Suzanne Stewart doesn’t offer a statement explaining why she titled her painting, “Mother’s Day Party.”
Perhaps she saw the fork, knife and spoon at a Mother’s Day party. Maybe she was so intrigued by the scene that she had to sketch it, or at least snap a photo.
But the title really isn’t as important as the universal appeal of her painting, which may be why juror Morten E. Solberg awarded it first place in the Louisiana Art and Artists’ Guild’s 45th annual River Road Show.
The exhibit is the only survivor of a series of national-juried River Road Shows that took place in every city that bordered the Mississippi River. The shows were competitions initiated by Col. E.B. White that took place at the same time of year.
The competition continues in Baton Rouge with a show of 67 pieces representing artists from 22 states.
“We had 384 entries overall,” guild member Claudia LeJeune says. “Out of that, 80 entries were from Louisiana. Morten Solberg chose the final entries.”
Solberg is an award-winning master painter from Spring Hill, Florida, who conducted a workshop for guild members earlier in the year. He based his decision solely on the works.
“He did not know the artists’ identities or where they were from,” says Denice Cyrex Ducote, River Road Show Committee spokeswoman. “He based his choices on design, value and color. He said if you have the design correct, everything else will be correct.”
And Stewart’s oil painting, “Mother’s Day Party,” not only excelled in these areas but grabbed the show’s top honor with a $1,200 cash award. Taking second place for an $800 award is California artist Robert Willis’ watercolor painting, “The Poacher.”
Baton Rouge artist Anne Faust’s serigraph, “A Gathering,” was awarded $600 for its third place finish.
“All of the pieces are paintings,” Ducote says. “This show is always so interesting because you can walk in and see work in different styles. We have everything from realism to abstracts to mixed media.”
And each tells its own story.
Take, for instance, Gloria Nehf’s watercolor, “A Covey of Cardinals.” As is the case with all paintings in this show, the Illinois painter offers no artist’s statement for her merit award-winning piece, but that’s OK, because it offers viewers a chance to form their own narratives.
The cardinals in this painting aren’t birds but Catholic officials, their red frocks almost blending into one.
The question here is why are they gathered?
And what did Baton Rouge painter Elizabeth Whitley find intriguing about the Louisiana swamp scene in her merit award-winning watercolor, “Still?”
If these paintings don’t capture your interest, there are plenty of subjects from which to choose.
“Many of these paintings are for sale,” publicist Lane Downs says. “That’s one of the important things about the River Road Show — it gives artists a chance to sell their work.”
The gallery walk somehow makes its way back to Stewart’s “Mother’s Day Party,” where silverware leans against a wall, awaiting a narrative.