CORVALLIS, Ore. — As the last couple of people drifted away from last night’s opening reception for the Art about Agriculture exhibit at Oregon State University’s Memorial Union building on campus, the cleaning woman leaned against her cart.
“Were you here for the reception?” she asked.
“Were you one of the artists?” she added, smiling, motioning towards the recently installed exhibit or paintings, pictures and sculpture behind glass along the hallway.
For a few hours earlier, the Memorial Union Concourse Gallery and Memorial Union Lounge had been filled with conversation and laughter, familiar greetings, soft murmurs as well as hearty congratulations.
After two rounds of judging, 50 artists and their 60 works of art had emerged to become part of this year’s Art about Agriculture tour themed By Land and By Sea. A dozen of the pieces received various awards and honors, some to become part of the university’s impressive permanent collection of art.
For some people, like Roy “Brizz” Meddings, who received a Capital Press award for his digital photograph entitled “Red Barn,” this was the first time he has entered the competition. The self-described carpenter from Noti, Ore. who enjoys taking photos during his spare time and weekends, especially of landscapes, shared how he came across this barn in Eastern Oregon, near John Day. He set up his tripod and took seven shots. One of them became a prize winner.
He had another picture — “Canola Wedge” — also chosen for the tour, and was already planning what pictures he would like to enter into next year’s competition. More of his work — as well as the two images chosen for the tour — can be seen at brizz.smugmug.com.
For other artists, such as Tallmadge Doyle, the competition is a familiar one and she is well-known to the university.
Originally from New York City, she lives now in Eugene. As it was announced that Doyle’s etching entitled “Giant Pacific Octopus II” had won several prestigious awards, including the OSU President’s and 2007 Juror’s Purchase awards and become part of the university’s permanent collection, it was noted she already has three other pieces that have been purchased for the same collection.
Her accomplishments go beyond the Art about Agriculture competition. As her website (www.tallmadgedoyle.com) states, “Her work is included in numerous public and private collections including the Portland Art Museum’s Gilkey Print Collection, the Oregon State University Art About Agriculture Collection, the City of Seattle Portable Works Collection, and the Cleveland Art Association Collection.”
Her work has also been in galleries and national juried exhibitions across the country, for the Northwest to Washington, D.C., and New York City.
The opening reception drew a mix of people, from art lovers to university officials, artists to sponsors. Many of the artists brought their spouses or friends to celebrate their accomplishment.
Sitting during the award ceremony in a mix of overly comfortable sofas and chairs in the lounge with dark brown, ornately carved, high-beamed ceilings, the audience listened as Jan Auyong, Assistant Director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, and Master of Ceremonies Michael Burke, Associate Dean Emeritus of OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, made introductions, explaining the history of the competition and OSU’s involvement in Art about Agriculture for the last 25 years.
Burke made interesting observations about the ties of art to agriculture going back to the earliest examples of art: from cavemen to other ancient civilizations that later emerged and wanted to capture in wall paintings, stone carvings or pottery etchings images of agriculture.
His comments made people think more about the links between agriculture and art and their influence on each other.
The artwork may have helped teach others how to work with domesticated animals, or how to grow crops, but they also helped preserve a record for archeologists to understand more about the production practices, and challenges, that people faced in agriculture.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that it’s a university that for the last quarter century that has worked to preserve art about agriculture in the modern world in so many examples of media.
In this year’s competition, artists who will participate in the tour used digital photography, oil or acrylic on canvas, watercolor, platinum/palladium print, mixed media, charcoal, etching, gelatin silver photography, oil on linen, ultrachrome print, forget steel, ink, plate lithograph, selenium toned gelatin silver photograph, lino-cut reduction print, acrylic and sand on canvas, pastel, cyanotype photograph, handcolored photograph, charcoal, monotype and dry pastel.
These artists were from all over Oregon, as well as from Idaho and Washington state. There were entries from other states in earlier rounds of the competition.
As people later walked through the hallway and gazed at the artwork, people stressed what they liked best in subject matter, boldness, color, originality or even the memory the art evoked from visits perhaps to the coast.
There were images of those who fished on ocean waves, sought crabs on beaches, or played with families on a sunny shore. Harbor scenes of boats and bridges and sun-dappled beaches balanced the artwork that showed more of the land part of the theme: barns, irrigations, elevators, hayfields and cattle.
There was something for everyone.
“Want to know which one I like best?” asked the cleaning woman, eyes twinkling. “I’ll show you,” she said, leading the way. “If you don’t mind,” she apologized, but eagerly nodded approval when she saw she had a captive audience following her.
Along the way, she said how blessed she felt to be able to work each day in this building, in this area especially when the Art about Agriculture exhibit was on display. She loved the paintings, and being able to gaze at them as she went about her duties.
Much better than some of the other more dreary areas of campus, she laughed.
Down the hall she walked, turned to the right, then stopped in front of a large pastel named “Home Is Where The Hay Is” by Judy Phipps of Rickreall, Ore.
Admitting she had dabbled with pastels herself in the past, the woman brushed some of her hair away from her face, leaned forward, and pointed out the fine detail on the swaths of hay. Such a masterpiece, so hard to believe it was done in pastel, she explained.
The artists, the sponsors, the university faculty and deans were gone for the night.
The students started to again walk quietly through the hallway and settle into the soft sofas to study or sleep for the night.
The cleaning woman smiled, thanked her guests, and as they descended the stairs to leave the building, she happily returned to her nightly chores, as she still soaked in the creative, colorful exhibits around her capturing land and sea beyond campus walls.
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