Several artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area are among the chosen few selected for the 56th annual Delta Exhibition on display at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.
Jessica Camp of Conway, Neal Harrington of Russellville, Deborah Kuster of Conway, Dennis McCann of Maumelle and Katherine Strause of Little Rock, formerly of Conway, are among 65 artists from Arkansas and the surrounding area that were selected to show their works in this year’s exhibit.
Camp won an honorable mention for her artwork and is featured on the cover of today’s edition.
“The most soulful and honest works of art usually begin with a local footprint, a tether connecting many parts to one heat source, one place, in order to explore a broader panoply of ideas,” said guest juror Brian Rutenberg, who was born in South Carolina and now lives and works as an artist in New York City. “With over 1,300 images from 468 artists, this was certainly the most challenging exhibition I’ve juried.”
Following is a brief look at the local artists:
Neal Harrington is an associate professor of art at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and director of the Norman Hall Gallery at the school.
He has had work selected for previous Delta exhibitions, including three in 2013, with one of them winning a Delta Award. But, he said, he never takes it for granted that his work will be chosen.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be included for the second year in a row to the most prestigious juried competitive show in the state,” Harrington said. “There were over 1,000 works submitted with only 65 making the cut.
“I am certainly happy to be included in the 56th annual Delta. It is a great show.”
The title of his work in the show is Delta Oracle, a woodcut with India-ink washes on paper. Harrington said the piece depicts a whiskey still exploding with a mysterious lady springing out like the Oracle of Delphi.
In an artist’s statement, Harrington said, “Printmaking — in particular, relief — is my primary means of exploration in the visual arts. The content of my work fuses the rich tradition of Greek/Roman mythologies with an American-roots music perspective.
“These visual ballads sing out in their symbolism, narrative and energetic atmospheres,” he said. “My work balances a multifaceted investigation of independence and mystical narratives.”
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, Kansas. He and his wife, Tammy, moved to Russellville in 2001 when he accepted a position at Tech. Tammy is also an artist.
Deborah Kuster is an associate professor of art and teaches art education and fibers classes at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
This marks the third time her work has been chosen for the Delta Exhibition. She first entered the competition in 2008 and received a Delta Award.
Kuster’s entry this year is titled Mottled Memories.
“I completed it in 2012,” she said. “It is a triptych (which means it includes three panels) measuring 22 by 49 inches total.
“As with all of my artwork, this is created with my personally handwoven fabric,” she said. “Much of the handwoven fibers used in this weaving I also personally spun. I then cut and piece my handwoven fabric and machine quilt [the piece].
“I created this work in memory of my beloved dog, Jake, who died in November of 2010,” Kuster said. “The fabric is woven in mottled grays, whites and browns as was Jake’s coloring. Each panel resembles a certain part of Jake’s markings — his face, the spot on his lower back and his shoulders. As you look closer, you will find images of Jake, his ball and close-ups of his coat. And finally, I added multiple beads and buttons and felted in Jake’s hair to give additional texture and complexity.
“Obviously, this holds special meaning for me, and that just added to my gratification of being selected for the Delta Exhibition.”
Kuster holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a doctorate in art education from the University of North Texas in Denton. Her master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies is from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Dennis McCann, who is a firefighter with the Little Rock Fire Department, has had work selected for the Delta Exhibition many times over the past several years.
He is known for paintings that evoke his memories of growing up in the Levy district of North Little Rock and for works of lawn chairs with drapes over them.
Last year’s entry in the Delta depicted several figures. This year he has carried that theme a step further by including two large figures in a painting he calls Waiting at the Porch.
“For the last couple of years, I have been creating drawings and paintings of figurative images,” McCann said. “Although these are somewhat different than my previous work, they still include architecture and emphasis on light and dark contrast.
“Waiting at the Porch is an oil painting based on a turn-of-the-century photo that was given to me by my daughter-in-law,” he said. “The painting depicts an elderly couple simply waiting at the porch. Although I never met this couple, I wanted to portray them as hardworking country folks from the Ozarks of Arkansas. The cabin-style porch and the work clothing illustrate the simple life of people during the late 1800s.
“To be accepted in the Delta Exhibition is always humbling, due to the scope, quality and competitive level of the entries,” McCann said. “I have been fortunate enough to have been selected for this show many times. It continues to motivate and encourage me.”
McCann holds bachelor and master’s degrees in art and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He often paints with his son, Jason, who also lives in Maumelle. Dennis and Jason will have a two-man show at The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff. The show opens Sept. 11 and will be on display for three months.
Katherine Strause is chair of the art department and associate professor of painting at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
Strause, the daughter of Julia E. Strause of Conway and the late Robert Strause, graduated from St. Joseph High School in Conway in 1977. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual art from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Strause’s work has been included in several Delta exhibits at the Arts Center.
“Oh, gosh. It’s the most thrilling thing to be accepted,” Strause said when asked about being included in the show for several years now.
“It’s the one regional exhibition that all fellow artists want to be accepted in, certainly the most fun to get the email that you’ve been accepted,” she said.
“It also always reminds me of homecoming,” she said. “We all come together whether we got in or not and share pride in the high level of work and varied amount of talent in our region of the country.”
Strause said her painting Beauty is based on a very faded photograph of a woman from Piggott.
“That’s all that it says on the back of the 2 1/2- by 4-inch photo,” Strause said. “It’s a found photograph, and I’ve painted and drawn her several times. She depicts the isolation and exhaustion that domestic and farm workers endured. This was a later form of slavery that appeared after the emancipation in the form of tenant farming and house help.
“I also get the feeling that she is presented like property in this image. It would not have been her family taking this photograph, but her employer.
“In this painting, she’s based on all female saints and goddesses.”
Strause’s work can also be seen in a solo exhibition at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies’ Underground Gallery in Little Rock. Titled Home Demonstration Clubs or How Women Saved the South, the exhibit will remain on display through Sept 27.
This year’s Delta Exhibition will remain on display through Sept. 28 in the Townsend Wolf Gallery of the Arkansas Arts Center at 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. Sundays. The gallery is closed on Mondays and major holidays.
For more information, call (501) 372-4000 or visit www.arkarts.com.