelli of Mauldin, SC, received merit attention for the mixed media work Unprejudiced and Coloress Rain, a portrait of a young African-American woman looking heavenward, amid colorless butterflies and shingle-like raindrops, with the lower portion of the canvas showing cracks in the mixed media of acrylic, graphite and metal leaf on canvas.
Lynne Tanner of Rutherfordton, NC, entered untitled#1, a nonrepresentational acrylic painting that utilizes a strong yellow base overlaid with striking and intrusive elements of a black and white tubular slant, three red dots, and a multi-hue blue capstone.
Mary Hannah Willingham of Fountain Inn, SC, presented Forever on Call, a 3-D creation of a wooden cabinet door, supporting an old-fashion (landline) wall-hanging rotary telephone that uses a red 6-inch high heel shoe as the handset.
The jurors (judges) for this show were Alice Sebrell, Program Director for the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC, and Connie Bostic, a late-blooming and highly involved artist in Western North Carolina
Sebrell is a native of Charlotte and earned her master’s degree in photography from The Savannah College of Art and Design and her bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Delaware. She has written and spoken about Black Mountain College for multiple publications and gatherings and has curated many exhibitions during her time at the museum. Sebrell is also a practicing artist whose photographic and mixed media work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is in many public and private collections.
Bostic is a native of Spindale, NC, born in 1936. Reared by her grandparents in a small southern town in the ‘40s and ‘50s, she spent two years at Gardner Webb Junior college and then did the expected thing for a young woman of that era: she married and had five children. In 1970 she moved with her growing family to Asheville and after a few years enrolled in her first drawing class. Unsure of her abilities she did not pursue a degree until 1989. In 1990 she finished a master’s degree at Western Carolina University. Since that time, she has had 28 solo exhibitions and has work featured in 44 group shows. Active in the Asheville arts community, she has curated exhibitions for the YMI Cultural Center, The World Gallery, and the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center. During her art career, she opened and closed a gallery in downtown Asheville, and has since devoted herself to her painting and teaching private students, maintaining her deep involvement in the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center and her two young great granddaughters.
Artists Collective | Spartanburg is a membership-based and member-focused organization, providing low-cost studio space to more than 30 working artists. Its membership is more than 50. The Collective is housed in what was once a three story Baptist church. Each month (when safe from the pandemic), the Collective hosts three art exhibitions showcasing its members and guest artists. It has two galleries and the once-sanctuary now serves as a large gallery space, as well as a venue for performance art. Its annual juried show has some of the largest cash prizes in the region. Most works are available for purchases at the Collective, located at 578 West Main Street, Spartanburg, SC. For more info, please visit online: ArtistsCollectiveSpartanburg.org.