Visiting the 22nd national juried exhibition by the Art League of Hilton Head is like an hour at a very good party. You can never be sure it was really time to leave.
Hung in the Walter Greer Gallery at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, the exhibit of 96 works was selected from over 600 entries that came from throughout North America. The judge, award-winning water colorist Linda Baker valued “bone structure” or solid composition, color values and an element of surprise in making her selections and designating the winners.
Best-of-Show – and the 1st Place recipients in each of seven categories – are perhaps of less importance in this show than the sheer variety of media, styles and creative points-of-view you will find here. The Art League’s ability to command this level of interest is testimony to their established influence as well as the recognition among artists that Hilton Head is one of America’s great art towns.
Personal favorites in this eclectic exhibition include “Explosion of Color II” by South Carolina’s Denise Athanas; “Window to the Soul” by the multi-talented Art Cornell; “Waiting By The Door” by Robert Dozal of El Paso and “Imagination” by Art League member Vickie Jourdan, who also installed the show (an unsung but vital artistic element in any exhibition). There are times in this show when you can’t categorize a style or influence or “period,” such as “Backward Glance” by Natalie Smythe.
There is sculpture, too. From the whimsical turtle of Pokey Park’s “El Pensador” (The Thinker), to the abstract, elemental orbits of “Stellar” by Julia Wilson, to the merger of craft and art in Laura Silberman’s “Driftwood Basket.”
One thing that places the focus of the Art League’s juried show on variety, rather than on competition, is the fact that the jury was just one judge. This is testimony of the ingenuity that art requires to prevail. Economic considerations work against juries of five – or even three – nowadays. Economy is also the subtext of this show’s being a Biennale, or every-two-year event. Yet even as packing and shipping costs crest, artists from 30 states and Canada still submitted their entries – more than 85% as many entries as in a peak year.
The vitality of art finds a way, and that may be one thing you’ll want to celebrate as you visit the show. For perspective, consider what Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy said in an interview this week. At the helm of an art complex that hosts 5 million visitors annually, operates a $750 million budget in the black every year – more than 97% of it from revenue and donations – and puts $3 billion into the economy, Levy said, “Sufficiency lies in conversations, in social gatherings.”
So come to the Art League of Hilton Head’s 2011 Biennale at the Walter Greer Gallery of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. And bring friends!