The 2010 Artist’s Magazine Abstract/Experimental Winners

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First Place
Jennifer Gardner

North Venice, Florida •
Gold Series #6 (pastel, 20×22)

Living by the sea makes Jennifer Gardner responsive to glittering light and its scintillating play on water, land and architectural forms. She brings the same sensibility to her abstract paintings, which have a shimmering quality. Last year Gardner won an honorable mention for a painting of a San Francisco skyline. This year Gold Series #6, a composition of interlocking forms executed in pastel and watercolor, won first prize. Her mastery of pastel techniques has won her a signature membership in the Pastel Society of America.

Her nonobjective compositions are executed on specialty papers that offer a white, abrasive ground. First laying in the pastel, she blends hues and softens edges with alcohol washes. This technique allows her to layer color over color—deepening the impression of atmospheric space. She then squeezes small amounts of tubed watercolor onto strategic areas to create textural contrast. “Sometimes I leave the dollops of color as they are,” Gardner says. “Sometimes I wipe them with my fingers, blending the marks into the pastel to integrate colors and shapes.”

While a fondness for Impressionism initially drew Gardner to pastels, she finds her nonobjective compositions livelier than her landscapes and cityscapes, which proceed from references and often display a quirky touch. In both bodies of work, humorous scribbles and a variety of marks declare the artist’s intentions. About her nonobjective work she says, “It’s my current favorite! I don’t try to intellectualize my pieces because my reaction to each of them is entirely emotional—a response to color interactions, textures, shapes and details that appeal to me at a particular time.”

Second Place
John Scarborough
Granite City, Illinois •
Flying Parts (oil, 36×36)

A portion of an airplane fuselage dramatically commands the center of John Scarborough’s Flying Parts. The grisaille palette reinforces our first impression that this is a disaster viewed from the air, a black-and-white image from a newspaper. In reality, however, we’re looking at a highly magnified model airplane kit. Scarborough has recently abandoned more conservative paintings of landscapes and interiors for compositions—like this one—that arrest the viewer’s attention by their close focus and exaggerated angles. These newer works sometimes have as their focus mundane subjects, such as eggs boiling on a stove.

Self-taught through museum visits and art books borrowed from the library, this full-time steelworker admires the masters, especially Cézanne, whom Scarborough discovered at age 12. Intuitively, he recognized the significance of structure and design underlying ordinary subject matter. Later he added contemporary German artist Gerhard Richter to his canon because he admired Richter’s versatility in both realism and abstraction. From Picasso, Scarborough took an adage: Go back to childhood and paint what you know. As a boy, Scarborough loved model airplanes. As a subject for painting, the contents of the box appear paradoxically both random and strictly ordered, suggesting that a composition can appear abstract but be rooted in reality. With Flying Parts, Scarborough feels he’s achieved a breakthrough that can carry him forward for years to come.

Third Place
Vera Curnow
Rising Sun, Indiana •
Windsong over Gulfport (acrylic assemblage with found objects, 16×20)

Windsong over Gulfport makes a strong impression, calling forth the destruction in coastal Mississippi following hurricane Katrina. Abstract juror Cathy Woo commented on the “masculine” tool bench paraphernalia applied to the surface and directed attention to the “feminine frosting of green paint” that unifies the work.

Vera Curnow’s practice embraces several styles and media. She is, in fact, the founder of the Colored Pencil Society of America, although this work is an amalgam of acrylic and collage. In addition, she creates distinctive portraits of both people and animals, as well as humorous caricatures that capture the follies of aging women. Of her abstract and experimental work, she says: “I am lured into the abyss of ‘What If … ?’ No roadmap, formula, predisposed assumptions or self-consciousness.”

Indeed, Curnow’s artwork is more about the process than the product. “Now is when I mute the volume on external messages, critiques and expectations,” she says, describing an artist’s concentration. “Here is where my muse and I plunge into a cranial journey without destination. By venturing through this open passage into the unknown, I can cultivate that elusive element called creativity and separate the technician from the artist.”

Honorable Mention
Helen J. Sherry
San Diego, California •
Quake (acrylic, 30×22)

This Californian has reason to know about the tremors and shudders that occur along the coastal fault lines. Painter and poet Helen Sherry lives in San Diego. Her paintings are elaborate, abstract-impressionistic studies in acrylic that capture the atmosphere of sea, sky and, in this case, the earth below the horizon. A heavy black band at the top of Quake weighs upon the brilliant colors below. Striations of paint running across the canvas suggest the trembling energy generated as a deep fissure descends vertically to the core of the earth. The painting rings noisily, but silently—a paradox that must be meaningful to the artist who is also an accomplished haiku poet. Here is her haiku in response to this work:

the sudden shock
of the environment shaking

Honorable Mention
Sally Cooper
Parkland, Florida •
Mediterranea (acrylic, 36×48)

Sally Cooper’s vision of the Greek Islands comes alive in her painting Mediterranea. Cooper acknowledges her debt to American Abstract Expressionist masters, but Mediterranea more specifically is a souvenir of and an homage to recent travels. “The islands were magnificent,” says Cooper. “There were shades of blue everywhere contrasted with the white ruins of Greece.” Cooper uses watercolor, acrylic and gesso in conjunction with various mediums to create thick and thin layers of color brushed onto a support of canvas, paper or board. Thick, thin, straight, curved or gestural lines are made with a variety of brushes, pencils or scrapers. Surfaces are wiped and spattered—all the responses are guided by intuition to create movement and feeling in the painting.

Honorable Mention
Mark Bratovich
Montrose, Colorado •
Glyphics (acrylic, 30×40)

Mark Bratovich’s alternate practice as a stone carver is referenced in his abstract painting Glyphics. The boldly segmented blue, gray and black composition, with red petroglyphs embedded in its graphic design, does not disclose the sources of its symbolism. Bratovich’s works share a blocky, universal code of his own invention, which can be reconfigured as he chooses. The roughly textured surfaces he prefers are a contradiction to the irregular geometry of the designs that would usually have suggested that flatness was the objective. Instead, the artist obtains a granular surface that might invite touch in the way that his sculptures do. With this unique aesthetic, Bratovich has successfully blended visually appealing qualities of both paint and stone.

Contributing editor Ruth K. Meyer is an art historian and consultant who lives on the banks of the Ohio River.

Denise Athanas
Mt. Pleasant SC

Gema Herrero Barclay
Katy TX

Jacqui Beck
Seattle WA

Pam Jersey Bird
Sisters OR

San Francisco CA

Frances Burns
Pueblo CO

Ginnie Cappaert
Stephenson MI

Robert K. Carsten
Springfield VT

Francisco Castro
Auburn CA

François Chartier
Montreal QC

Jeff Condon
Grand Rapids MI

Sally Cooper
Parkland FL

Craig Cossey
Jackson MI

Casey Craig
Wimberley TX

Elaine Daily-Birnbaum
Madison WI

Steven DaLuz
San Antonio TX

Nicole Boudreau Deschênes
Terrebonne QC

Joan Dorrill
St. Augustine FL

Nancy Eckels
Canyon Country CA

Beverly A. Fields
Placerville CA

Jean Harris
Gulf Breeze FL

Jane R. Hofstetter
Santa Clara CA

Dusanka Kralj
Crescent City CA

Kathleen A. McLaughlin
La Mesa CA

Catherine Mein
Virginia Beach VA

Eileen R. Miller
Wilmette IL

Jean Pederson
Calgary AB

Jeanne Pellegrino
Orange Park FL

John Scarborough
Granite City IL

Diane Schmidt
Sarasota FL

Helen J. Sherry
San Diego CA

Dee Solin
Vero Beach FL

Carol Staub
Port St. Lucie FL

Lisa M. Stroud
Cary NC

Greta Swaim
Holden Beach NC

Leah K. Tomaino
Randolph NJ

Yuma Tomiyasu
London UK

Kevin W. Treadwell
Indianapolis IN

Donna Watson
Camano Island WA

Shawn Maureane Wells
Lebanon OR

Mary Wright
Corinth TX

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