LITTLE ROCK — Arriving back home earlier in the day from a trip to New York, Dennis and Connie McCann of Maumelle were afraid they might have to miss the Nov. 10 opening reception of the Arkansas Pastel Society’s seventh national exhibition, Reflections in Pastel. They made it just in time for the awards ceremony.
Dennis McCann won second place in the show, which is on display through Feb. 24 at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock. He won the $500 award — $350 cash and a $150 gift certificate for Jack Richeson and Co. Inc. of Kimberly, Wisconsin — for his large painting Carnegie.
“I always enter a show not expecting to be accepted,” McCann said. “That way, I am not disappointed. I am always surprised and excited to win an award. There are so many other deserving artworks.
“I have been accepted in this show several times,” he said. “It is the only ‘pastel exclusive’ exhibit that I enter.”
McCann said his prize-winning drawing was based on a photograph given to him by one of his son’s friends.
“Carnegie Deli was adjacent to Carnegie Hall in New York City. It opened in 1937 and closed last year. It was an iconic landmark in midtown Manhattan,” McCann said.
“Although I have not seen this deli, I was inspired by the photo and used it in my own composition,” he said. “This drawing is part of a series of drawings that I did, based on neon signs. In these, I focus on a portion of the sign, creating an almost abstract quality. As in my other work, these works rely heavily on light, contrast and shapes. I recently had a one-man exhibit of these pieces at Boswell Mourot Gallery in Little Rock. The show was titled Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign. This was followed by a show of neon signs from the Birmingham, Alabama, area at Gallery 1930 in Birmingham.”
McCann is represented by Boswell Mourot Fine Art in Little Rock and Miami, Florida; Gallery 1930 and Scene Gallery in Birmingham; and Gallery Central in Hot Springs.
Although Connie McCann did not win an award, she said she is pleased to be in the pastel exhibit. She titled her drawing Kirsten.
“I have spent most of my life working as a high school art teacher and tried to do my own artwork in my spare time. After 25 years, I retired, and I am now devoting my time to the process of creating art,” McCann said.
“Although I have experimented with a variety of art styles, my work has always leaned toward realism,” she said. “I have worked with a variety of media, but I typically prefer working with soft pastel or oil paint. My works are created from photographs that I take and usually include the human figure, landscapes or still life. In each of these images, I focus on strong composition, color balance and lighting to enhance the final product.
“The drawing Kirsten is done from a photo of a former student/friend,” she said. “It is part of a series that I did of people wearing different kinds of glasses. In these artworks, I cropped in on a small portion of the face, eliminating all background area. I then focused on the shadows cast onto the face and the reflections created within the lenses.”
In October, Connie McCann won Best in Show and $4,000 with one of her drawings, also a pastel, Speedo, at the Art of the Heartland National Juried Exhibition sponsored by SouthWest Artists Inc. at the Mena Art Gallery in Mena. Dennis McCann won the SWA Figurative Art Award and $500 for his pastel Shopping With the Wife.
Other local artists with works in the Arkansas Pastel Society exhibit are as follows:
• Jo Anne “Jody” Miller of Heber Springs has a work titled Far East Express in the show.
Miller said the painting is the “reimagining” of a photo she took of waves crashing to shore against sand. The name for the painting and the idea to paint it in the style of Japanese woodcut prints came to her while she was vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
“Watching the waves roll in, I got to thinking about how water travels around the world, leaving the banks of distant lands and eventually arriving here on our shores,” she said, adding that it gave her the idea of imagining the “simple little photo through a very different lens stylistically.”
“Painted on pastel board using a combination of hard and soft pastels, it uses colors, lines and contrast to give the waves an air of other-worldliness, using the ancient Japanese art form and impressionism as my muse,” she said.
Miller moved to Heber Springs 15 years ago from Fayette, Missouri, where she served on the founding board for the Ashby Hodge Gallery of American Art. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from Stephens College and has focused her interest on pastels since she moved to Arkansas. She is a former board member of the Cleburne County Arts Council.
• David Mudrinich of Russellville has two paintings, Matthew’s Arbor and Pear Blossoms, Bee Boxes, in the exhibit.
“As an artist, I have always been interested in a sense of place and the various characteristics that make any location unique,” said Mudrinich, who is a drawing and painting professor in the art department at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
“These could be artworks of expansive panoramic views or more intimate, smaller locations. These two works in the pastel exhibition are from a series I am creating on beehives,” he said.
“I am not a beekeeper, but my neighbors are. The farm next to where I live has a bee yard that I see every day,” Mundrinich said. “I am intrigued by the visual rhythms created as the hives are arranged within the landscape. They look so peaceful and quaint from a distance, yet close up, they are a bustling complex of activity. As pollinators, [bees] are essential to the well-being of the planet.
“Many of the apiaries I come across are at abandoned locations that were once a home, farm, school or business. The hives seem to symbolize a regeneration of purpose, giving a new life to what was once an active place. The configuration of their arrangement sometimes seems to suggest that they are measuring time, much like a miniature Stonehenge or some sort of sundial. Matthew’s Arbor provides a window into a mysterious ritual-like setting of a beekeeper and a portion of his apiary.”
Mudrinich studied at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Georgia, and he works in a variety of media. His work is exhibited widely and has received awards on both the regional and national level. He is represented by Cantrell Gallery in Little Rock.
• Mary Ann Stafford of Maumelle has a piece titled Advancing Clouds in the exhibit.
“This painting reflects a new direction for me in pastel landscapes,” said Stafford, who taught visual arts, humanities and English at Pine Buff High School before becoming an assistant principal, retiring from the Arkansas Department of Education in 1993.
“It started as a demonstration for a community program where I used intense watercolors in a spontaneous underpainting,” Stafford said. “Reds, yellows, oranges and purples melded into shapes and textures, and I began to see elements of landscape in the foreground and distance. I used pastel over the watercolor, letting some of the watercolor show through to paint a landscape freely from my imagination and memory.
“The result pleased me, since I like using bright colors and strong contrast. The dark trees against the brilliant skies with the sunlit area at the horizon line made me realize that there was an emotional impact from this kind of painting. Consequently, I will continue using this technique in future paintings.”
Stafford holds Diamond Signature membership in the Pastel Society of the Southwest, the Arkansas Pastel Society and the Arkansas League of Artists. Her work can be seen at Eurekan Art in Eureka Springs and at Art on the Green in Conway.
Christine Ivers of Meriden, Connecticut, served as juror for the exhibit. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and two-dimensional design from Hartford Art School and worked for more than 40 years in the advertising field before returning to her love of painting. She is a past president of the Connecticut Pastel Society and a former member of the Pastel Society of America Board of Governors, where she is a Master Pastelist, and was inducted into the International Association of Pastel Societies Master Circle of Pastelists.
The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies is at 401 President Clinton Ave. in Little Rock. It is part of the Central Arkansas Library System.
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call (501) 320-5790.
For more information on the Arkansas Pastel Society, visit www.arkansaspastelsociety.com.