At Farmington show, Durango artists win national recognition, Durango Herald, May 22, 2007

Images (clockwise from top left): Best of Show, “The Channel Swimmers,” by George M. Schoonover; First Place, “Arithmetical Anecdote,” by Kim Olden; Second Place, “Brushes with Halo Objects #1,” by Ken Oehlen; Third Place, “Solitary,” by Ken Van Brott; Honorable Mention, “Mean Little Rattle,” by Amy K. Wendland.

David Edgar has differentiated himself through plastic.

Until 2004, he created amorphous figures merged with iconography made of steel rods. Today, he sculpts marine life from recycled plastic bottles that have been displayed in 30 exhibits across 18 states. He credits his wife with coining the word “plastiquarium” to describe his decorative art.

“The general public is intimidated and uncomfortable with fine art like I used to make,” Edgar told a crowd of 20 during a preview lecture for the Gateway to Imagination national juried art competition at the Farmington Museum. “I think it’s important to have the work be joyful
and still provide artistic content.”

Edgar acted as juror for the 10th annual Gateway competition. An associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Edgar has a background that includes stints with the Walt Disney Co., chairman of the art department at Ashland University in Ohio and running the nonprofit Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.

He said that work having a narrative quality was important to him when selecting art for the exhibition. Iconography, symbolism, quality of craft, compositional skill, insightful content and contextual success also counted. But in the end, he said, he chose work that moved him on a gut level.

Honorable mention awards went to Durango artists Amy K. Wendland for “Mean Little Rattle,” a sculptural form made from found wood that looks like a snake’s head, fitted with teeth and a long horse-hair tail, and John Grow for “New Worlds,” an oil painting of girls playing with beach balls that happen to be planets. Last year’s Best of Show honoree, Gil Bruvel, was also awarded an honorable mention for his sculpture “Dream of Earth.”

Wendland received a Special Recognition Award for “Kelp, 10 p.m.,” a graphite drawing. Sandra Butler of Durango, Shirlen Heath of Mancos and Sandy Applegate of Pagosa Springs also received Special Recognition Awards.

“Hive” by Butler is a sculptural piece with a honeycomb-shaped end covered in wax. “Navajo Peak” by Applegate is a mixed-media painting that looks like a Japanese woodcut print. Heath’s large, turned aspen wood vessel inlaid with malachite is prominently positioned at the museum entrance.

George M. Schoonover of Yachts, Ore., won Best of Show for his watercolor, “The Channel Swimmers,” three women in bathing suits sitting around a covered porch. His painting meets all the qualifications for technical prowess: composition, context, execution and narrative quality, the iconography of life. It’s clear why Edgar chose this work as Best of Show.

First place went to Kim Olden of Farmington for “Arithmetical Anecdotes.” Second place to Ron Koehler of Cleveland, Miss., for “Brushes With Halo Objects #1.” Ken Van Brott of Gallup, N.M., was awarded third place for his black and white monoprint of a single feather, “Solitary.”

Grow’s second painting in the show, “Left Behind,” featuring Noah’s ark against a tumultuous sky and longneck dinosaurs wading up to their necks in water, was selected for the Farmington Museum Purchase Award. The museum purchased the $2,400 painting for its permanent collection.

Other regional artists featured in the show include: Amy Vaclav-Felker, with “Rufus the Western Box Turtle,” a papier-m`E2ch`E9 sculpture with a colored box for the turtle’s shell; Howard Rachlin, with “White Sands at Sunset,” a panorama photograph; Karen Godblod, with “Moon over Bondad,” a digital image; Judy Brey, with “Blue Boat,” a ceramic sculpture; and Lora Davis, with “Why Cupid has Wings” and “Barnyard American Idol,” two gorgeous needle-felted fiber sculptures.

Gateway to Imagination features 107 works by 86 artists from 26 states.

As Edgar writes in his jurist statement: “This exhibition has something for everyone.”

artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts.

If you go

• Gateway to Imagination, 107 works of art
by 86 artists from 26 states, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Monday-Saturday, through July 14,
Farmington Museum, 3041 East Main
Street, Farmington, (505) 599-1174.

• Views from the Plastiquariam, David
Edgar, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Thursday,
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, through June 29,
Henderson Fine Arts Center, San Juan
College, 4601 College Blvd. Farmington
(505) 566-3464.

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