Artists from local area selected for Small Works on Paper exhibit

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published January 3, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
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David Rackley’s Apothecary Seated, a silver gelatin photograph printed in black and white and painted with oils, received a purchase award in the 2016 Small Works on Paper touring exhibition that opens Tuesday in Batesville.

Four artists from the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area are in the limelight once again.

David Rackley and Rachel Trusty, both of Russellville, Jason McCann of Maumelle and Melissa Cowper-Smith of Morrilton are among the 37 artists chosen for the 2016 Small Works on Paper touring exhibition, sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council. Their works have been selected for numerous other exhibits during the last few years.

The exhibition will make its first appearance Tuesday through Jan. 29 at the Batesville Area Arts Council’s Gallery on Main at 226 E. Main St. in Batesville. An opening reception and gallery talk is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the gallery. The reception is free and open to the public.

Rackley and Trusty are among the 10 artists selected to receive purchase awards. They receive the cash amount equivalent to the value of their selected works. Funded by entry fees, the purchase award pieces become part of the exhibition’s permanent collection.

Works by Rackley and Trusty were seen recently in an exhibit Trusty curated, Delta des Refusés, which closed Oct. 19 at the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library System in North Little Rock. That exhibit featured works that were not in the 57th annual Delta Exhibition, which closed Sept. 20 at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Works by McCann and Cowper-Smith were seen recently in this year’s Delta Exhibition.

Following is a brief look at these local artists:

David Rackley

“I was last in the SWOP show in 2002, so I was naturally very excited to have two pieces accepted this year,” said Rackley, who is a photographer. “I love the concept of a traveling show exhibiting work in venues around the state giving more people the opportunity to see work that is being created.

“It is sometimes difficult to decide what work to submit to a show, so I just selected two pieces that I was particularly fond of,” he said.

“The Apothecary Seated, which won a purchase award, was inspired by Whistler’s Study in Black and Gray,” Rackley said. “The model for the piece was working on wardrobe and costumes for a production of Romeo and Juliet in which she also played the part of the apothecary.

“The piece Lavender and Red, like most of my work, has a narrative quality — the absence of a human figure being an important element in the image.”

Rackley said both pieces are silver gelatin photographs shot on black and white film, processed in a darkroom and then painted with oils.

Rackley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at Arizona State University and has traveled extensively, photographing in Mexico and Guatemala, as well as South America, Southeast Asia and Europe. He later received a master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina. His “camera of choice” is a large 4x5 view camera.

Rackley is a reading aide at Center Valley Elementary School in Russellville.

Rachel Trusty

“I have two works in the Small Works on Paper exhibit — Salten Sea and Homestead,” Trusty said. “The painting Homestead was awarded one of the purchase prizes.

“This will be my fourth year in Small Works on Paper,” she said.

The paintings are part of Trusty’s Loud White Space Series.

“These paintings explore negative space around an isolated figure or objects,” she said. “The backgrounds are white acrylic paint with graphite detail. I try to imply a larger space for figures and objects to interact with my added drawing.

“With Salten Sea, I created a horizon line and an ocean, and for Homestead, I also added a horizon line. The bulk of Homestead is abstracted vertical shading that suggests a large lonely landscape.”

Trusty is a 2002 graduate of Russellville High School. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education and from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2011 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art.

Her work can be seen on her website,

Jason McCann

“It’s always an honor to be in a show like this, especially when I get to hang beside other artists I respect,” McCann said. “I believe this is my third Small Works on Paper exhibit.

“As for the piece that was accepted, like many of the small pieces I do, they start out as examples for classes that I teach,” he said. “This one was done during a session I was teaching at Arkansas Governor’s School last summer on how to create abstraction in realistic imagery.

“I often try to do my work while my students are working,” he said. “It gives them an example of how a more experienced artist approaches an artwork, and sometimes I even pick up a few tips from them. It’s a win-win.”

McCann’s entry in the 2016 Small Works on Paper exhibit, Dueling Shadows, is a 17-by-23-inch soft pastel on paper.

McCann teaches art at Little Rock Central High School, where he has been an educator 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 emphasis in painting and drawing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Melissa Cowper-Smith

“This was the first time I have applied to be in the Small Works on Paper show,” Cowper-Smith said. “I am thrilled to have been selected.

“2015 was great year for me showing in Arkansas,” she said. “I had a solo show, Fleeting Gardens, at the Batesville Area Arts Council Gallery in March. In the past year my work was also selected for the Delta [Exhibition] and the Art of the South in Memphis.

“I hope to carry this momentum into 2016,” she said. “In addition to having a work in the Small Works on Paper show, my critique group, Culture Shock, will have a show at the Butler Center Concordia Gallery in Little Rock from April to August of 2016.”

Cowper-Smith said her entry in the Small Works on Paper exhibit, Fire Start, is printed on homegrown, harvested and hand-prepared Nankeen Cotton paper.

“I grew the cotton on my eco-farm, Wildland Gardens,” she said. “The image is printed digitally using HP Vivera pigment-based inks.

“The imagery in Fire Start originates in both painting and photography,” she said. “The print represents a forest edge and vast desert. In the forest. a small fire has started. The work comments on the monumental environmental changes caused by removing and burning trees. The loss of trees results in topsoil erosion, greater daily temperature changes and an increased likelihood of drought and flood.

“I seek to capture our environmental anxiety — the feeling of dynamic changes in the land and our memories of natural places,” she said.

Cowper-Smith was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has worked in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She completed her 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 her eco-farm near Morrilton. She is an adjunct art teacher at Hendrix College and at the University of Central Arkansas.

Kati Toivanen, professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, served as guest juror for the exhibition. She chose 40 works for the Small Works on Paper touring exhibition.

The exhibit will travel to nine more locations following the opening in Batesville. The scheduled stops include:

• Feb. 4-26, Hendrix College, Conway, with an opening reception set for 5-6 p.m. Feb. 4.

• March 4-30, Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, with an opening reception set for 2:30 p.m. March 9.

• April 1-30, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

• May 6-27, University of Arkansas Community College at Fort Smith.

• June 4-9, Searcy Art Gallery, Searcy.

• July 19-Aug. 27, Delta Cultural Center, Helena-West Helena.

• Sept. 1-29, Arts Center of the Grand Prairie, Stuttgart.

• Oct. 6-26, University of Arkansas at Monticello.

• Nov. 2-28, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope.

For more information, call the Arkansas Arts Council at (501) 324-9766 or visit