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Play – March 2012

Juried by Judy Bass

March 7-April 2, 2012

Monna Kauppinen, Rasta Billy. Winner of the March 2012 Jane McElvany Coonce Award.

Juror’s Dialogue with George Miller

After jurying March’s “Play” exhibit, which invited artists to submit interactive art or artwork exploring the theme of play, Juror Judy Bass reflected on how the theme was stretched and reinterpreted by different artists. Some artists took it quite literally, depicting people in the act of play, while others ran with the theme to the abstract end of the spectrum, creating work that was itself playful, or hinted at playfulness through motion and gesture.

Bass juried in a number of interactive works of art as well, a first for the gallery. Such work can be added to, rearranged, or otherwise brought to life by the viewer.

As an art teacher and experienced juror, Bass selected works for “Play” based on the same criteria in which she grades her students: composition and craftsmanship. Successful works had good design, whether a photograph or a painting, and demonstrated technical excellence.

In contrast, pieces that weren’t selected for the show lacked a compelling composition. Bass noted that she found the works on paper, such as photographs and drawings, to be generally stronger than the works on canvas.

Judging color was a more subjective process. Color either appeals or it doesn’t — “that’s pure emotion,” Bass said. Still, successful artists avoided using too much color, and instead smartly used complementary colors, with vivid hues standing out against more subdued areas.

Subject matter was an important consideration: While the theme of playfulness was open to interpretation, some pieces were eliminated if “they didn’t say ‘playful’ to me,” Bass said. For example, sculptural works depicting a figure, but not incorporating movement or gesture, didn’t make it into the show.

Bass emphasized the importance of how a work is presented, advising artists to be careful not to let a frame overpower the artwork. Some pieces were disqualified on the basis of their frame, she said, if it distracted from the artwork by being too “garish” or was the same color as the piece. Her advice to artists: keep the frame simple and show off your work.

Bass had more advice for beginning artists: “Just keep working. Don’t give up.” Young artists should hold off on exhibiting until they create a body of work with a clear direction — unique and unified.

Bass awarded eight pieces honorable mentions and selected the winners of this month’s two cash prizes.

She selected “Birds of Play,” an acrylic painting on canvas by Ahmed Idan Alkarkhi, for the Evelyn Turner Award for outstanding abstract work. Bass praised the painting’s composition and sense of color, as well as the looseness and sense of movement created by the birds.

The Jane McElvany Coonce Award for outstanding work in contemporary realism went to “Rasta Billy,” a pastel by Monna Kauppinen. Bass said the “beautifully drawn” goat won for its mastery of detail and the color in the animal’s nose.

Judy Bass, painter and mixed media artist, has had work exhibited at galleries including Jane Haslem Gallery, George Washington University, and the World Bank International Monetary Fund Gallery. The Phillips Collection, the Four Seasons Hotel, ART in Embassies, and many other private and public collectors also hold her work, which is often inspired by the American Southwest and improvisational jazz. Bass has taught at Marymount University in Arlington, VA since 1984.

Evelyn Turner Award: $125
. This award is presented to the most outstanding abstract work. It was created by Evelyn’s family and friends in honor of the former Art League and Torpedo Factory artist.
Jane McElvany Coonce Award: $125. Presented to the most outstanding work in contemporary realism. This award was started by Sandi Parker to honor her teacher and Art League board member, Jane Coonce.

For a complete list of accepted artwork and award winners, please click



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