2020 ‘Lights and Shadows’ Juried Art Competition


Casey Kula | Staff Writer

“b4bonah” by Erika Mahmud, Best of Show

Jonathan Hatchett, Staff Writer

“RAW” by Johanna Letson, First Place in Three-Dimensional (Casey Kula)
“Abuse” by Victoria Schrimsher, Second Place in Photography (Casey Kula)

1955, the birth year of McDonald’s, the sensation that was and is “Rebel Without A Cause” and the Vietnam War. In the same year came UNA’s first edition of “Light and Shadows.” Submissions were only allowed by the English department’s students, instructed the semester before to write works that “they would like to see more often.”

Other forms of art eventually made their way into the narrative of today’s “Lights and Shadows.” The yearly publication gained an “s” as well as a broadened artistic vision. Their mission in creating works that “they would like to see more often” yielding varying creations both original and unique to their maker.

“Art is from the word artem,” professor and university gallery director Chiong-Yiao Chen said, “it means skill.”

Chen spoke of how art shows the way students imagine, how what they see in their minds unfolds to create a physical object. The art these students created was judged in two-dimensional, three-dimensional, photographic and digital media categories.

The best of the show was Erika Mahmud’s “b4bonah”, presented in oil and acrylic on canvas. It is a painting covered in a bold red, riddled with miniature ink-colored cartoons within silver skulls accenting its center. A man dressed in street wear, crouched and holding a Penny board is this center. He dons a porcelain-white smile.

Senior Bridget Nelms’ “John 11:9-10” won first place in the two-dimensional category. She is creating a biblical series that symbolizes different Bible verses. In this painting, a young woman is seen immersed in darkness, holding only a lantern for light.

“Each piece is special to me because of the verses behind them,” Nelms said,  “each verse has been applied to my life in different ways giving me a personal connection to each piece I make.”

Senior Daylen Gardner took home second place for his “Rustic Redemption.” In detail, he brought a scene to life; a rustic pick-up truck sits in a yard with a live tree growing right where its bed used to be. He said that the subject matter is very mundane and dated, but he likes to capture it in a compelling way without abandoning its natural character.

“I only want to use it to inspire and encourage people,” Gardner says, “and to show the importance that landscape painting has in our lives that is more than just documenting or looking at a place.”

Chen noted that in education, she sees how art aids in the process of growing. By making art, some students understand themselves at a deeper level.

“You learn a new language about color, about form, about line, about space, and so you put it together. And then you have to have inspiration. You have [a] special thing you want to say …  a vision,” Chen said. “Then you use the technique to help you make that happen. And that is why it is making the ineffable come to life.”

Senior Johanna Letson creates sculptures. She took home first place in the three-dimensional category for her work “RAW”, a clay form capturing the raw allure of a figure. The green-coated piece is only a part of the body, beginning just below the ribs and ending about one-third of the way down the thigh.

“I primarily sculpt ceramic figures using coils that I flatten into slab-like strips, and utilize a pinching and blending method to construct my basic form. I manipulate the structure by pushing inward and outward, as well as both adding and removing clay wherever necessary,” Letson said. “I focus on capturing tiny details that bring my creations to life. Once the clay has been fired and  turned to stone, I coat it in a colored adhesive and blast tiny matching fabric particles onto the surface to create a smooth soft appearance.”

Alumna Summer Hall creates functional pottery, so the pieces appear quite literally as they are named. Hall won second place for her “Garden Box”. She said the work she makes is deeply personal, but also vague enough to hide behind and that they pull inspiration from her writing. She also said taking a ceramics class is the best decision she has ever made.

“I find that I enjoy when a viewer comes to their own conclusions and creates their own meaning for my work,” Hall said. “It allows me to see what is important to them,what their brain fixates on, based on their experiences. Having discussions about my work with another person often leads to conversations about our own stories and how they connect. This connection to others is why I create.”

Victoria Schrimsher, senior and photographer, created “Abuse”, a self-portrait. Schrimscher uses her photography to “speak.” It is easier for her to do so through her works than by traditional means. She had to play around with the composition, the lighting and the effects, but the result was a photo of her from cheekbone to clavicle, a smear of red wiped from the corner of her mouth. It won second in photography.

“I wanted to express what it is like behind closed doors. Many people go through things that no one has a clue about. And honestly makeup and a fake smile can only cover up so much,” Schrimsher said.

Chen said there is no established formula to art, just techniques to make an idea come to life. Though there is no set way to create, an artist must have a balance of skill, inspiration and imagination. Without even one of these there is less of a possibility their art would be recognized as such.

“If you had just the skill, but you have nothing to say, it is as if you have the art, but you don’t have inspiration,” Chen said. “But if you have a lot of inspiration, imagination, but you don’t have the skill, then you have no art.”

Senior Michael Hall’s  “Modeling with Mogana”, or as he intended to call it “Modeling with Morgana”, is his digitally-rendered work that won first place in the digital media category. He submitted it wanting to see how his work fared to others, but ended up doing so with the wrong name. His creation earned first place and was recognizable as Morgana from the video game series “Persona 5”, so no harm was done. On getting first place for his category, he said, “It shows that I can make characters and that I need to keep practicing if I want to get to the point of making characters like this. It’s like a stepping stone to hopefully better and original works in this medium.”

Chris Gargis took home second place in digital media for his “Light Chaser”. The senior had made his original character, a bipedal, animalesque humanoid, previously and saw it as good fortune that the competition was taking place. His OC is seen in motion in his rendering, seemingly headed somewhere in a hurry.

“There was no real inspiration to create the piece other than the idea came to mind prior to the Lights and Shadows event, so I had it already made and finished,” Gargis said. “The Lights and Shadows event was just a case of right place, right time.”

The 2020 Lights and Shadows Juried Art Competition is on display until Oct. 9 in the University art gallery. Once at the art building, go inside the smaller building that its bridge connects to. It is directly up the winding steps.

“Art encompasses so much,” Chen said. “You have art that may express emotion. You have art that may describe the beauty of nature. You have art that tries to express what is ineffable, something that is not described in words. It results in a physical object, some abstract idea made concrete … It is so very magical.”