Islander’s photo wins best in show at Newport Art Museum
The Newport Art Museum and Art Association is celebrating its centennial year in 2012. The organization was founded as the Art Association of Newport in June 1912 for the cultivation of artistic endeavor and interest amongst the citizens of Newport.
The Annual Members’ Exhibition dates back to 1986, and it became a juried show in 1989. Since that time the exhibition has grown into the largest show of regional contemporary art in Rhode Island. This year the format was changed to recognize the museum’s centennial year. All submissions were accepted, and a panel of three jurors each selected their own list of award winners. There were 328 submissions in total, and a Jamestown photographer won one of the competition’s top awards.
Eric Senior was named as the winner of the William Vareika Fine Arts Award for best in show. The winning piece was his digital print titled “Two Leaves.” Senior, who grew up in Newport and moved to Jamestown 20 years ago, describes himself as more of a photography hobbyist than a professional.
Senior works as an engineer for a medical device component manufacturer. He credits his interest in photography to the massive change in photography made possible by digital technology. “As digital cameras became more available, I would get out and take my dog for a walk, and I used the opportunity to take photographs,” he said. “I realized I really enjoyed it.”
This is not the first time that Senior has entered the annual juried show. Two years ago, when artists had to be chosen just to get into the show, Senior’s work was accepted. He didn’t win any awards that year, but he is happy that his work was good enough to get into the exhibition.
Senior, each juror picked award winners in three disciplines: watercolor, oil painting and photography. Each judge also chose one best-in-show winner.
Nancy Stula, Ph.D, was the juror who chose Senior for the honor. She is the executive director and curator of the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Conn., and she was one of three independent jurors for this year’s show. Stula selected 11 award winners from a field of more than 300 creations from New England artists. In her juror statement, Stula said that the decision wasn’t easy. “I was thrilled to see so many wonderful works of art and I was impressed by the high standards of the works entered. Making the awards decisions was very difficult.”
Stula said that her selection process was based on a variety of factors but included the artist’s ability to convey a sense of self, the willingness to take artistic risks, as well as demonstration of technical expertise.
Senior is primarily interested in landscapes and natural scenes. His award-winning “Two Leaves” is not really a photo at all based on most people’s understanding of the medium. It is a digital scan which he created by placing the leaves on a scanner to create a digital image. Senior then developed the scan into a black-and-white image so that it would have more contrast. The resulting image is generally described as a “digital capture,” as opposed to a photograph. The artist’s eye for composition is allimportant in this type of work.
“The image is almost a macro shot of two leaves,” Senior said. “It’s hard to understand it until you see it on the wall in its natural size. There is a lot of great geometric detail which you start to bring out in high resolution.”
The digital capture was unusual for Senior, who usually shoots with a digital camera. The photographer is inspired by his natural surroundings. “Growing up here I really loved the area,” he said. “I really love the changes of seasons. Late fall and winter is a great time to photograph. I like the subtle colors that you get at that time of year.”
Stula wrote some specific comments about Senior’s work in her decision. She said that “Two Leaves” transcended its medium and that it is a “beautifully shot and printed photograph.” She added that the image tempts the viewer into believing it might be a pen and ink or graphite drawing.
“There is a very strong graphic element,” she said. “It works equally well viewing it from a distance or studying the image closely. Up close, the viewer gets caught up in the minutiae – the vein work on the leaves looks very much like a map of a densely populated subdivision, complete with roadways and building lots.”
Stula concluded, “This photograph functions as a minutely detailed image of two leaves as well as on a more abstract level.”
The Newport Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition will remain on display at the Newport Art Museum through May 13.