Thursday, November 29, 2018

The 85th Annual Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature at Strathmore

The 85th Annual Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature, currently on exhibition at the gorgeous Strathmore Mansion in Rockille, and organized by The Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington, DC (MPSGS) through January 6, 2019 impressed three things upon me when I visited the show this past weekend:
  • There are a lot of paintings of cats and dogs in this show
  • The show has a lot of red dots and was packed the rainy, miserable, sleety day that I visited
  • This is the best art show that I've seen in 2018
For starters, this show is described as:
More than 700 mini-masterpieces travel from across the globe to be included in this prodigious juried exhibition. You’ll marvel at the ability of the artist to create a portrait, still life, or landscape the size of a postage stamp.
Creating miniature artwork is a genre of art which has always earned a lot of respect from me, and one in which I have dabbled myself. In fact, two or three decades ago I was part of one of these annual exhibitions organized by the venerable MPSGS!

As my family was with me, and as there are over 700 works of art to examine, I asked both my wife, who is not only a highly trained artist herself, but also a researcher in the field of arts integration into the classroom, and a published author in this seminal field, and my 9-year-old son, already a seasoned visitor of hundreds of art shows and dozens and dozens of art fairs, to help me. Over the years I have also learned how children's eyes often see art in ways in which adults do not.

This spectacular show was juried by the very skilled painter Chris Krupinski, one of the most talented watercolor painters alive on the planet, and one who's gonna forget more about watercolor than the rest of us will ever learn. 

Krupinski is a magician with a brush and her selection of award-winners for this show, for the first time that I can recall in any show that I've reviewed in the last 30 years, closely matched a lot of my top picks, although we differed in the Best in Show award, and a few others, as anyone would expect.  Over the last 2-3 decades I have juried, curated or organized over 200+ art shows around the DMV and the nation, so I feel pretty secure in going toe-to-toe with Chris, although I will admit that she's a much better painter that I could ever dream of being!

Oil Country by Dean Mitchell

Chris awarded the Edith Trifiletti Memorial Award - Judge's Choice - Best in Show to this watermedia painting by Florida artist Dean Mitchell.

The painting is brilliantly executed, with all the freshness and looseness that all painters are told to strive and aim for, and which seldom few truly achieve! 

One recommendation for Dean Mitchell: Lose the copyright symbol before the year - that symbol is not needed for visual arts copyrighting any longer.

Chris awarded the First Place John Thompson Memorial Awards for Portraiture to the below piece by British painter Michael Coe. It is this spectacular work that I would have (with some struggles to be highlighted later) awarded the Best in Show.
Girl With Gold Earrings
Michael Coe
This work is not only a flawlessly executed painting, and there are a few of us who still admire the technical skill required to deliver a gem such as this, but it is also a superb portrait in the way that it has acquired, and represented for the viewer, the psychological signature of the subject. Let's not skip any accolades, this is an artist with enviable skills and the inner "it" to capture a person's most intimate and revealing facade. And thus Mr. Coe earns my Best in Show Award.

Back to cats - as I noted earlier, there were an awful significant number of cat and dogs paintings. That fact struck me as somewhat sacchariny for an art show, but then, I realized that when one has a 700+ art show, it is just a matter of numbers, and that cats and dogs will make their appearance in numbers not seen around here since the last Artomatic.

And yet, this gorgeous painting by Akiko Watanabe stood out, in spite of its sucralose subject (I wonder how many ways to say sugary I can think of...), because it is an intelligent, well-composed... ah... magnificent painting.

Curious Rusty
Akiko Watanabe
The judge awarded it the 85th Anniversary Award, one of the top three prizes in the competition. It was one of my favorites as well, but I have some that I ranked a little higher - no slight to the enviable painting skills of Ms. Watanabe - I also really liked her other two entries in the show even more than the kitty painting!

Bernese Mountain Dog
Vivian Matsick
While we're on the sneezy and itchy subject of cats and dogs, there is actually a Best in Dogs award in this show (I kid thee not), which probably upsets cat people, as there's no Best in Cats Award that I found. 

Since I'm allergic to both, I'm neutral on the subject.

The award which is titled the Diane L. Templar Memorial Award for Best in Dogs went to Vivian Matsick of her impressive portrait of a Bernese mountain dog. Ms. Matsick is also a very good painter and a very well-executed painting.

I must mention that this painting was also in my son's list of his top selections, and Anderson really, really liked it! 

With over 700 pieces in the show, there are a lot of awards, all well-earned and highly deserved, and there is a Richard J. Palco Memorial Award for Best in Animals, where Krupinski and I agreed on the winner again.

Racing the Waves
Judy Lalingo
Ms. Lalingo's heroic portrait of the two muscular horses is somewhat distracted by the stylized waves, as the rhythm of the waves seems to mimic the surface tension of the horses' muscles. But I am being pedantic here... this is yet another master at work with yet a different, but just as enviable set of technical skills and a well-trained eye for what makes a painting stand out by intelligent use of light and dark - well done!

There's One in Every Family
Judy Schrader
There are five awards in the "Oil Awards" category, and the juror and I agreed on four of the five awards, although I struggled (as am sure that she did) between three of them, all equally superior.

But I think that my top award would go to There's One in Every Family by Judy Schrader... or was it Old House in Rome by Lena Leitzke?

Old House in Rome
Lena Leitzke
There are five "Watermedia Awards" in the show, and the juror and I agreed on
four of them. 

Krupinski gave the first award to Denise Horne-Kaplan's exquisite painting of three popping zebras titled Three's Company, and that little gem was also in my short list for Best in Show. It is a very striking painting.

And yet Elaine Nunnally's King Street, 9 p.m., also tugged at me mightily.

In fact all three of Nunnally's paintings in this show could have won awards as far as my highly educated and opinionated eye could discern.

There were also five drawing awards, and they were all excellent choices. 

I once read that I am the best drawing artist alive on the Earth (I wrote it, then I read it). And as such, this is my category to huff and puff about, and these artists are all masters of this most essential of foundational skills. Not included in this set of awards, but a drawing nonetheless, was the winner of the Margaret Hicks Memorial Award for Best New Artist, which went to Sue deLearie Adair.

The Sunbathers
Sue deLearie Adair
I was also intrigued and fascinated... almost hypnotized by Mary Serfass' entries, each one more obsessive/compulsive than the previous one; there are all perfect examples of an artist defining a niche for herself that (frankly) I've never seen before, and coming from one of the planet's most experienced art peepers (me), that is a singularly unique compliment. When you go to the show, do not skip them, and I dare you to just glance - you can't! You will be magnetized to them...

On to the five pastel awards: we concurred on three of the five awards, and the awarded pieces by Helen Mathyssen-Dobbins (First Place), Leland Williams (Second Place), and Jan Vermilya (Honorable Mention) all could have been first prize winners, and I suspect that the judge also struggled with these great pastels.

I was pleasantly surprised to find small sculptures in this miniature show, although nowhere near in the numbers for two-dimensional work - of course. The Col. Archibald King Memorial Awards for Sculpture's top prize went to Joy Kroeger Beckner's playful sculpture of a dog... cough, cough.

A Good Life (Wire 12/50)
Joy Kroeger Beckner

I am not really sure what the next media was, but there are also five awards for Ivory/Ivorine, and the winners of the Levantia White Boardman Memorial Awards for Ivory/Ivorine were all exceptional choices.  
Gray Tree Frog 
Linda Lawler

My choice for first prize in this category would have been Gray Tree Frog by Linda Lawler. Since this was Anderson's choice as well, we win 2-1!

I must admit that Grandpa's Paints by Jeanie Gordon, and No Fly Zone by Lynn Wade also tugged at me and are outstanding paintings.

In fact, between all these wizards of this media, I had to research it, and quickly discovered that it's just the substrate for the painting - basically a painting executed on ivory or its man-made replacement, Ivorine. 

The John Thompson Memorial Awards for Portraiture were easily won by Girl With Gold Earrings by Michael Coe, who I thought should have won Best in Show. This was a tough competition, as there were a lot of portraits (not as many as cats and dogs).  Innocence by June Holloway is a brilliant portrait of an adorable little girl, and was in both my wife and my list.

There were also a lot of still life paintings and the genre had its own category, and my top choice was Apples for Sale by Elaine Hahn. I've followed and admired this artist's works for over three decades and she just keeps on getting better and better!

Apples for Sale
Elaine Hahn
There are separate awards for international artists, and they rocked this show! Let me tell you: I do not think that anyone on this planet can paint antique show cars any better than Joyce Rowsell! This lady can handle a brush to deliver some car smell in these little beauties - every single one of her entries is a prizewinner!

The Picnic at the Show
Joyce Rowsell
And Gini Harris and Hanna Woodring are also masters of the brush, my highest possible accolade to a painter! I also loved the blue in the gate of Chrysoula ArgyrosOld Blue Gate - another excellent painting.

Late Afternoon of Long Shadows
Gini Harris
Ginger's Ginger Jar
Hanna Woodring
There were also a category for animals, and we've spent words discussing cats and dogs... there were also multiple horses, and a suspicious number of pink flamingos. However, according to my son the best in this category was Carol McCleesFox in Profile - more on this painting in a few paragraphs. As noted earlier, Judy Lalingo's athletic horses did it for me.

Since this was a team effort, let me document that my wife's favorites also included Meditation Pond by New Jersey artist Linda Rossin and Assateague Island by Pennsylvania's Judy Schrader - both excellent picks! She also quite admired June Holloway's Innocence, which was also a prizewinner (Second Place in Portraiture).
Fox in Profile
Carol McClees

In addition to the mentions discussed earlier, the littlest Campello selected I'm "Nut" Fat by Celyne Brassard as his Best in Show winner (aligning with the judge's selection of this work as Best in Realism awardee) - but split that top prize with Carol McClees' previously discussed Fox in Profile! The first choice is indeed a wonderful painting, but I quite liked her Influenced by Mary Pratt a little better.

Jennifer Rutherford's Field with Trees After Storm was selected by Anderson as his First Place winner, and Still Waters by Barbara Stanton as his Second Place choice and Stonehenge by Elizabeth Stechter as his Third Place award winner.  

Marshes and Clouds
Leland Williams
He gave Honorable Mentions to The Artist's Sister by John Brennan, Sir Floyd by Lauren Carlo, Friends by Raymonde DeBruyne Chavoor, Long Shadows by Marilyn L. Milici, Flying by Claire Mitchell, and two of James Rogowski's entries. Also to Falls Church artist Nancy Garcia for Lake Powell Sparkles. 

I had a lot of other faves in this show: I quite liked Leland Williams' Marshes and Clouds, a pastel which won the Second Prize in that category, Bringing Spring Indoors by Hanna Woodring (who is a remarkable trompe l'oeil painter), all of Lynn Wade's entries, also Karin E. Snoots works, Rachelle Siegrist's watermedias, Melissa Miller Nece colored pencils, Brenda Morgan's oils, Helen Mathyssen-Dobbins' pastels, and Luann Houser (whose A Lady and Her Gentleman won second prize in oils).

Also standing out above the masses were the three entries by Oklahoma artist Eric Matthew Gonzalez, and Ohio's Jeanie Gordon's Homegrown was the most painterly of all the entries - I cannot even imagine the skill required to be "painterly" and "brushy" at this size! Her Homegrown oil on Ivorine was all of that and more! Add to my list New Jersey artist Eva Marie Fitzsimmons - all three of her Acrylic on panel paintings were excellent and the best deal in the show as far as price was concerned.

Of interest (to me anyway) my son and I agreed on a dozen artists or so, including Celyne Brassard, John Brennan and Lauren Carlo.

To close this review and discussion, let me circle back to the beginning: this is the best art show that I've seen in the region this year, and a gigantic bow of thanks is owed to the juror, Chris Krupinski for a most admirable job in what most have been a really, really... really hard jury task!

You can see all the award winners here.

The Mansion at Strathmore is located at 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852, 301-581-5109
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