LITTLE ROCK The 60th annual Delta Exhibition is on display at the Arkansas Arts Center, showcasing a variety of works by artists living or working in Arkansas and its neighboring states. The exhibit will remain on display through Aug. 26.
Works by three artists from the Three Rivers Edition coverage area are among the 52 works by 46 artists featured in this year’s show. A panel of three jurors, including conceptual artist Shea Hembrey of Hickory Grove in Jackson County, who graduated from Lyon College in Batesville in 1996, selected the works.
“This was my first time to serve as a judge,” said Hembrey, who double-majored in art and English at Lyon; he also has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “It was a lot of fun.
“Most remarkable in the juror process, for me, is … the large pool of all submitted works (1,424 pieces submitted by 618 artists) that together evoked an overwhelming presence of nature. … It is not nature pristine … but instead, our familiar, yet still-mysterious backyards, woods and fields.”
A 1992 graduate of Tuckerman High School, Hembrey uses the family farm in Hickory Grove as his home base. He is known for his exhibition titled Seek and his TED talk about it, “How I Became 100 Artists,” which has been watched by more than 1.5 million viewers on YouTube. A gallery in New York City handles his work.
Two of the local artists with works in this year’s Delta Exhibition — Ian Campbell of Batesville and Tessa Davidson of Cabot — are first-timers in the competition. The third, Dusty Mitchell of Mountain View, has had his work selected for the show several times.
“I’m fairly new to Arkansas, and this is the first time I’ve applied to the Delta show, so I’m very excited to have my work included,” said Campbell, assistant professor of art at Lyon. “The pieces I submitted to this exhibition are from a relatively new and ongoing project. As an artist, I sometimes worry at the start of a new project that the work will be too strange or cryptic, and people won’t connect with it, so I feel very encouraged that the jurors saw something in my photographs.”
Campbell titled his ziatype prints Terra Incognita (for Nasmyth and Carpenter) and Wormhole at the Edge of the Map. These photographs are part of an ongoing project called At The Edge Of The Known, which, Campbell said, “examines the human urge to explore, to see what lies beyond the horizon, to push out into the universe and expand our field of vision. Although the images look like outer space, most were made on caving expeditions with Lyon’s COBRA (Cavers of the Batesville Region of Arkansas Chapter of the National Speleological Society) Grotto. This project makes connections between cave and cosmos, outer space and inner space, science and fiction.”
He said the ziatypes are made with a hand-coated lithium/palladium-based emulsion that is similar to the historic techniques used for early photos of the cosmos.
Campbell received a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography and integrated media and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wheaton College in Illinois. He also completed a semester-long student residency program at the New York Center for Art and Media Studies. He joined the faculty at Lyon College in 2016 and is director of the Kresge Art Gallery at Lyon. He serves on the board of directors for the Batesville Area Arts Council.
Davidson, who is an adjunct art professor at Harding University in Searcy, said she is “thrilled” to be included in the Delta Exhibition.
“When I was a docent for the Arkansas Arts Center, I would give tours of the Delta exhibit. It became a show I looked forward to every year,” she said.
“The exhibition is a great way to foster a sense of regional pride and appreciation for the contemporary artists in this area,” she said. “It is a bit surreal to have my own work included this year and a true honor to be represented among these artists that I greatly admire and respect.
“The artwork that was selected features a man from my church who has persevered through many trials. It is a painting about remaining steadfast in the midst of ridicule and trials, and it explores the tension that exists on the journey toward trust and assurance.”
She titled the painting, which is an oil on linen, Wings.
Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education and a Master of Education degree in secondary education from Harding University, as well as a Master of Arts degree in art history from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in January.
Mitchell, who is currently the K-12 principal at the Timbo School in Stone County, has two pieces in this year’s Delta Exhibition: Pressure, which is a large installation of digital scales, and Diet Coke (From the Trump Tweet Series), which is made of etched stainless steel.
“I’m honored to be selected into the Delta for its 60th-anniversary exhibition,” Mitchell said. “This is an important exhibition to me. When I was in school, with aspirations of becoming an artist and looking up to the few people I knew that were exhibiting work on a regular basis, the Delta was one of the first annual exhibitions that I ever knew about. Those that I looked up to participated in the Delta, and I specifically remember setting a goal to one day have a piece be selected for this exhibition.
“I have been fortunate enough to participate in several Delta exhibitions now, and my thinking about this show has shifted with experience,” he said.
“Now I tend to focus on the regional aspect of the show. It’s fascinating to me to see work from other artists/peers who draw inspiration from the same environment (at least regionally) that I do. My favorite part of this exhibition now is seeing how different artists who essentially occupy the same geographical space can be inspired in such different ways by the environment they live in,” Mitchell said.
“Along with those differences, the Delta also draws out similarities among the artists in the region,” he said. “Often there will be multiple artworks with a common conceptual thread or an eerily similar visual aesthetic.
“I also just like to see what artists in the South are up to. These are all components that make the Delta a unique and crucial exhibition, especially for Arkansas artists.”
Mitchell taught art for 12 years at Mountain View Elementary School prior to accepting the principal’s position at Timbo, which is part of the Mountain View School District. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Arkansas State University in 2001 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Michigan State University in 2004.
For more information on the Delta Exhibition, visit the website arkansasartscenter.org or call (501) 372-4000.
The Arkansas Arts Center is at Ninth and Commerce streets in Little Rock. There is no admission charge. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The center is closed Mondays and major holidays.