By Brieanah Gouveia
On March 13, Olin Galleries hosted the opening night of the 2015 Biennial Juried Exhibition. The juror of this competition was Doug McClemont, a New York-based art writer and curator, as well as one of the most quirky and fashionable men around. Over the last few months, artists local to Roanoke and surrounding areas sent in a total of 300 pieces—consisting of sculpture, painting, drawing, and photography—all hoping to be accepted into the gallery. Out of these 300, McClemont chose 69 final submissions to be included in the exhibition.
Not a true believer in either the awarding of prizes for art, or for art competitions in general, McClemont pushed aside his personal confliction to choose winners in the spirit of this event. Knowing nothing about the individual artists prior to his choosing, McClemont picked artworks he believed could serve to provoke further discussion about the artist’s motivation or the message of the piece, rather than simply being appealing to the eye.
Before announcing the winners, McClemont shared his compelling insight on the contemporary art world and what factor influenced his judging decisions. He stated, “Art is a rarified language…the visual aspect is just a part of each good artwork. Contemporary art practice is ¾ concept—skill and craft are just a portion of the resulting ‘artness’ of a piece. Art is an idea as much as it is a visual. You can see it, but without thinking about it you can’t understand the work. That’s what makes good art.”
Concluding his lecture, McClemont gave the audience his greatest piece of advice. He advised that the artist’s signature should never be located on the front of a piece, which he noticed to be a collective error amongst the body of work in this exhibition. He explained, “since the 1940’s and the abstract expressionists, works of art are no longer signed on the front, generally speaking.” This tiny act amounts to what he described as “the difference between a museum quality piece and that of a Sunday painter.”
Following McClemont’s talk, gallery director Talia Logan took the spotlight to announce the 6 honorable mentions and 3 main winners. The honorable mentions included: Jennifer Carpenter’s hyperrealist colored pencil drawing of giftwrap bows entitled, That’s a Wrap!; Susan Bidwell’s photographic manipulation of stacked carrot slices, Carrot Rhombus; Gina Louthian Stanley’s encaustic, or hot wax painting, I Flick Peas; Duane Cregger’s abstract textured painting, Ombré.01.blue; and Robert Redfearm’s piece of 25 stacked abstract drawings on wooden panels, Pillar of Penance.
Third place went to Carolyn Rogers’s breath-taking sculpture made of different hues of red blown glass entitled, Cyst Series III. Second place was awarded to Ana Morales for Wilford, an unconventionally colored oil painting of a man on horseback. First place was claimed by Lindsey Landfried with her meticulous drawing evocative of a woven rug, Big Droop.
With over 230 people in attendance, this was the most popular night the gallery has witnessed during this entire school year by a landslide. The 2015 Biennial will be on display throughout April 5. Be sure to stop by any day from 1:00-4:00 p.m. and see all of these eclectic pieces. A friendly disclaimer for when you get to the Big Droop: please don’t try to fix it, it’s meant to hang that way!