The annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center ends an undistinguished period of so-so shows with its 48th incarnation this year, with entries that are solid, professional, thought-provoking and for the most part unhindered by pretension.
Which is not to say that previous Delta exhibits have been all wet. But they’ve been uneven. This year’s entries live up to their presence in the Wolfe Gallery, where the art of hanging a show can make up for the clunkers within. This year’s combination of good art and good display makes for a real winner.
The 48th Delta also serves to showcase some worthy Arkansas artists. More than half the artists in the show, which features work from Arkansas and its contiguous states, are from Arkansas.
A Delta Award went to David Anderson of Little Rock for his photo of abstracted reality, “Flights.” The piece is a black and white silver gelatin print that crops in on and puts a halo around the tail wing and rear body of an airplane as a rock pigeon, its tail feathers spread, flies over. The black and white medium allows the plane to turn silver in the mind’s eye; the background halo moves the photograph from the realm of realism into symbolism.
Hugo Berumen of Pine Bluff won a well-deserved honorable mention for the painting that has become the show’s most published image, ”Skinned: God’s Lonely Man and Maize as Alka-Seltzer.” The large acrylic and graphite on paper places a central image of black swaths and splotches that arrange themselves into a drawing of an ear of corn against a yellow background. Surrounding the corn are various elements — letters that resemble bits of the Korean alphabet, a drawing of Homer Simpson and a half portrait of a man and, across the top of the painting, the legend “Franz Kline doesn’t suck.” It’s busy and wonderful, in much the same way that Jan Hankins’ “Faux Pas du Jour” is. The painting pairs bold blue Twin Towers, beside which are the smug faces of wrath-wrangling evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, with an image of fiery orange mushroom clouds penetrated by a funnel emanating from heaven and aimed at a house on earth.
The Grand Award winner, Tim Crowder’s “Two ½ Pails,” a hinged triptych of red pails against a black-and-white checkerboard floor, is eye-grabbing in its use of a highly saturated red against the alpha and omega of black and white. Red plays the lead role in a piece by Arkansas State University’s Tom Chaffee, “Toscana,” popping out from a gray background in the form of letters spelling “Le Fig”; fortuitously, Little Rock artist Lauren Wilcox employs a checkerboard floor in her wall sculpture, “Untitled (Balance with Sack).” The enamel floor, hanging from a chain counterweighted with a bronze sack, is shaped to fool the eye and create a sense of depth.
“Mrs. Lucy’s Wash,” by Glenda Lewis McCune of Little Rock, depicts a black woman looking over her shoulder at the viewer, her colorful laundry angling back toward great verdant woods. McCune’s flat style — Mrs. Lucy almost appears to be cut out and applied to the canvas — adds a feeling of primitive art to what is not at all a primitive painting. A quiet, lovely color pencil drawing of red mangoes on an eyelet tablecloth on which various patterned cups are stacked by Sheila Cantrell of Batesville feels modern though it’s in the tradition of still life.
A show stealer is the copper dress that stands in the middle of the floor of the gallery’s first room. Little Rock artist Alice Parr’s ”Formal” stands by virtue of its material: copper that Parr has beaten and grommeted into a form-fitting (sans form) shape.
There are many other worthy pieces in the show — including a small spool of hair that’s unwound and threaded through a needle, jewelry, a white boat half-filled with ochre gourds suspended between two ladders and an image of Muddy Waters — that make it worth a visit. The exhibit will remain up through July 17.
Arte Diem, a benefit art show and sale for the homeless shelter Our House, opens Thursday, May 19, with a party from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Et Cetera Center, 4910 Kavanaugh Blvd. Artists will receive 60 percent of the proceeds from the sale (not auction) of their works; underwriters are covering the costs of the show so that Our House will receive the remaining 40 percent.
Contributing paintings and works in wood, ceramics and glass will be Arden Boyce, J.O. Buckley, Terrence Corbin, Warren Criswell, John Kushmaul, Jane Hankins, James Hayes, Robyn Horn, Jim Johnson, Will Klemm, Henri Linton, Matt McLeod, Virginia McKimmey, Rod Moorhead, Leon Niehues, Benny Parker, Sammy Peters, Ashley Saer, Jack Slentz, Larry Stone, Les Waite, Julie Holt, Jean Mross, Cindy Nahlen and Fred Nahlen.
The exhibit continues 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Sponsors are Beth and Mike Coulson; event organizers are Mary Cornwell and John Harris.
Our House, which also offers job training, is building a new emergency shelter. Entrance to the exhibit is free.
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