The Sumter Artists' Guild Exhibition, which opened June 27 at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, is vibrant, interesting and in some cases unexpected.
The gallery is full of color, composition and creativity. Literally full. This is the largest Guild show in history -with 147 entries - and is a rich cornucopia for any art lover.
This year, there is a new category: Best in Show. According to director Karen Watson and judge Eileen Blyth, sometimes a piece of art just transcends the others via style, concept or technique.
Best in Show went to first-year Guild member Joshua Hatfield's pen-and-ink "Forest Worm," an arresting composition of a person trapped by the impending energy of the worm's circular design. It is filled with atmosphere, tension and unique technique.
First-place winner Jenna Brown's Polaroid emulsion lift on paper "Stay Out of the Forest" and second-place winner Hallmah Shah's oval ceramic piece, "Tiny Crack," with its intricate markings, inscriptions and purple butterfly, emphasize the creative nature of this year's show.
Third-place winner Denise L. Greer's mixed media "Tempest" with its forceful red and black lines and swatches emerges as a visual description of the word. Honorable mention winner Genevieve Rath's "Paper Shreds" seems to cut into the black background with her delicate treatment and touches of peach and gray. Curtis Phillips's "Sunrise Storm" is reflected by the contrast of the soft yellow and gray with the black and scarlet. Mark Duffie's photograph "Anole" captures the lizard with its reddish-pink dewlap fully puffed as it investigates a fence line. Blyth noted that seeing this photograph just made her happy.
Diversity as always is a major aspect of the Guild show. Constance Brennan's three silk banners - "I Am Joyful," "I Am Radiant," "I Am Peaceful"- seem to change gently in the breeze. "Form and Float" by J. Michael McGuirt captivates with its various size orbs against the black and white shapes. Michael Duffy's cement and marble-like mosaic sculpture "Cyclad" is arresting with its quiet, solid shape. Dominique Hodge's impactful "Cosmic Drip" continues his exploration of Afrofuturism. Dennis Snell's (always) beautiful, romantic technique is highlighted in his small "Iris Blues." Dot Goodwin's three landscapes like "Painted Desert" and the clouds in "Black Mountain" pay tribute to her exploratory nature. First-year Guild member Troyan Francis went big with his colorful sculpture "The Teacher," the figure with grand, colorful wings and heart in hand falling through space like the ill-fated Icarus.
For those who like comfortable, pretty compositions and paintings, there are many: Richard Dinkins' "View of Mayesville Highway" and "Foggy Morning" and Linda Beard's lovely coastal watercolor "Hatteras Sunset" with its brilliant colors and shadows. There are challenging pieces like Myra Barton's red, white and blue "The Rolling Away of Democracy" and a creative sculpture "Believe" by Lisa Applewhite of a waterfall.
For those who like fun in their art there is Rhonda Simmons' "Ketchup and Mustard" (really!), Lisa Melton's photograph "Just Veggin" and Jim Wade's "Where Is Kong?" which more than fill the bill. It might be easy to leave feeling like Napoleon "Brad" Bradford's "Multiple Personalities."
With such a great mixture, it will be interesting to see who wins the People's Choice Award. The Sumter Artists' Guild Exhibition runs through Aug. 29, so there is plenty of time to see all the impressive artistic talent in Sumter and to make your voice heard by voting for The Peoples' Choice.
The Sumter Gallery of Art is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the gallery at (803) 775-0543 or visit the website https://sumtergallery.com.
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