Sunday, February 11, 2024

Judging ...WHAT THE HECK??!!!

Bradford Purse, Detail, “Pop-Up Balloon Safari at Failing Wildlife Monument”, oil on canvas

Curating a group exhibition is always a challenge. Hours, days—even weeks—are spent viewing, re-viewing, and selecting work that tells an exceptional story with a visual throughline. Having curated more than a hundred exhibitions, I understand the process. Curators, Janice Meister, Claudia Craemer and Debbie Craemer embraced the challenge. Meister selected the wide range of art objects, and the Craemer sisters presented them exquisitely within the Tall Grass Gallery. 

The works in this show surprise, bewilder, and amuse the viewer with strange combinations of reality. I was able to preview the show and honored to select the award-winning work. The judging process is always completely subjective based on the judge’s life experience, knowledge, and personal bias. That said, here are my award selections. 

Award of Excellence
Bradford Purse, “Pop-Up Balloon Safari at Failing Wildlife Monument” oil on canvas.

Timely and beautifully painted, Purse takes an opportunity to make a powerful statement about the state of the world today. With a bit of dark humor and skillful brush, I found myself lost in the beautiful details of the composition. 

Award of Excellence
Jeanne Garrett, “Gold among the Ashes” archival pigment print on rice paper with gold leaking. 

Loosely reminiscent of the work of Jane Fulton Alt who photographed controlled prairie burns in the early 2000s, this intimate piece presents the silent elegance of the destruction and rebirth of the forest floor. Garrett explores various levels of depth within an abstract landscape. Perhaps a comment of the current climate crisis, the image offers many conceptual interpretations. 

Award of Excellence
Patricia Stewart, “Wear Pills Meet Fashion” mixed media assemblage: medicine bottles, wood hanger, IV hanger. 

Stewart’s “Wear Pills Meet Fashion” is a statement that highlights the need for some to medicate as a daily ritual—like getting dressed. But the piece also—perhaps unintentionally—comments on the marketing campaigns produced by the pharmaceutical industry, that encourage the masses to accessorize with pills. The number of empty prescription bottles seems to underscore the issue. This unique assemblage is a conceptual version of Munch’s “The Scream.”

Third Place:
Richard Burd, “Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railroad, Park Forest” black and white digital print.

Beautifully composed, this photograph offers a nostalgic moment with a twist of humor. The lavish abundance of textures found throughout the image offer a range of tactile secondary focal points to explore.
Second Place:
Randy Buvala, Detail, “Staying Home to Watch the Rain” charcoal on paper with found objects.

Drawn to the honesty of the materials, this culmination of elements results in a fascinating encounter. The rich application of charcoal creates a soft and enchanting experience, like that of a childhood fable.

First Place:
Bradford Purse, “Ebbing Tides of the Heart” oil on canvas.

Beginning a unique visual conversation dealing with universal subjects, Purse presents luxurious imagery to challenge the audience into considering the world in which we live. He dares the viewer to spend time within his compositions, offering up expertly executed details that invigorate the canvas and entice the viewer. I found it difficult to walk away, and when I did, I found myself being pulled back to explore further. Brad Purse is truly a master of both concept and technique. 

The artists included in the WHAT THE HECK??!!! exhibition are, Jay Anderson, Marcia Babler, Judi Boehner, Richard Burd, Randy Buvala, Rita Dianni-Kaleel, Carol Estes, Mary Flynn, Jeanne Garrett, Janet Glazar, Nickie Gunning, Luis Gutierrez, Judith Hanacek, David Jagodzinski, Marie Karambis, Amanda Lorance, Lucy Mueller, Bob Nardi, Diane O’Connor, Bradford Purse, Tali Rachelle, Mary Schiller, Doug Stein, Patricia Stewart, Tanya Wingo-Brown, and Kelly Witte.

WHAT THE HECK??!!! will continue through March 16, 2024, at the Tall Grass Art Gallery located at 367 Artists Walk in Park Forest, Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 4pm. Learn more at

No comments:

Post a Comment