Rawls Museum Arts and The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
"Opening Up"

A Thematic Juried Exhibition

Conceived in collaboration with 
curator, artist and Virginia native Paul D’Agostino

“Opening Up: Themes & Thoughts”
Exhibition essay by Paul D’Agostino

I chose ‘opening up’ as the prompt for this juried exhibition at Rawls because I felt the expression, understood as a thematic guide, would allow for a great deal of creative interpretation by artists who might consider participating in the show. It’s an expression that lends itself well to many and sundry meanings, both literal and metaphorical, and one that seemed to harbor perhaps particularly suggestive significance in these particularly remarkable times.

I trust I needn’t go into great detail about why one might describe these times – by which I mean the past couple years – as particularly remarkable. And that’s great, because I’d really prefer not to here. I’d much rather focus on several aspects of the variably engaging visual interpretations of ‘opening up’ we received from a broad range of artists who ‘opened up’ their minds and studios to exhibit their artworks in Opening Up.

In paintings, drawings, and photography alike, a number of artists interpreted ‘opening up’ rather literally, offering glimpses and portrayals of flowers coming into bloom, trees filling out into leafy lushness, and landscapes blossoming into season – or simply foregrounding distant, vast horizons. In some of these images, bursting daylight brightens the scene. In others, it’s the luminosity of night that furnishes starry stages with light. 

Speaking of light sources, hints of these, in our eyes and minds, can themselves suggest ‘openings’ or ‘opening up.’ This operates in many ways in the show’s numerous representational works, from the aforementioned images of nature to a number of subtly mysterious pictures of doorways, portals, and variable apertures realistic and abstractly implied. Some of these images suggest transcendence or transition; others, advents and arrivals. Many abstract paintings feature colors, forms, and compositional marks that appear to point, reach out, burgeon or crack open. A number of sculptures in the show do the very same thing while activating themselves in space as well – gathering light and casting shadows as they assert their objective presence to viewers.

We’re also happy to have some sympathetically emotive representations in Opening Up. We have portrayals of people who appear abundantly enthused just to be outdoors – ‘out in the open’ – while figures in other works seem eager to ‘open up’ to say hello or be greeted by passers-by. We even have several animals, including sea creatures, in this group. No lions or tigers in my reckoning, but we do have a number of bears.

Recent times have entailed various degrees of surprise, shock, closure, grief, change, patience, restructuring and repurposing – and at times, some falling apart. A rosier picture of life in general does seem to be coming back into view these days, however, and I imagine most everyone feels happy about that. We at Rawls feel particularly glad to respond to the world’s welcoming of us back into its fold by welcoming you all to Opening Up.
“Opening Up: Juror’s Note”
by Paul D’Agostino
It was a great pleasure to view and learn some details about all of the artworks submitted for Opening Up. 43 artists sent in their work, and with 80 pieces in total, the exhibit features a couple pieces by many of them. Narrowing down my prize selections was a difficult task, but I did so based on a number of considerations, from demonstration of thematic relevance and imaginative interpretation, to attention to formal elements and creative use of materials.

Although the total prize purse is modest, I’m happy to divide it up evenly to present awards to 20 artists. I’d also like to add that, in light of what everyone has been through over the past year and then some, all 43 artists in Opening Up merit awards of Honorable Mention. Even in the face of so many other urgencies and emergencies all around us, you all persevered and continued to make art. That’s no small feat.

Best in Show? That’s the whole show, and it includes all of the visitors. The best thing about art, after all, is the community of openness, inclusiveness and growth that it can create and nurture. I’m grateful that you opened your community up to me, through Opening Up, to serve as your juror.

Congratulations to the Participating Artists: 
Corby Amos, Madison Bird, Stephen Blades, Elizabeth Blanchard, Nancy Blythe, Carole Bracy, Diane Bracy, Linda Bunch, Patricia Chapweske, Sara Clark, Kay Vass Darling, Sharon Denmark, Joseph Di Bella, Dana Frostick, Peter Geiger, Linda Gerek, Anne Harkness, J.M. Henry, Sheila Holland, Cassandra Joyner, Darci Kelly, Lisa Levine, Sandy Lupton, Sara Merkel, Laura Monroe Duprey, Elizabeth Orrock, Jeannine Peregrine, Gayle Pipkin, Martha Prideaux, Lynda Ray, Elaine Rogers, Lynn Ruehlmann, Julie Schnatz Rybeck, Russell Schools, Robert Springfield, Nancy Stutts, Pamela Sutherland, Kenneth Szmagaj, Edward Tepper, Jill Tiderman, Kendra Wadsworth
 and Pat Wasserboehr

And the Winners are...
Madison Bird, Mother Nature
Stephen Blades, Composite God #1
Nancy Blythe, Clearly Ocean I
Sara Clark, Quantum Optimism
Joseph Di Bella, Mourning Light #5
Anne Harkness, Singular
Sandy Lupton, Open to the Possibilities
Sara Merkel, Void
Jeannine Peregrine, Totem I, Cicely Alaska
Gayle Pipkin, Portal #1
Lynda Ray, Blue Shift
Lynn Ruehlmann, Bursting With Life
Julie Schnatz Rybeck, Imagine With Pink
Russell Schools, Wake Up
Pamela Sutherland, Thatch Thesis
Kenneth Szmagaj, Trace III
Edward Tepper, Rep Reopens 
Kendra Wadsworth, Incubate
Pat Wasserboehr, Calligraphic Form II

On view through Sept 3, 2021

Gallery hours are Tues. and Sat. 1-4 PM, Wed. through Fri. 10 AM- 4 PM