Virtual Art Appreciation

Bosque Arts Center presents 35th Annual Bosque Arts Classic awards ceremony through Facebook Live

Representational art remains one of the oldest types of human expression, beginning with the hunter scenes depicted in prehistoric cave dwellings. It is meant to be seen, up close and personal to be appreciated to the fullest extent.

Due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on gatherings, the Bosque Arts Center had to virtually switch gears this year for the 35th Annual Bosque Arts Classic.

With the annual Bosque Arts Classic, art patrons are used to seeing the exquisite art in competition presented in the beautiful setting of the Ronald Jones Memorial Gallery at the Bosque Arts Center, with correct lighting, a festive ambiance and the chance to personally chat with the artists on exhibit. And after the exclusive reception, they were subsequently treated to a gala-like dinner and awards ceremony, celebrating the judge’s top choices.

This year, though, the BAC Art Council opted for a virtual awards ceremony for the 35th Annual Bosque Arts Classic Show and Sale. The awards ceremony was presented on Facebook Live last Saturday – not the preferred medium to celebrate the contributing artists and the art patrons, but short of postponing the prestigious show until next year, it was the next best option.

Sitting in front of the 2019 John Steven Jones award piece “All My Exes live in Texas” by Cheryl Harley-Volz, Art Council President Karen Hughes and President-elect John Linn welcomed artists and patrons alike to the novel, high-tech world of digital art appreciation. Different than other years, the 2020 Art Classic Judge Bruce Greene was able highlight his choices through comments on video.

The 35th Annual Bosque Arts Classic awards ceremony was held virtually on Facebook Live, hosted by Art Council President Karen Hughes and President-elect John Linn.

This year’s Art Classic features some familiar favorites and talented newcomers as well - Herman Walker, Ezra Tucker, Jean Olliver, Kathy Tate, Nancy Harkins, Lloyd Voges, and Eileen Nistler are joined by twenty artists new to the Classic, including Linda Becker, Hugh Greer, and Trish Poupard. Returning are 2019 award winners Cheryl Harley-Volz, Tatsiana Harbacheuskaya, Brian Asher, Matt Atkinson, June Dudley, Tim Harmon, and Jeff Rechin.

At the end of the awards ceremony, Linn and Hughes were standing in front of the winner of the coveted, “Best in Show” John Steven Jones Purchase Award, and will become a permanent piece in the Roland Jones Memorial Gallery at the BAC. The award is sponsored by Roland and Joyce Jones, in memory of their son.

It was the Gold Medalist in the largest category – Oil/acrylics – sponsored by Linda Bracken, “Incoming” by Joseph Barbieri from Waco.

“Incoming” by Joseph Barbieri from Waco

The confident paint handling, composition, value and color of the “big sky” was what drew Greene to the painting.

“I’d love to see more of your work,” Greene said. “if you are working on this level all the time, you are doing some great stuff. A very enjoyable painting; something I would certainly want to live with.”

Nationally renowned Cowboy Artist of America, Greene brought his knowledge and expertise in all media to the table, judging 202 works of art from 122 artists, many who had entered the Art Classic in the past. Greene has won awards over the years in a multitude of media, including sculpture, oil, and drawing in both pencil and charcoal. They were chosen out of 739 entries.

“Firstly, it was a beautiful grouping of art and I am pretty saddened there won’t be an opportunity to see it all ‘in the room’ with it,” Greene said. “That is a real loss. This was a magnificent bunch of artwork that made this show. If you made this show, that in itself, is tremendous, and you are to be congratulated. And then winning an award, it is wonderful. ”

He puts the winning of the show in perspective, since judging a show of any kind is very subjective. If you win, you accredit yourself and the brilliance of the judge. If you don’t win an award, you blame the judge for having a “bad-day.”

“I really did not settle on the medal winners immediately,” Greene said, knowing how important entering a show is for all the artists. “In several cases there, I had to go back and compare them again. I did not take it [the judging] lightly.”

At the end of the video, he adds a very personal story about an Cowboy Artists of America awards ceremony he attended, in which he was slated by his peers to win several awards in different categories, but didn’t. His wife Janie, sensing his mounting disappointment and how hard it is for him – he is competitive after all – slipped him a photograph of what is most important – family.

“Pursue you passion, but understand what’s important,” Greene said. “If you won, have fun with it, enjoy it, and if you didn’t, take a big swing at it again next time.”

“In the end, this endeavor is not about winning awards,” Greene said. “If you have been called to do this thing, with artwork, it is your passion. That is really what this thing is about, to honor that and the ability that you have been given. If you’re doing that, you’re hitting it out of the park.”

“You need to be doing artwork that feels right to you and pleases you. It should not be what I might choose, or someone else, or even collectors,” Greene said.

He went on to add that in every category there was some exceptional art to be admired. It was all really first-class work and he had to go back several times to review his choices. He had wanted to award more artists for their work.

The Gold Medal – award sponsored by Bob and Marge Shafer – in the Drawing category went to “Pure Heart” by Tanja Gant from Madison MS.

“Pure Heart” by Tanja Gant from Madison MS.

“A piece in charcoal, Pure Heart that I just couldn’t get away from,” Greene said. “In all the categories I was looking for creativity, I looked for good design, good composition. If it is figurative, I’m looking for good anatomy. I’m looking for the ability to draw on flat work. I was mindful of being very open to different subject matters, and I enjoy many different types of artwork.”

“That category was just packed with good work. But I could not get around that piece. It was just gorgeous. It has to do with great use of value – lights and darks. And it is so dramatic, you can’t not look at it. It is a fantastic, wonderful piece.”

The Silver – award sponsored by Bill and Betty Murdoch – Aunt Clara’s Collection VI, Eileen Nistler of Upton, WY.

Aunt Clara’s Collection VI, Eileen Nistler of Upton, WY.

“With the silver, again, I was just kind of amazed,” Greene said. “This was just an amazing use of the medium. It was wonderful.”

In the pastel category, Greene admired the skill in using a medium he, himself is not familiar with. He’s just sure it takes a tremendous patience, ability and knowledge.

The gold went to a contemporary piece “Prairie Ghost” by Gail Rutledge of Poteet, Tx. Greene loved the design and that it was not perfectly centered.

Silver went to “Koala Walk” by Linda Becker from Kelseyville, CA.

This piece also went on to win the New Entrant Award, sponsored by Jimmie and Karen Hughes.

Gold medal in sculpture went to “An Answered Prayer,” a piece in white marble of two entwined hands by Matthew Brooks from Hubbardston, MA. The award is sponsored by Steve and Judy Wells.

“It is a wonderfully emotional piece,” Greene said. “I love artwork that connects emotionally. I think we have a responsibility as artists to communicate in some way. And wow, this one does. And then in marble, are you kiddin’ me. I’ve fooled around with stone some and so I just have the greatest respect for what you [the artist] did here. It touches me personally, and it is fabulous.”

The leanness, the veins and tendons of the hands add to the emotion of the piece, according to Greene.

Silver medal sculpture, sponsored by Judith Baker, went to “Daybreak” by Steve Dunn of Sherman. Greene greatly enjoyed this piece, as he has seen many cowboys in this stance at daybreak, awaiting the long day of riding on the range.

“I’ve been where this guy is, on many occasions,” Greene said. “He’s got his saddle ready to go, just ready to catch horses.

But I did not pick it purely its Western, cowboy merit. It is composed very well. This guy you sculpted has character. By that his head is raised. He is looking out over the horses. That gesture is extremely well rendered.”

Gold medal Water media sponsored by Phyllis Gamble and Mechelle Slaughter was won by well known Art Classic entrant and award-winner Matt Atkinson from Colorado Springs, CO with his battling buffalo “Give No Ground.”

“Holy Cow, that piece can compete in any show, any place, it will stand up,” Greene said about a medium that is very challenging to handle. “Wow, Matt, I just love this thing. I just would have loved to have seen it in person, because I’m not quite sure how you did all of this, and I really would have loved to have gotten up close and personal with that thing.”

“Give No Ground” by Matt Atkinson from Colorado Springs, CO

“A thrilling, wonderful piece,” Greene called it.”I’d love to see more stuff like this. So tasteful.”

It also won the Art Patrons Award, sponsored by the Art Council and will have a permanent spot in the Roland Jones Memorial Gallery at the BAC.

Silver medal Water media sponsored by Doug and Jan Kieta went to “From Helsinki Trip,” by Tatsiana Harbachueskaya from Las Vegas, NV. In 2019, Harbachueskaya entered her very recognizable pieces.

“I always enjoy your work. You have great control over this medium” Greene said. “Wonderful, very artistic. It makes me feel good just to get in front of this.”

“From Helsinki Trip” by Tatsiana Harbachueskaya from Las Vegas, NV.

The silver medal for Oil/Acrylic sponsored by Bill and Betty Murdoch went to “Talk in the Shade” by Hebe Brooks of Houston, Tx. The composition, the paint handling, the use of values, and the storyline with the birds in the shade of the blooms caught Greene’s attention.

A title to a piece can be very important to a piece. The artist in this case, made the subject wonderfully interesting by adding the birds and alluding to them in the title.

“Talk in the Shade” by Hebe Brooks of Houston, Tx.

The Boren-Selvidge Award sponsored by Mary Ellen Boren and Family in memory of James Boren, CA and James Selvidge went to a sculpture this year – “Life of a Cowboy Artist” by Fort Worth’s Travis Stewart.

“The piece appealed to Mother and I. We thought this piece was reminiscent of dad doing his ‘plein air’ work, going out on a trail ride, with his sketching equipment with him,” Nancy Boren said on their choice for the memorial award, honoring James Boren. “We just loved the way the horse curled around the pillar the cowboy was sitting on. It was a strong design, so clever and well done.”

“Life of a Cowboy Artist” by Fort Worth’s Travis Stewart.

In the video, Linn took a moment to remember sculptor Stephen Jones who passed away in Feb. 2020. Jones was a regular contributor to the Art Classic, and gold award winner of the 2017 sculpture category with his “Dance to the Buffalo.”

Jones, a working ranch cowboy with a proud Cheyenne heritage and a strong knowledge of today’s American West, lived and worked on the family ranch in the historical community of Keenan, Ok. His authentic western background is readily apparent in his sculpture.

Thirty years spent in commercial art as an illustrator and graphics designer continually developed Jones's strong drafting skills, which are instantly apparent in his sculptures. Stephen spent a decade of those years working as a successful fashion designer, and that designer's sense of form and line brings his subjects to life.

No matter the type of art Jones was creating, he constantly honed his talents as a sculptor. He credited Hollis Williford and Edward Fraughton for encouragement, guidance, and support as he pursued his passion for sculpting.

Kathy Jones now celebrates her husband's life by sharing his western bronzes and the tradition that inspired them. She entered a clay sculpture named “Custer” for the 2020 Bosque Arts Classic.

The online sale on the BAC website opened Monday, September 14 at 10 a.m. and will close on September 26 at 2 p.m.

Music accompanying the Facebook presentation intro was BAC’s own Martha Erickson. Linn and Hughes thanked LeAnne and Lee Donner for supplying the show’s catalogue and the art patrons for their support of the arts through the BAC.

Photos by courtesy of the BOSQUE ARTS CENTER

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