Artists share Gifts in first open-studio ECVA exhibit

June 5, 2009

They create to praise.

About 90 artists from all corners of the country, as well as Mexico and the United Kingdom, participated in Gifts, the first open-studio exhibition hosted on the website of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts. Artists submitted what they considered to be their best or favorite work not previously shown at an ECVA exhibition.

Jan Neal, director of ECVA exhibitions, said organizers chose the title of the current exhibition "to address a primary characteristic of the artist's life, of the spiritual life – that of gift-giving and gift-receiving." She pointed to the diversity of art within the exhibit and the generosity of artists in sharing their gifts.

Claudia Smith of Fountain Hills, Arizona, debuted her original work A Rose for Alice, an oil painting inspired by a next-door neighbor who died after battling cancer. "It symbolizes strength despite threatened loss and our Lord's unconditional love and promise of eternal life through him," she said.

A contributor from Atlanta, Jerome Lawrence submitted a light-hearted acrylic piece from his series Tulips are People Too. With his work, he said, he hopes to help viewers understand that beauty exists in every imaginable thing.

"This painting ... presents several pleasant and funny characters that people – and tulips – seem to take," he said. "Imagine that tulips are people, and you might see someone you know in this work!"

Varied media used
Artists used various creative media, including marble sculpture; fired clay; oil, acrylic and watercolor paint; etching; photography; textiles; stained glass; and liturgical fabric art. Themes included reproductions of the image of Christ, personal vision and experiences, seasons and the outdoors. Ann Kim of Nanuet, New York, displayed a mixed-media piece, Habakkuk, from her traveling solo exhibition, Via Crucis, Via Lucas. She described her work as a man on an apex – eyes and body upward facing heaven in complete comfort to the submission of the Lord.

It is in this posture that everlasting strength and fearless living take flight, she said.

Some artists submitted pieces that refreshed happy memories. Using charcoal, Barbara Outwin Hersey created Retreat, a lifelike drawing of a friend finding refuge on a sweltering and muddy June day on Lake Erie.

"Looking at the drawing, I can feel again the great feeling of gathering, hear the music, smell the long grass and mud baking in the sun – even squint from the brightness of the day," Hersey said in her artist's profile on the exhibit site.

The exhibition can be seen at Readers in the New York area interested in viewing Kim's work can visit her exhibit at Coho's Broome Street gallery in early June.