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An international juried exhibition of contemporary still life opens

September 21, 2021

The Object Seen: Contemporary Still Life opens September 15 and runs through October 30 at the Art Center of the Bluegrass, one of Kentucky’s rising premier exhibiting art spaces. The exhibit celebrates one of art history’s oldest traditions – the study and practice of still life as subject matter.  This exhibition honors both traditional realism as well as more experimental contemporary techniques and welcomes a variety of media.   

The exhibit is juried by nationally recognized artist, Sheldon Tapley. Tapley is the Stodghill Professor of Art at Centre College, where he has taught painting and drawing throughout his career and is a master still life artist. His works have been exhibited and collected at public institutions across the country. “Tapley masterfully blends the discipline of a hard-earned classical technique with a vision that is thoroughly modern and personal,” wrote Bill Creevy in American Artist.

“We are excited to bring together this group of contemporary still life works, with the help of such a master still life artist as Sheldon Tapley. The purchase of Sheldon’s Still Life with Flowers, for the Art Center’s permanent collection, was the inspiration for the theme of this exhibition,” said Niki Kinkade, executive director of the Art Center.

When selecting from submitted works for the show, Tapley, noted a major theme being “the contrast between objects that are very personal, even intimate, vs. objects that are neutral, manufactured, very impersonal.”

Still life is both very ancient, dating back to Egyptian frescos, and completely modern in representing our overabundance of “stuff.” Tapley commented, “the stuff we have describes us. So artists describing things are reflexively describing themselves and the world around them.”

Twenty-four works from twenty-two artists were selected and reflect and express the theme of contemporary still life while demonstrating creativity, strength of execution, and overall artistic excellence.  Artists hail from across Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and as far as Ontario, Canada, becoming one of the Art Center’s most geographically diverse shows in recent years.

Commentary on the pandemic and its effects on the artist and society is a recurring theme.

In describing his piece, “Still Life with Inedibles,” a black and white photograph of rotten fruit, Louisville artist Mitch Eckert comments that “the solitary nature of making photographs feels right just now. And to make art that is about decaying objects and to seek out their latent beauty seems like a distillation of our particular moment in time.”

“The pandemic has shown us how quickly our lives and views can change. Most of us have found ourselves living, working and going to school in our homes and using our creativity to adapt and find comfort,” wrote artist Jackie Lucas of Louisville, Kentucky describing her exhibit photograph, “Wardrobe 2020.”

Other artists found interest in the concept of the title.

“I was intrigued by the title of this show because it fit so well with my work,” wrote New Hampshire artist Tracy Meola. “The Object Seen makes me think of the transparent glass objects that I so much enjoy painting. The object is there and can be seen, but because it is transparent it can also be seen through. So often there are colors reflected in glass that we see but do not realize are there. We have objects all around us and in Still Life paintings they become much more than ordinary objects, they become seen.”

Regionally based art supplies company DecoArt is sponsoring the monetary prizes for the show’s top three entries, which range from $500 to $100.  “DecoArt has supported artists, makers, and DIYers for over 35 years. As a Kentucky-based manufacturer of art and craft paint, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to support the Art Center of the Bluegrass and their mission to highlight regional artists in our area. We can think of nothing more fitting,” says Elizabeth Hurst, DecoArt marketing manager.

Additionally, Danville artist Wayne Daugherty, will be exhibiting his show The Object Obsession in the upstairs gallery in conjunction with the The Object Seen exhibit.  His “sculptures” are made with EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam. Visitors will recognize pieces from Star WarsWall-E, and The Iron Giant to name a few. They are constructed with the foam, painted with a primer, then acrylics. He builds them with box cutters, Dremel tools and super glue or contact cement as well as pipes and wood for internal support. 

“Close observation and engagement of the subject is what pulls me in,” writes Daugherty in his exhibit statement. “The challenge is to see objects in a unique way. Look past the object itself and see the beauty of the detail that makes the object more than just an object.” 

Currently, the Art Center plans on hosting the public opening of The Object Seen: Contemporary Still Life and The Object Obsession on Friday, September 24 from 5:30-6:30pm. Social distancing and masks required.  

Still Life Fall Programming: 

Sheldon Tapley: The Object Seen Lunch with the Arts event

Wednesday, September 22, 12-1pm

Virtual program via Zoom

Youth Still Life Workshop

Thursdays, September 23 and September 30, 6:30-8pm

Still Life Workshop with Sheldon Tapley

Saturday, October 2, 10am-4pm