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story.lead_photo.caption Charlotte Rierson of Fairfield Bay, left, and Nina Ruth Baker of Conway attend the opening reception of the 48th annual Mid-Southern Watercolorists juried exhibition March 9 in Little Rock. Other local artists with work in the exhibit are Mary Ann Stafford of Maumelle and Suzann Waggoner of Mount Vernon.

LITTLE ROCK — The 48th annual Mid-Southern Watercolorists juried exhibition is now on display at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in downtown Little Rock.

Four artists from the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area are among those whose works were selected for the show. They are Nina Ruth Baker of Conway, Charlotte Rierson of Fairfield Bay, Mary Ann Stafford of Maumelle and Suzann Waggoner of Mount Vernon.

Baker titled her painting Pattie’s House.

“Pattie and Keith’s white iris outside my window came from my mom’s bulbs that moved as we often did,” she said. “Now they are continuing to show forth beauty and maturity.

“When I saw these, it reminded me of the Scripture in Job 19:25 that says, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth,’” said Baker, who holds Signature Membership in MSW, meaning her work has been accepted in three of the organization’s juried exhibits.

Baker, who was told as a young girl that she would be blind by the time she was 30, is co-founder and owner with her husband, Dr. David Baker, of Art on the Green in Conway. In addition to being an artist, Baker is a registered nurse practitioner. She works alongside her husband in eye surgery at the Baker Eye Institute in Conway.

The Bakers sponsor an award — The Carolyn Baker Award — annually in the MSW juried exhibition.

Rierson titled her painting Beyond the Garden.

“I live at Fairfield Bay in a beautiful location on a bluff overlooking Greers Ferry Lake,” she said. “My art studio is three stories high with a large plate-glass window and a glass door leading to the deck. The view is breathtaking.

“When I go into my studio looking out over the vista, it inspires me to paint,” Rierson said. “I have used this scene for several of my paintings, and it changes with each season. I enjoyed painting my garden that has been a work in progress with all the rock walkways. It was done in three stages. The third stage is a sculpture garden.

”I enjoy painting on the studio deck, which gives me the feeling that I am a part of nature. Painting is so much a part of my life. I can just lose myself in the moment and live in my imaginary world. I used my watercolors as my medium with different temperatures and values to give the painting depth. I want the viewer to move from my garden, through the valley and to the lake with the mountains in the background.”

At the MSW opening reception and awards ceremony on March 9, Rierson received Diamond Signature membership, meaning her work has been accepted in five annual juried MSW competitions. She is director of the organization’s regional advisers and a past president. This year, she has a painting touring in the Arkansas Arts Council’s Small Works on Paper exhibit; she won Best of Show at the Conway Artist League’s annual competition in 2017.

Stafford titled her painting Unchained.

“Drawing has always been my first love as an artist, and sometimes, I use watercolor as a vehicle to enhance my drawing statements,” she said.

“One of my drawing students gave me these two chains one day to use as a subject. I put them away and promptly forgot them. Later, I happened to come across them and was intrigued by the negative shapes I saw. Bold contrast, negative shapes and repetition of forms are always interesting to me,” Stafford said.

“I photographed the two chains with a bright light overhead so that shadows would repeat the forms and increase contrast,” she said. “The watercolor background was painted on multimedia art board (hence the texture), and the chains were drawn with ink and opaque watercolor to simulate the smooth steel surfaces. I also allowed the background color to show through the twists and turns of the links. The shadows are also opaque.

“I can’t say that there is any intrinsic symbolism in the painting. I just had a lot of fun with the shapes, forms and textures.”

Stafford, who is a retired educator, holds Diamond Signature membership in the Mid-Southern Watercolorists.

Waggoner titled her large painting April Waiting for May.

“April Pruitt was a friend of my mother’s,” Waggoner said, noting that both women lived in a Florida retirement community. “April came to lunch one day feeling tired. Mother drove Ms. Pruitt to her doctor’s appointment and sat with her friend. The doctor told Ms. Pruitt that test results would not be determined until May. She was to go about her life as normally as she could and to do those things that made her happy. This was an odd statement from the doctor and had an ominous feel to it.

“Mother began driving April to the state park outside of Gainesville,” Waggoner said. “It is an early Florida homestead from the 1830s. It is quiet and stunningly serene. April enjoyed walking around the blooming, sun-drenched cannas. It lifted her spirits. As April waited for May, these walks made her happy.

“I photographed that part of the park that April Pruitt found so enjoyable,” Waggoner said. “The bright red cannas still bloom in the way that April saw them last.”

Waggoner holds Diamond Signature membership in the Mid-Southern Watercolorists. She is also a member of its board of directors, serving as archivist and a member of the annual exhibition’s Planning Committee and Scholarship/Education Committee.

Juror Iain Stewart of Opelika, Alabama, selected 49 paintings from 124 entries submitted by 72 MSW members from 12 states for the 2018 exhibition. Stewart is a signature member of both the American and National Watercolor societies.

The public is invited to view the MSW exhibition free of charge through

June 30. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with extended hours to 8 p.m. the second Friday of each month, when galleries participate in the 2nd Friday Art Night in downtown Little Rock.

The Butler Center, which is part of the Central Arkansas Library System, is at 401 President Clinton Ave. For more information, call (501) 320-5790 or visit

For more information on the Mid-Southern Watercolorists, visit or Facebook: Mid-SouthernWatercolorists.

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