South Cobb Arts Alliance award ceremony

NancyJeanette Long smiling in front of her prizewinning painting, a portrait of a stocky dog with upright ears looking ahead skepticallyFirst prize winner NancyJeanette Long with her painting "French Blue", the painting of the dog on the left (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The South Cobb Arts Alliance (SCAA) held the reception and award ceremony for its 31st annual Juried Award Exhibition.  The theme for this year’s competition was “Sanctuary.”

Atlanta artist Charles Young Walls served as the juror and the prize judge for the event.  Before the prizes were announced by  SCAA President Sandra Miller, Walls explained the process of jurying and judging the exhibition.

He said, “Jurying is deciding what’s going to be in the show. And it’s trying to figure out how one piece against another piece … how do we judge them against each other? I don’t do that.  I never do that. What I do is … there’s a certain set number of pieces that are going to be allowed in any given show. I start looking at each piece on its own. Is it basically competent, does it do something at some basic level that’s artistic?”

Charles Young Walls and Sandy Miller

Charles Young Walls and Sandy Miller (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

There were 275 works submitted to the competition, and the jurying process reduced the number on display in the exhibition to 78.

Walls said that he usually looks at the field of works and begins winnowing out works to get the target count, but the number and strength of the entries meant that the number wasn’t falling enough, so he took the opposite approach and focused on finding the “yeses.”

“All sound is not music, every movement is not dance, and every mark is not art. Artistic expression is essential. We have to have it. But if we look at all these pieces, there’s got to be some core I can look at. And it is this: Art, all art, is the art of relation. Relationships within itself … relationships within the piece, relationships one thing against another: light against dark, patterns, composition. Is it predominantly light, predominantly dark? Is it 50/50? Wherever it goes, it always relates to itself. So that’s what I’m looking at, I’m trying to see how these pieces work,” Walls said.

Three women seated playing violins

Violinists from Whitefield Academy (L-R) Students Shelby and Gracen, and Orchestra Director Emily East provide music for the reception (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

After jurying determined the number of works in the competition, judging the prize-winners began. Walls described the process he used to mark potential winners to choose from.

“I could make arguments for just about everything in this show to have won an award, and I’m not just saying that. If you know me, you know I’m not a back patter. We held ourselves to fifteen stickers … we cut out fifteen pieces of paper with a piece of tape.  And we put it on a wall.  Boom, boom, boom, boom boom. No more than fifteen. I was going to do ten, and I wanted five more, so I gave myself five more. Which made it even worse. Putting up fifteen was hard enough.  Taking them down …! No … no … no.  I do not judge by my own aesthetic.  I do not judge by the artwork that I like, or that I would do. I do not say, ‘This is my kind of art, and I want to promote it, so I’m going to let it win.”

He said he asked permission to give seven awards instead of the original five that were planned, and he was granted that permission. So the awards for the show included the three top prizes, two Awards of Excellence, and two Awards of Merit.

Artists Isaac Alcantar, Tokie Rome-Taylor, and Miles Davis in front of a painting by Alcantar

L-R Artists Isaac Alcantar, Tokie Rome-Taylor, and Miles Davis in front of a painting by Alcantar (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The winners of the South Cobb Arts Alliance competition

SCAA President Sandra Miller announced the awards, handed to her by Recording Secretary Sandy Smith.  Walls then said a few words about his decision for each of the winners.

First Place

The grand prize winner this year was “French Blue” by NancyJeanette Long of Georgia.

Grand Prize entry "French Blue," by NancyJeanette Long. The painting is of a stocky dog with large upright ears staring ahead with a skeptical expression. The painting has a significant amount of the color blue.

Grand Prize entry “French Blue,” by NancyJeanette Long (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Walls said, “Why did I choose this? All work ultimately begins with design. And something as simple as a painting of a dog could go, to my mind, a hundred different ways. This was taking a dog, and turning it into pure design, taking a sense of color, daring us against blue. You don’t know blue … blue is a dangerous color to use as strong as you did. It is dangerous. It’s like playing … with nitroglycerin. I was thinking you might have used a touch too much, and I removed it from my view, and I realized, no, you needed exactly what you did.”

Second Place

The second place prize went to Vivian McAleavey of Oregon, for her work of enhanced photography, “Through the Woods.”

A dark atmospheric photograph of a wooded landscape with ambient light.

Second prize winner “Through the Woods,” an enhanced photograph by Vivian McAleavey. (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Walls said that while every photograph in the show was beautiful, McLeavey’s work draws the viewer in. “That particular photograph … it doesn’t answer every question. It doesn’t let you know everything about it.”

Third place

The third place winner was Sanctuary,  a forged steel and stone sculpture by Rob Sigafloss.

Steel and stone sculpture of hands on vines with a broken knife at the base

Sanctuary by Rob Sigafoss (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Wall said he chose Sanctuary because of the overall strength of its statement. Walls said that he doesn’t judge a work by the artistic statement itself, but requires that it does have one.

“It wasn’t trying to be smooth, it wasn’t trying to be pretty per se,” he said.

Awards of Excellence

Two Awards of Excellence were given.

Lauren Douglas of Wisconsin won for a book cover that utilized acrylics and photography, entitled “Folks Always Tell Her Their Troubles.”

A painting with blues and purples of a circle with a face embedded in it, in front of a dark rectangle.

“Folks Always Tell Her Their Troubles,” by Lauren Douglas (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Tammy Lawless of Texas won for “The Second Witness,”  a graphite drawing on paper.

Graphite on paper drawing of two indistinct people facing a beam of light.

“The Second Witness,” by Tammy Lawless (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Awards of Merit

Two Awards of Merit were given.

Sachi Rome, of Georgia, won an award for “Orange Slice and Darkness,” an acrylic on Strathmore paper.

An asymmetrical circle with orange dominating the top and dark shades on the bottom. Shaped like the profile of a human head looking to the left of the frame.

“Orange Slice and Darkness” by Sachi Rome (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Jean Wetta of New Jersey won for “Olivia & Her Puppy” an oil and wood panel work.

A painting of a young girl with a puppy at her side. The painting gives the illusion on being three-dimensional.

Jean Wetta’s “Olivia & Her Puppy” (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Walls asks visitors to patronize the arts

In closing Walls made a plea to the audience to buy works of art.

“Buying a painting is not buying that painting. You are patronizing that artist. You are allowing them to stay just a little bit longer, and paint the next painting. And so art needs to be purchased. Art needs to be bought.”

The exhibition is on display at the Mable House Arts Center now through September 18.  Call the Mable House Art Center at 770-819-3285 for their hours of operation.

Check out this slideshow of the event

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Larry Felton Johnson
Larry Felton Johnson is the editor and publisher of the Cobb County Courier. He holds a degree in journalism from Georgia State University and enjoys exploring the county's trail and greenway network when he isn't covering county government meetings and court proceedings.

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