LRN Art of Saving the River THANK YOU


Thank you to everyone, especially our planning committee, our friends in the ViBe and the participating artists, for a successful Art Festival last weekend.  Despite the rain on Friday and Saturday morning, we had a great time with our many guests at the reception Friday evening and throughout the weekend.   We hope you had a good time too.

I want to congratulate the artists who won special recognition in the Exhibition by sharing the statement below from our judge, Jeff Harrison, Chief Curator Emeritus, Chrysler Museum of Art.

First of all, I want to thank the members of your Art Festival Planning Committee  for giving me the chance to juror and judge an exhibition inspired by such a noble cause. The Art of Saving the River exhibition celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of one of the region’s most admirable, community-based environmental initiatives, Lynnhaven River NOW. That organization has worked tirelessly to restore and protect Virginia Beach’s waterways and, in the process, to rebuild habitat for the famed Lynnhaven oyster.

The mission of Lynnhaven River NOW is summed up brilliantly by the pair of quilts on display tonight on the far wall of the tent. The individual squares of the quilts were created by Virginia Beach elementary,  middle and high school students, who responded to the theme, “the Watershed and Me.” The assembled works of art not only reveal the younger generation’s commitment to the preservation of our environment, but mark the wide reach of Lynnhaven River NOW as it celebrates its fifteenth year.

The theme of the exhibition tonight — “nature inspired” — also salutes that fifteen-year effort, and I am honored to be part of that celebration.

The show embraces more than 40 works of art in an impressive array of media, from oil, acrylic, and pastel, to wood, ceramic, photography, glass, leather, and even spray paint — all of them responding to the beauty, fragility, and complexity of the natural world. I spent a good deal of time this afternoon viewing and reviewing the works, and I was deeply impressed by their consistently high quality. I had a really hard time deciding on the five award winners. There were just too many worthy candidates for what soon seemed to be too few prizes. So, awards aside, I want to congratulate all of you on your hard work, and more importantly, for engaging so creatively with the exhibition’s theme. Job well done!

While I have often said that a judge can never be completely free from the pitfalls of personal aesthetic preference, I assure you I tried my best to keep a set of “objective” criteria uppermost in my mind as I worked through the process. Above all, I looked for authenticity, modernity, and directness of artistic expression, for breadth of feeling and visual wit, for compositional unity and balance, and for the the considerable technical skills required in mastering any artistic medium.

So, here we go.

Let’s begin with the two Honorable Mentions. 

The comic antics of this piece capture the near-ghoulish threat of a killer wave that could up-end even the most seasoned surfer’s ride in an explosion of seafoam. It presents nature as a trickster — cagey, all-powerful, and always in charge. Congratulations to Ed Obermeyer’s Ocean Boogeyman!


The other Honorable Mention goes to a work that superimposes a highly ordered, geometric grid of triangles and squares over an image of wild, unruly nature — an Alpine forest scene. I could be wrong here, but I read this as a statement proclaiming the need for technology — the realm of science and math — to help us preserve our fragile, natural world. In any case, it is a unique and provocative image. Congratulations to Steve “Scuba” Schumucker for his Voluntary Scotoma of the Environmental Protectors, #1!

Moving on to the Third Place award:

I was really impressed by the technical expertise and atmospheric subtlety of this watery landscape view. With the lightest, flickering strokes, the artist captures the very light and air of a chilly winter’s day, and does so within the demanding confines of a purely monochrome palette. Take a close look at Jenny Windsor’s masterful drawing, Late Light, to see an artist’s inspired hand at work!

The Second Place award:

This work is both whimsical and instructive for all those committed to the future of our world. Robyn Bailey’s charming Armful of Fishes seems at first glance to celebrate a happy child’s catch after a great day of fishing. But a closer look reveals a deeper message — that the future fate of our oceans is in the protective hands of the younger generation. Hats off to the artist for cloaking that message within such an appealing, light-hearted image!  

And now the award for First Place in The Art of Saving the River exhibition:

This work masterfully transforms a set of ceramic drinking vessels into a marvelous celebration of nature — a series of overlapping vignettes of flowers and birds inscribed with a delicate and steady hand on curved surfaces that must be experienced from all 360 degrees. Ann Ruel’s Motherbird Pitcher Set is a brilliant example of the ceramist’s art! Congratulations!

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