Works by area artists juried into Delta Exhibition

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published August 2, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Seven artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area have works in the 57th annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock. Shown here at the opening reception are, front row, from left, Katherine A. Strause, who lives in Little Rock but is a native of Conway; and Dennis R. McCann of Maumelle. In the back row are Terry Wright, who lives in Little Rock but works at the University of Central Arkansas; Neal K. Harrington and David Mudrinich, both of Russellville; Jason B. McCann of Maumelle; and Melissa Cowper-Smith of Morrilton.

Artwork by seven artists with ties to the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area has been selected for the 57th annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

The artists are among 68 artists from an eight-state area whose works were selected for the exhibit by guest juror George Dombek of Fayetteville, an internationally known watercolorist.

The local artists are Melissa Cowper-Smith of Morrilton; Neal K. Harrington and David Mudrinich, both of Russellville; Dennis R. McCann and Jason B. McCann, both of Maumelle; Katherine A. Strause, who lives in Little Rock but is a native of Conway; and Terry Wright, who lives in Little Rock but works at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Harrington won a Delta Award and a Contemporaries Honorable Mention award in the show and is featured on the cover of today’s River Valley & Ozark Edition.

Following is a look at the other local artists whose works are featured in the annual juried show.

Melissa Cowper-Smith

This is the first time Melissa Cowper-Smith has had her work accepted into the Delta Exhibition.

“I entered last year and was rejected,” said Cowper-Smith, who was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has worked in New York City. “Last year my best work was a video titled Garden Farm. Maybe video work is more difficult to show in a big group like this,” she said.

“It was fun seeing some familiar faces and feeling the excitement,” she said of the artists’ reception on July 9. “It’s nice to know there are so many artists and art enthusiasts in the area.

“Moving here from New York City wasn’t about finding an art community, but I am grateful for the one I have found. I feel supported in Arkansas in a way I didn’t previously.”

Cowper-Smith’s piece in this year’s show is a digital print on homemade cotton paper titled Urban Farming.

“Urban Farming is a digital print that blends imagery originating in painting and photography,” the artist said. “The image represents a kitchen (Little Rock Urban Farming) with a stove, metal counter, doorway to a garden, wood ceiling and chandeliers. The kitchen is a place of transformation and intimacy where we connect to the productivity of the garden.”

The work “expresses our contemporary environmental anxiety — we are trying to hold onto remembered landscapes even as they vanish,” she said, noting that she “blends transitional points of view, illustrating how memories are composites of many experiences with no single perspective.”

She said she uses “dripping paint marks to represent time passing and the obscurity of moments past.”

She said that “by blending many forms of representation in a digital print, or digital video,” she “juxtaposes media originating in multiple eras, held together in a single work.”

Cowper-Smith holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at Hunter College in New York City.

In 2010, she moved to central Arkansas to continue her art practice and to build an eco-farm, Wildland Gardens near Morrilton. In 2013, she founded an all-female collective, The Show & Tell Art Collective, based in Arkansas.

She has exhibited in several New York City galleries and in other galleries and venues nationally. Her outdoor public works have been exhibited through Art-Bridge and the Billboard Art Project.

She is currently making art focused on agricultural landscapes, teaching art at Hendrix College and at the University of Central Arkansas, and developing farm shares to feed local families through Wildland Gardens.

Dennis R. McCann

“This is my 13th year to have my work accepted into this exhibit, and I am, once again, honored to be included,” Dennis R. McCann said.

“I am also pleased that my son, Jason, had his work accepted, making this our fifth year to be in the exhibit together.”

Dennis said the subjects of his piece in the show are a train and depot that are enhanced by sunlight and shadows. He calls the pastel on paper The Bayline 500 at the Depot.

“This is representative of all of my work,” he said. “Using this subject matter is a new twist to my work, and I have completed several drawings in this series.

“As in many of my works, this is a commonplace subject that is retrospective of earlier times and familiar to many people. My focus remains an interest in how light embellishes people, places and things.

“Many of my recent works have been of sidewalk scenes, people, post-war houses and inanimate objects such as bicycles, trains, automobiles and draped lawn chairs. Old photographs and my own photography have provided many compositions that often suggest a narrative that may be different to each viewer.”

Dennis holds 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 retired from the Little Rock Fire Department.

Jason B. McCann

Jason B. McCann has a drawing in this year’s Delta Exhibition. He calls the piece Rooftop Mushrooms.

“It’s a big deal to get into this show,” he said. “I never take it for granted that I am going to get in. If I do, it’ll go away.

“I went for seven or eight years and did not get in the show, and then I’ve gotten in for the last five of six years. But I’m always surprised that I got in.”

Jason said this is the first time he has had a drawing accepted for the show.

“It’s a combination of buildings and pieces of buildings that I pieced together into one scene. I used old-fashioned Photoshop to piece it together,” he said.

“It’s a mixed-media piece. I used gesso, pastel and charcoal,” he said, adding that he submitted two other pieces for the show: another drawing and an oil painting. Artists may submit up to three pieces for judging.

“One thing that’s really neat this year is four of my students have work in the Young Arkansas Artists exhibition, which is hanging in the next gallery,” he said July 9 during the artists’ reception for the Delta Exhibition. The YAA exhibit closes today.

Jason teaches art at Little Rock Central High School, where he has been for the last 12 years.

He has a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree in fine arts with an emphasis in painting and drawing from UALR.

David Mudrinich

“I find it exciting and an honor to be included in the annual Delta Exhibition,” said David Mudrinich, a professor of art at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

“It is invigorating to see the diversity of artwork and to talk with the various artists.”

Mudrinich said his work Plummerville Apiary is a pastel drawing on light-gray paper.

“The farm next to where I live has a bee yard, making the hives a regular aspect of my daily environment. I also have a large garden, so I recognize the benefit that bees provide through pollination,” he said.

“As an artist, I am intrigued by the visual rhythm created as the beehives are arranged over the landscape. There is also repetition of the stacking of the boxes. At a distance, they appear to be quiet and almost tombstonelike in appearance. When you get closer, you realize they are a living colony teeming with activity,” Mudrinich said.

“Many of the apiaries I come across are located at an abandoned site that was once a home, a school or mine,” he said. “They seem to symbolize a regeneration of purpose in what was once an active place. The drawing, Plummerville Apiary, was motivated by an aging homestead with aging hives.

“It seems to make a statement about measuring time, resembling, in my mind, Stonehenge or some sort of large sundial structure.”

Mudrinich is preparing for two solo exhibits this fall — one in September at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, and another in October at the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado.

Mudrinich has been on the faculty at Arkansas Tech for 17 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in art education from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of Georgia.

Katherine A. Strause

“I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Delta Exhibition again this year,” said Katherine A. Strause, who lives in Little Rock but grew up in Conway.

“My work Delta Couple: After Dorothea Lange is about the Arkansas Delta and the couples that farmed that area after the Great Depression as part of the federal Resettlement Administration’s group farming projects,” Strause said.

She said the projects in Arkansas included Plum Bayou, Dyess and Lake Dick at Altheimer.

“Johnny Cash’s family lived in one of these communities at Dyess,” she said. “These communities weren’t always on good land, and that was the problem.

“The house in the background (of Delta Couple: After Dorothea Lange) with the turned soil is from a Dorothea Lange photograph that is quite famous and concerns the use of tractors or equipment to turn the soil and how that changed farming. The couple is a found photograph. This reminded me of the people that were resettled to places in the state, given land that was not usually that great. It was part of the New Deal.”

Strause often uses found photographs as the source material for her paintings.

Born in Independence, Missouri, Strause 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. She exhibits nationally and has work in many public and private collections.

Strause has been at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia for eight years and is chairwoman of the art department and an associate professor of art.

Strause is the daughter of Julia E. Strause of Conway and the late Robert Strause. Her brother, Craig Strause, and his family also live in Conway.

Terry Wright

“This is the first time I have been accepted into the Delta Exhibition,” said Terry Wright of Little Rock, who is the dean of the University of Central Arkansas College of Fine Arts and Communication. His piece in the show is a digital image on canvas titled Trapeze Anxiety.

“I have seen many previous Delta shows, and I have always hoped to be selected for one — both as a personal/professional goal and as an artist who works completely in the digital medium,” he said. “Not all juried regional exhibitions accept digital creations.

“My work is sometimes mistaken as graphically processed photography but is instead completely created using a computer.”

Wright said he initially wanted to be a painter “but could not sufficiently control or manipulate conventional tools” to his satisfaction.

“So, I began to write and publish poetry — content to create my images using language,” he said. “In 1998, I realized I could use a computer to ‘paint’ original works of art that pleased me.”

Wright has taught at UCA since 1985 in both the department of English and the department of writing, where he is a writing professor.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and theater from Morningside College, a Master of Arts degree in English and American Literature from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Bowling Green State University.

Wright’s visual artwork has been exhibited both nationally, including at the Museum of Computer Art in New York, and locally in Small Works on Paper exhibitions sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council. His work has also been featured in numerous print and online art/literary journals. Furthermore, his work has been featured on many book and compact disc covers, including one for the Official Grateful Dead Bootleg Series.

Wright is also a writer who received an Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the Arkansas Arts Council in 2002. His most recent poetry chapbook is Fractal Cut-Ups from Kattywompas Press in Boston.

The 57th annual Delta Exhibition will remain on view in the Jeannette Edris Rockefeller and Townsend Wolfe galleries at the Arkansas Arts Center through Sept. 20. There is no admission charge.

The Arkansas Arts Center is at Ninth and Commerce streets in Little Rock. 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 arkansasartscenter.org.