Works by area artists selected for 55th annual Delta Exhibition

Carol Rolf Originally Published January 27, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 25, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition’s coverage area with works in the Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock include, from the left, Jason McCann of Maumelle; Katherine Strause of Little Rock, formerly of Conway; Neal Harrington of Russellville; and Dennis McCann of Maumelle. The exhibit will remain on display through March 10.

LITTLE ROCK — Works by four artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition’s coverage area have been selected for the 55th annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

All four artists — Neal Harrington of Russellville; Dennis McCann and his son, Jason McCann, both of Maumelle; and Katherine Strause of Little Rock, formerly of Conway — have been included in past Delta exhibits, but this year was especially good for Harrington. His 23-by-23-inch woodcut and ink wash Snake Shaker’s Shack received one of two Delta awards and earned him $750.

“I have three entries in the show,” Harrington said prior to the Jan. 18 artists’ reception where the awards were announced by the show’s juror, Monica Bowman, owner of The Butcher’s Daughter contemporary art gallery in Detroit. “I feel very fortunate. It was kind of a shock to see that all of my entries were chosen. I thought it must have been a mistake.”

Harrington, associate professor of art at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and director of the Norman Hall Gallery at the school, said he always enters as many works as are permitted. “That gives me my best shot,” he said with a smile.

After learning of the award, Harrington quipped: “It pays to be tenacious.”

Harrington’s other two works are very large woodcuts — The Abduction of Europa and Daphne’s Escape, both measuring 82-by-48 inches. They both depict mythological scenes, while the Snake Shaker’s Shack depicts serpents and healers, which, the artist said, might be found in the Delta.

In announcing the awards, Bowman commended Harrington for his multiple entries.

“It’s risky,” she said of his chosen medium. “Who does woodcuts any more? Mr. Harrington does.

“In the Snake Shaker’s Shack, you ask yourself, ‘What the heck’s going on?’ It captures my imagination. It takes me inside a place I’d never gone. With the use of a gauche (wash), it’s really lovely.”

Bowman judged 800 submissions by 345 artists, choosing just 45 pieces for the show, which, she said, depict several themes — family, legacy, nostalgia, narrative explorations that include the passage of time, and myth versus reality. She encouraged the artists to continue their work, telling them, “Without risk, without failures, we are really stagnant.

“Learn from your mistakes. Create new ideas. Make work that hasn’t been seen or considered.”

A native of South Dakota, Harrington holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and a master’s degree in printmaking from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan.

He and his wife, Tammy, moved to Russellville in 2001 when he accepted a position at Arkansas Tech. Tammy is also an artist.

Dennis McCann’s piece in the show, Open, has the same feel as many of his earlier works, evoking memories of the past, but this one depicts several figures, an element that until recently has been void in his work.

Open, a 36-by-60-inch oil on canvas, shows a family standing in front of an open storefront on Beale Street in Memphis.

“It’s a little different than what I usually do,” he said. “My earlier works featured large lawn chairs with drapes over them. My newer works actually have people in them.

“All of my stuff has something to do with everyday life. I use bright colors and am interested in light and shadows.

“I really didn’t expect it to get it. This show is usually about the more contemporary works. I think I’m more traditional, more of a realist than most of the artists here. But I think it’s the way I treat my paintings that gets me into the shows. My son, Jason, tells me it’s because of the composition of the works.”

Dennis McCann grew up in the Levy area of North Little Rock. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is a captain with the Little Rock Fire Department, with more than 30 years of service, the last several years spent in fire prevention and community outreach. He plans to retire in April 2014.

Jason McCann was born in North Little Rock. He has two pieces of art included in this year’s exhibit — Waterpark #1 and Red Escape, both oils on canvas.

“This is the first time for me to get two pieces into this exhibit,” he said, smiling. “It’s a nice deal.”

Both of the pieces are large and more abstract than realistic.

Red is the primary color in both.

Waterpark #1 measures 36-by-60 inches and Red Escape, which is an abstract of a fire escape, measures 36-by-48 inches.

Jason and his father have been in several Delta exhibits together, and some years, just one of them gets in. They share a studio space, and both are represented in a new gallery in Little Rock, Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

Jason McCann has a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree in fine arts with emphasis in painting and drawing from UALR. He teaches art at Little Rock Central High School.

Katherine Strause titles her work Cut and Tie. It is an oil on canvas and measures 36-by-48 inches.

“This is the fourth time that I have had work accepted to the Delta Exhibition,” she said. “It is always an honor to be included in this prestigious exhibition.

“The painting is about cutting ties and binding new ones or the contracts we make and the associations that we sever when we marry.

“The younger girl in the lower right is questioning the logic [of marriage], and I read her as someone skeptical of the whole arrangement. This painting was a response to my own marriage two years ago this month to my husband, David Jukes.”

Strause is chair of the art department at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, where she is also an associate professor of art. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual art from UALR and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

Strause is the daughter of

Julia E. Strause of Conway and the late Robert Strause. She graduated from St. Joseph High School in Conway in 1977.

The Delta Exhibition is open to all artists who live in or were born in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

This year’s show will remain on display through March 10 in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery of the Arkansas Arts Center, Ninth and Commerce streets in Little 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.

For more information, call (501) 372-4000 or visit www.arkarts.com.

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