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One of the $1,000 winners of the 27th annual Northern National Art Competition was Leslie Nichols from Bowling Green, Ky, with a piece entitled “Kaitlin (Paul 1923).” It was created on a typewriter. (Kayla Breese/River News)
One of the $1,000 winners of the 27th annual Northern National Art Competition was Leslie Nichols from Bowling Green, Ky, with a piece entitled “Kaitlin (Paul 1923).” It was created on a typewriter. (Kayla Breese/River News)
7/23/2014 7:30:00 AM
Northern National Art Competition juror explains the art of judging art

Kayla Breese
Feature Writer


The juror of the 27th annual Northern National Art Competition has announced the winning pieces.

Linda Benedict-Jones of the Carnegie Museum of Art viewed the 509 submissions on her computer screen and had to whittle them down to the final 83.

She did not see the artwork in person until Monday, when she spent three hours selecting the pieces she felt were worthy of the top prizes.

"Everything that's on view in my opinion is a winner because they made it into the show," she said.

One of the $1,000 winning pieces was "Kaitlin (Paul 1923)" by Leslie Nichols of Bowling Green, Ky. Benedict-Jones said the piece was quite unique.

"I just think it's remarkable, when you step back you see an abstract portrait of a young woman and you're not even quite sure what it's made of and then the closer you come it's letters from a typewriter," she said. "And then it actually means something because these are real sentences and real words."

The pieces that received special recognition were unique, had set themselves apart from the others and were more than just really good for the particular medium used.

"The competition is steep but I still believe ['Kaitlin'] sets itself apart, it stands apart, it's uncommonly good and what I think as a juror it's my responsibility to find things that are uncommonly good," she said.

Another piece that caught Benedict-Jones' eye was a mixed-fiber piece, "Name Dropper" by Pat Kumicich from Naples, Fla. Benedict-Jones said she could see the time and effort the artist put into it.

"You look at the way her skin was rendered, this is really beautifully done, this is real craftsmanship," she said

On the face alone there were seven or eight different colors of thread were used.

"This is someone who had to do a lot of preparation in terms of finding all of these labels and then imagining how to incorporate other words into this quilt [or tapestry]," Benedict-Jones said.

The artist used zippers, labels and stitching to create the woman, the bodice and skirt of the dress and the names in the background.

While looking at the entries on her computer, Benedict-Jones included "Bear Cave" by Robert Gehrke of Eau Claire.

It is an oil painting of postcards with a handwritten message. It became more gripping to her in person because it was so difficult to figure out, it made her pause and think. For that piece to have that effect warranted it a place in the top three, she said.

She said she found it nostalgic because people don't often send letters, postcards or write in cursive anymore.

"There's just layers of nostalgia here that I think are interesting because part of us thinks that this is all present but it's mostly past, so I find that to be really intriguing," she said

There were three $1,000 winners, two $500 special merit awards, many $300 and $250 winners, several $150 and $125 winners, a Nicolet College purchase award winner and an audience choice award. Gale Willcox of Rhinelander received the $250 Mel and Linda Davidson Award for her fabric/mixed media piece "Soft Landing." Joanne N. Olsen of Lake Tomahawk received the $150 James and Mary Bloch Award for her watercolor painting "Pond Patterns."

The Northern National Art Competition exhibition will be on display in the Nicolet College Gallery through Sept. 12.

Kayla Breese may be reached at kayla@rivernewsonline.com.





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