As visitors contemplate this year's annual invitational art show at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, there's more to see than ever in the 75 years of FSRAM's existence. Submissions from 77 artists include photography, stained glass, acrylic, watercolor, oils, woodcut, pastel, fiber, rayon, and a medium new to FSRAM this year -- chocolate sealed in resin and titled "Think Like a Man" by Zuleyma Payan.
A large ship constructed of stained glass and tree roots by Cheri Bohn centers the largest section in the gallery and embodies the ship voyages depicted in Homer's book "The Odyssey," says FSRAM publicist Laura Wattles. A nearby work features the traditional media of acrylic paint on canvas, capturing reflected light on two dogs in a field in "Best Day" by Suzanne DesMarais. A wearable crochet sculpture by Madison Deen weaves the shapes of fossilized coral; "Evidence (Time/Place): After Cole" by James Volkert uses dramatic color and lighting in oil paint to depict a boat journey; and first place was awarded to Tammy Harrington, a professor of art at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, for "Whisper," inspired by the Chinese folk art of paper cut.
"I am thrilled to present our newest exhibition, which showcases a diverse and thought-provoking collection of contemporary art," says Michael Hall, FSRAM's new executive director. "The works on display push the boundaries of artistic expression, inviting our visitors to engage with different perspectives and explore the themes of journey, through life, through circumstances, and through navigation of our world.
"We hope that this exhibition will inspire dialogue and encourage visitors to reflect on the power and potential of art to shape our understanding of the world around us."
Harrington's world, like her art, is multidimensional. She was born in South Dakota, a child of immigrants from China, and says art was always her passion.
"One of my earliest art memories is from preschool when we worked on a tiger drawing with crayons," she says. "I can't imagine doing anything else."
Harrington earned a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design/printmaking at the University of South Dakota and a master of fine arts in printmaking at Wichita (Kan.) State University. Her work was accepted into the 29th annual International Photography Exhibition at FSRAM in 2005, and she was one of the jurors for the invitational in 2013.
"In between those times, it was a bit hectic working and raising a family, so I never entered work into this show," she explains. "When I saw what the theme was this year, I thought that my work fit and decided to enter. It is a great exhibition to be a part of, especially with the new location and building. Plus, it has entrants from Arkansas and across the United States.
"The exhibition showcases the variety of interpretations of the theme," she says, "giving the viewer different perspectives to interact with and think about. I see the world in very much of a visual way, and what I enjoy is seeing content, emotion and/or meaning in an artwork that I hadn't seen initially.
"Plus, since I have lived in the state for over 20 years, I know many of the exhibition artists. The reception gave me a chance to meet new artists and lovers of the arts."
Harrington's work blends "interpretations of traditional Chinese designs and patterns into personalized figurative compositions."
"The combination of printmaking, decorative paper, and paper cut shifts the idea of space to be dimensional and flat at the same time, a place between reality and the mystical," she says. "These patterns represent the duality of my existence as a Chinese American. Depending on the moment, I teeter between how Chinese and how American I am perceived by others."
Also honored by judges Don Lee, gallery director at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith; Ernest Cialone, art professor at UAFS; and Bethany Springer, associate professor of art at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, were:
Purchase award -- Susan Chambers, acrylic on canvas, "In the Garden."
Second place -- Amy Scoggins, oil on canvas, "Motherhood: Death by Homeschool."
Third place -- Cheri Bohn, stained glass, "Bohn Voyage."
Honorable mention -- Elizabeth Weber, "Forest Sanctuary"; Thomas Richard, "Danger, Danger: From Lifesavers to Chicken"; and Neal Harrington, "The Fish Lady of Toad Suck Holler."
WHEN -- Through July 30; hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday & 1-5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE -- Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
COST -- Free
INFO -- 784-2787 or fsram.org