SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI – Looking to get a bit of a summary? If so, the South County Art Association is the place to be, as they host their latest open-juried all-media show, “Driven To Abstraction,” which premiered last Thursday and will run until to June 12.
The exhibition features 61 pieces by members and non-members in a variety of different media that stylistically fall within the ‘abstract’ genre.
“Each year we hold two all-media exhibitions, which means that all media (such as) painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography or whatever is accepted in the exhibition for submission. “said exhibits director Jason Fong. “So we had 158 entries and 61 were selected for the show.”
The show was judged by nationally exhibited contemporary artist and longtime SCAA member Theresa Girard, who came up with the idea for the show according to Executive Director Kathleen Carland.
“(In the fall) she donated a large room to the association that we could raffle off to make money, and we did, and in the process she said that ‘she would be happy to serve on the jury of an abstract exhibition for us and donate the prizes,’ Carland said. “Well, that was quite an offer and an offer that we would never refuse, so we created the time and the place for it – on his schedule, which we were able to do.”
As for the name, Carland said it came to him one day.
“It was kind of a post-COVID sensitivity to the idea that this is a good place to be driven – so in my mind that encompasses both the pressure that people have been under and the freedom that you can find in abstract art,” said Carland. “So it was exciting for us to do that.”
“When I walked into the gallery, I was amazed at the amount of creative work that was delivered to SCAA,” Girard wrote in his juror’s statement. “It is the task of the jurors to weed out 60% of submissions for this type of spectacle in one day…Non-objective abstract art has a responsibility to portray a ‘simple expression of a complex thought.’ In this exhibition, I was looking for these visual relationships.I looked for a connection to some of the formal underpinnings of color, value, and composition, resulting in a visually satisfying work of art in any medium.
Although abstract works and exhibitions have taken place at the SCAA in the past, Fong said it was not as common as other styles for the gallery. However, shows like this allow the style to really shine and allow for more experimentation among the performers.
“Usually our themes are a bit more specific, but their idea tends to be more about an idea or something,” Fong said. “Doing an all-abstract show allowed us to focus on the abstract work that isn’t represented, and I think we have a lot of artists working in the kingdom and it was a really good opportunity, and they certainly responded with a tremendous amount of submissions – and very high quality work I would say. In fact, it was a very tough show for the judging panel because there was so much great work.
For Fong, the pieces of the style do not reflect anything other than the work itself.
“It allows the artist to focus more on art for art’s sake, which basically means it’s not necessarily expressing a representation of the real world – we’re not looking at still lifes or landscapes or paintings. seascapes or anything like that – it’s more about celebrating the art of looking as art,” Fong said. “Art is the object itself. to capture a feeling or emotion that you might not be able to express through some kind of representational image.It’s about color and form and how art activates space.
For Carland, it is also the freedom of expression allowed in the style, which encourages artists to be more daring.
“I could see a lot of freedom in this show,” Carland said. “I felt like people were really stretching and expressing themselves a lot…I saw more boldness in people’s work than before, and I think the abstract theme lends itself to that, so it’s appreciated. We haven’t done a lot of abstract exhibitions and maybe that encourages us to think about doing more in the future. It is an art form that anyone can engage in; it doesn’t have to be their primary style. You can be a figurative artist and still try to do something abstractly, so that gives artists a lot of freedom, and I think the artists really embrace that, and there’s a lot of really striking work in the show. People have really reacted to it, we have already sold three pieces since (last) Thursday.
The show had a soft opening last Thursday, with around 25 people invited to the gallery – mostly the participating artists – to meet and hear from Girard as she announced the awards, with Sharlene Hyland’s “Untitled Acrylic” taking top honors, followed by the welded scrap and gold leaf sculpture “Surf” by Laura White Carpenter in second and the acrylic painting “Blue Melody” by Ann O’Brien finishing third. Honorable mentions were given to oil painting and cold wax “Energy surge” by Diane Brown, photography “Shadows #5” by Lenny Rumpler, oil painting and cold wax “letting go” by Diana Sartor and mixed works “Down the road” by Harry Buffum and “Spring” by Linda Peduzzi.
Additionally, Girard created her own award for the show, which she titled the Bravery Award, and presented it to Janet McCraw for her acrylic collage titled “Toy box”.
“I believe there is a certain obsession in developing an exciting piece,” Girard wrote. “The journey of the elements and the variety of this piece created a playful visual language. The fragments and layers felt experimental and fresh. It is a courageous and exciting work that invites the viewer to stay for a while.
In addition to cash prizes awarded to other winners, McCraw received an original acrylic artwork by Girard, titled “Inner Harbor”.
“A lot of it was done because of the work she wanted to put into it,” Fong said. “In fact, she was extremely generous. She donated the prize money, and in fact, she added another prize that we didn’t originally have, which she called the bravery and experimentation prize, which, I think, says a bit more about what she thinks about it, in terms of breaking boundaries and getting out of your comfort zone and just experimenting with artistic media, whatever that is for a individual artist.
‘Driven To Abstraction’ is on display at SCAA’s Helme House Gallery in the heart of Kingston until June 12 during gallery hours of 1-5pm Wednesday-Sunday. It will also be open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the Spring Pottery & Art Sale, which will be held behind the gallery building at 2587 Kingstown Road.
For more information, visit their website, southcountyart.org.