2018 NorthStar Member Exhibition: “Colors of Joy”

April 7, 2018 to May 13, 2018 at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, MN

Juror Tara Sweeney shared the following comments about the award-winning paintings at the NorthStar’s Member Exhibition: The breadth and depth of creative practice exhibited made my work challenging AND fascinating! Thanks to all who submitted your best efforts. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve in this role. Awards recognize excellence. Obviously. But what is excellence? The Oxford dictionary defines it as “the quality of being outstanding.” I think about creative excellence with the metaphor of a three-legged stool—technique, composition, and originality of expression. If one or more of those “legs” are wobbly your creative results might be good, or even pretty good. But it isn’t excellent until the technique, composition and originality are rock solid and working together for memorable impact. If your artwork has excellent technique and composition but the idea or subject matter has too little “aha” factor keep working on taking greater creative risk. If your artwork has a brilliant idea and memorable expression with great technique but the composition is flawed keep working on your design skills. If your artwork has a lively composition that supports memorable subject matter but your technique is inconsistent or flawed keep working for greater technical knowledge and control in your medium. When excellence in technique and composition come together to support a truly unique expression there is a memorable “aha” factor–the artwork feels resolved, complete, and award worthy. Without further ado, here are thirteen Aha’s:

Honorable Mentions:

(Photo left) Joanne Middaugh
Prom Night
The lively integration of text as a linear mark overlaying the collaged shapes and textures pulls the viewer in. Once there, we take in word fragments and are left wondering what happened or what is about to happen.


(Photo right) Judy Fawcett
Tortilla Maker
The figure is pensive, seemingly of another time or place. The simplified planes of light and brooding low intensity palette contrast with patterns of arbitrary color evoking an isolation and mood reminiscent of Edward Hopper.    



(Photo left) Gail Speckman
This exuberant romp through the spring woodland combines an unabashedly bold use of a resist mark with lively gestural watercolor brushwork. And after the winter we just endured, the title is right on the money.

(Photo right) Ceceile Hartleib
Phoenix Waiting at the Door
Here is an artist who is not afraid of the dark. Her bold use of saturated, deep hues in the foreground creates a distinctive mood and time of day. I am not a pet owner, but this dog’s patient anticipation is palpable.

(Photo left) Jeannie Ferdinande
This little gem is executed in classic botanical tradition with a pristine background and scrupulous attention to object detail. But the marbles are an unexpected and intriguing element juxtaposed with the decaying leaf. The artist suggests a passage of time, a longing—but for whom or for what is left to the viewer to ponder.

(Photo right) Marie Hammond
’s Way
This rich canvas showcases a wonderful range of painterly marks. The brushed, scraped, dripped, and layered surface combined with a restrained but light-filled palette compels the viewer to linger as the title intends.  



Merit Awards:

(Photo left) Dennis Murnyak
Winter Afternoon

The c00alligraphic inkiness in this painting is a distinctive gestural mark with the immediacy and temporal quality of a plein air sketch at its finest. If it was not actually created en plein air the artist appears to have clocked plenty of hours painting that way to deliver this bravura mark.

(Photo right) Heidi Nelson
Wedding Zig Zag
Precise photo-realism for these fresh faces paired with transparent glazing celebrates the bounce of light from the paper beneath. Is the “zig zag” in the title a literal documentation of an earlier decade’s graphic style, a commentary on the tipsy couple, or wisdom for the reality of married life once the honeymoon is over? Viewers are left to ponder the possibilities.

(Photo left) Kaye Freiberg
Under the Surface
This painting delivers a powerful sensation of crashing surf relentlessly pounding a few stoic rocks but it does so without being literal. The objective abstraction is powerfully audible reminding us of our insignificance in the grand scheme of things—always worth a try.

(Photo right) Lisa Fertig
Hen House
Chickens are funny. So is this title. The painting is seriously excellent but doesn’t take itself too seriously despite being flawlessly designed. The bold range of textures and patterns layered with sly humor in a low-key palette makes it especially memorable.  

Awards of Excellence:

(Photo left) Judith Meyeraan
This artist showcases a range of classical watercolor techniques in this painting: high and low key color dominance and subordinance; subtractive lifting, wet into wet lost edges; closely related value structures; and a dramatic value scheme. The single bloom and bud feel like a portrait. The columbine’s unique character and likeness have been singled out for us to ponder before we answer the call that mysterious deep space beyond it.

(Photo right) Fred Dingler
Jackson General Store
The masterful photo-realism of this detailed, diminutive statement on small town commerce evokes nostalgia for a bygone era. But the vivid contemporary palette makes the viewer question if this is a memory or a carefully preserved contemporary remnant of another time.


Best of Show:

(Photo below) Jill Jacobson Teal and Tangerine A very good thing comes in this small package. It only looks simple because the artist knew exactly what she was doing: there are resting places in all the right places of this lively abstraction’s spiral path; the bold colors of the title theme paired with varied textures and patterns create surprising layers of complexity. And the playfulness is irresistible.      


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