Thursday, May 02, 2013

Potomac Vallery Watercolorists

A little while ago I had the pleasure of selecting the prizewinners for the Potomac Vallery Watercolorists at the beautiful Green Spring Gardens, and although over the years I’ve had the honor and pleasure (and luck) of judging my fellow artists many, many times (by my last count almost 300 times now!), one fact is always a constant and solid, never-changing, ever-present, add some more metaphors for “you can count on this” fact: It is never easy!

A second constant is that I am always refreshed and surprised by the spectacular diversity and pluralism of visual ideas that artists can deliver. This is the main reason that I really, really like putting together, organizing and jurying art shows.

And even after all these years and all these shows, I was still astounded by the quality and wide ranging of sources used by the artists who gave me the honor to review their work for this beautiful show at Green Spring Gardens. And in case you don't already know this: the most difficult (technically) of all visual arts media is watercolor. The difference between a great watercolor painter and the rest of us is that a great watercolor painter knows how to incorporate their mistakes into the final painting.

And I can honestly say that this was not only one of the most difficult (and most fun) shows to whittle down to a select few prizewinners, but also one which truly puts together a remarkable sampling of the evolving capacity of the artistic mind to educate, entertain, baffle, lead, record, interpret, upset, delight and make us proud to be part of the visual arts component of the human race. 

The exhibition also underscores a mostly overlooked fact in this age of post-modernism: the wondrous ability of the visual arts to be both beautiful and yet remain contemporary.

This show also surprised me by how far the artists went to explore contemporary issues of all flavors as they related to the focus of the subject matter (generally speaking... flowers) and driven by the gorgeous garden settings – in some cases by delighting the viewer with a fresh and delightful take on traditional subjects such as Toni Bragg's "Bulb of a Different Sort" which delivered the visual beauty of one of my all-time favorite things on this planet (garlic) and in others by cheering the gargantuan power of color married to enviable technical skill as in Kate Niner's "Pasta for Dinner" (which won the Best of Show)... memo to Kate: You need a website!

When you come and see this show, you will walk away (as with any group show) with a variety of thoughts all fighting to control your private reaction to it. You may have come with a pre-conceived idea of seeing "flower" art and trying to understand what people mean by adding that adjective in front of the word "art." 

But you will walk away also with multiple new reactions, hopefully including a realization that art, regardless of the label, should and must always stand as art, first and foremost. And you will also walk away with the refreshing and never-ending breath of fresh air that good art injects into our daily lives.

Come see this show and join me in applauding the always-evolving skill and intelligence of contemporary artists who wield brushes, pencils, charcoal sticks, palette knives, computers, metal, stone, found objects and ideas to punch the solar plexus of our minds with ideas and reactions.

 Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road
Alexandria, VA
April 29 - June 24, 2013

Reception: Sunday, May 5
1 - 3 p.m., Horticulture Center