Although Archway Gallery considered canceling its 12th Annual Juried Art Exhibition earlier this year because of the pandemic, the show had to continue.
On Sunday, July 5, the gallery, located at 2305 Dunlavy in Houston, held a Facebook Live watch party that revealed 39 selected pieces from 243 submissions. Of those 39, three winners and five honorable mentions were chosen. The show that includes all 39 selections is going on both virtually and in person by appointment only through July 30.
“It’s just a really gratifying and satisfying way to sort of share our space for a short time with artists who might not have that opportunity otherwise,” said the exhibition’s co-chair, Liz Conces Spencer.
Archway Gallery is owned and operated by 33 artists. Spencer said they typically like to have the “wheels on the bus” by January, with a prospectus sent out to bring in different artists from the outside; a juror chosen and lined up; and a charity partner ready to work together. But as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape, Spencer and her co-chair Becky Soria decided they would need to make alternative plans.
In the past, artists would pay to enter the contest and then drop up to two pieces by the museum. Later, they would either receive a call telling them they had been selected for the exhibition or know they hadn’t and pick up their works. This year, artists brought their pieces during appointments scheduled half an hour apart.
“There was never a line at the door. There was never more than one person,” Spencer said. “And they didn’t even come in the gallery, with the exception of one difficult piece, which needed a couple of people to carry it in. And so that worked out well and was a nod to the times that we live in.”
Artist Ziping Wang took home first place for her oil painting, Staring at Night Sky. She also received a $500 cash prize and guest privileges at the gallery for a month. Wang said she has been making art as far back as she can recall, learning from her father who taught art at a local university.
“I have grown up running around his solvent-scented studio filled with skylight, knocking over paint buckets and snacking on apples and bananas from his classroom still-life setups,” Wang said. “As a kid, I always feel like there are so many things I want to express through paint, but I don’t have the proper technical skills to do it.”
Later, she studied art at Rhode Island School of Design. She painted the winning piece from one night outside her boyfriend’s parents’ home in Sugar Land, where she has been riding out the pandemic. Wang said the work’s inspiration came from a mixture of emotions inside her.
“The image is quite fragmented and overloaded because it comes from a combination of insecurity, anxiety, but also faith and optimism,” she said.
For her, finding out she had won meant being welcomed into the Houston art scene, and she hopes to plant roots here soon. She also appreciated that 50 percent of the sale of the painting will go to the Houston Junior Forum, a nonprofit that helps area children, youth, women and senior adults.
Richmond artist Cecilia Campos won second place for her acrylic on canvas, Womb. The work is part of her “Ephemeral” series, and she said the glass containers refer to Earth. “I reflect in my paintings the time that we live in and my greatest concern; the fragility and ephemerality of life on our planet. Although my art will not change the way people act, I can bring to light the life on our planet that we must look after,” Campos said.
Southwest Houston artist Jo Zider won third place for her etched glass and mixed media piece, Where I Am. A member of Archway Gallery until 1986, Zider said she supports its premise and wanted to take part in the show.
Her inspiration for the work came from seeds of social justice, she said. “Using mirrored glass with etched images of barbed wire and stone fences and victims of abuse, allows the viewer to question Where I Am.”
The honorable mentions include: Laura Spector, oil painting,Artist in his Studio; Margaret Howell, photography, Hall of Mirrors, Versailles; Gary Watson, photography, Double Anxiety; Richard Stewart, sculpture, Initiator; and Michael Abraham, archival print, The Night She Decided to Leave.
Juror Wayne Gilbert studied all 243 submissions for the show, ultimately choosing a collection of both 2D and 3D pieces. He said in a press release that his advice for artists was, “When you stop loving it, stop making it.” But he added, “When things are dark in life, art makes it light up a little.”
Spencer called Houston a “hotbed of creative talent in performing, literary and visual arts” and said she is glad to see Archway Gallery helping rising artists grow and be seen in the community.
The show is viewable at www.archwaygallery.com. The entire exhibition is also in the gallery on view by appointment only through July 30, along with another exhibition, BlackLivesMatter: Time for Change. To make an appointment, email [email protected]. Fifty percent of the proceeds from each piece sold goes to the Houston Junior Forum, and 50 percent goes to the artist.
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