Area artists display work in toys exhibit

Carol Rolf Originally Published December 23, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 21, 2012 at 1:59 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Rachel Trusty, originally from Russellville, has an installation called The Flock in the Toys Designed by Artists show at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Toys can be seen everywhere this holiday season — even in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery of the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock. There, visitors will find 59 pieces of art in the 38th Toys Designed by Artists exhibition, which will remain on display through Jan. 13.

Two artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition’s coverage area are among the featured artists — Conway resident James Volkert and Russellville native Rachel Trusty, who now lives in Little Rock.

One hundred artists submitted 148 pieces for the show, which was juried by Tim Tate of Washington, D.C., co-founder of the Washington Glass School, whose work is featured in the permanent collections of several art museums, including the Arkansas Arts Center.

The “toys” featured in this exhibit may not be exactly like the “toys” that will be gifted during the holiday season, but the exhibit includes original and innovative toy designs “and demonstrates the superb craftsmanship by their makers,” said Brian Lang, chief curator and curator of contemporary craft at the Arts Center. “This particular exhibit is great for families, especially during this holiday season, when children and young adults are on holiday break.”

This is the third time Volkert has had a piece of his artwork chosen for the toys exhibition.

“You know what they say about the third time,” he said with a smile.

A native of Minnesota, Volkert is a principal with Exhibition Associates, a museum exhibition development and facility-planning firm. He worked for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., for 19 years prior to moving to Conway in 2005.

Volkert titles his work Bellows Erector #2. It features a small original oil painting set in a three-dimensional bronze frame; a gear system raises the painting over the bronze framework by turning the crank. He said he created the frame using plastic, then shipped it to a company in Florida that placed it over a direct burner, “burning out the plastic and filling it with bronze.

“It’s a one-shot deal,” he said of the frame-making. “It’s a risk you take when you build something with plastic. Hopefully, it all works out.”

The oil painting is his rendition of part of a larger work, Stag at Sharkey’s by George Bellows, an American painter who died in 1925. Bellows’ 1909 painting is part of the permanent collection at The Cleveland Museum of Art.

“This painting showed the gritty side of industrialism,” Volkert said.

It depicts a boxing scene in New York City.

“Boxing was outlawed in New York City,” Volkert said. “It was a backroom activity at that time.”

Volkert said Bellows Erector #2 is part of a series of three pieces that feature work by Bellows. “I’m working on the third piece now,” Volkert said.

“I always start with a painting that is interesting,” Volkert said as he described how he creates his pieces of art. “Based on my museum background, I always ask myself, ‘What can the painting do?’ In this case, you can raise the painting in a mechanical, industrial way. Anyone looking at it will know how it works; there’s nothing mysterious about turning the crank.”

Most recently, Volkert has been consulting with the Children’s Museum of Jordan in Amman, Jordan. He also has work in the 2013 Collectors Choice exhibit at the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, Calif., which will open in January.

Volkert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, Calif. He and his wife, Barbara Satterfield, retired director of the Baum Gallery of Fine Art at the University of Central Arkansas, maintain separate art studios in their Conway home; Satterfield is a potter.

This is Trusty’s first time to have her artwork selected for the Toys Designed by Artists exhibit.

“I’m really excited about it,” she said with a smile. “I looked online at previous works in the show and thought my birds might fit in well.”

Her “birds” are part of the installation she calls The Flock, which was part of her master’s-degree work at the Art Institute of Boston, where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art in 2011. She created the little figures, using linen for their bodies, which are stuffed with fiberfill, and wire for their appendages. She used a Sharpie to create their facial expressions.

The theme for her work in The Flock is “the common use of metamorphosis in fairy tales.”

“Often children morph to and from animal form as a punishment” in fairy tales, she said, adding that the forms in her work are “half bird/half child.”

She compares the bird babies to “a Swan Lake type of situation or a Beauty and the Beast. You see them just before they come to that pivotal situation, just before all the bells and whistles and lights go on, or off,” she said. “It’s reward or punishment.”

Trusty said the bird babies are “intended to arouse both sympathy and disgust from the viewer.”

Trusty is the daughter of Lola Trusty Roberts and the granddaughter of Willeen Trusty, both of Russellville. She is a 2002 graduate of Russellville High School and a 2006 graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education. She teaches high school ceramics at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. She previously taught at Benton High School, Arkansas Tech University, UCA, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, Perryville High School and Alma Middle School.

For more information on the 38th Toys Designed by Artists exhibition, call (501) 372-4000 or visit

The Arkansas Arts Center is at Ninth and Commerce streets in Lttle Rock. There is no admission charge.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The gallery is closed Mondays and major holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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