Delta Exhibition Highlights Regional Artists

Aug 31, 2015

Artists who live or were born in the Delta region are showing their work at the Arkansas Arts Center for a few more weeks during the 57th annual Delta Exhibition.

Brian Lang, the Arkansas Arts Center’s Chief Curator, says the highly prestigious show includes work about any and every thing. He says it’s also evolved from an early focus on painting, watercolors, and graphics.

“Certainly landscapes and those iconic images of the South remain in the Delta Exhibition, but abstract art and photography and all other types of media and styles of art have grown over the years,” he said.

According to Lang, the exhibition’s purpose is to give respected and little-known artists a chance to show their work. This year’s juror is internationally-acclaimed watercolorist and native Arkansan, George Dombek, who caught a break when he won an award in the exhibition 40 years ago as a graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. 

Dombek chose 72 works out of more than 880 entries, including one from 30- year-old Bentonville-based Louis Watts, who has shown work in the Delta Exhibition six times since he graduated from college. Watts said this year his work is about apoptosis, the biological process of cells dying.

“That’s how our fingers and toes formed in utero. I was interested in the idea of destroying something and then making something anew,” he said.

According to Arts Center Curator Ann Wagner, once the exhibition's juror selects the artwork, staff organize it by recurring themes and materials.

"We’ve got a piece that’s made out of pieces of wood. And then nearby it, here’s a photograph of a piece of wooden architecture. And then we have another piece that has photographic elements and it’s showing wood,” she said.

“So it’s three very different ways of looking at it. And you turn back around and you have a very abstract wooden sculpture,” added Wagner.

Bentonville-based sculptor and installation artist Dayton Castleman said his painting "Domestica (Stovetop)" was inspired by a satirical Oxford American piece by a friend, Harrison Scott Key. “Classic Christmas Dishes For Academics” is about verbose academic language.

Castleman’s work, in turn, depicts books in pots on a stove or “cooked books,” along with a steak knife and a bottle of wine on a countertop. He said the painting is also a reference to his time as a frustrated art professor in Chicago.

Lisa Krannichfeld, another Little Rock-based artist, focuses on race, ethnicity, and gender in her work. She’s Asian-American and a Southerner. She paints headshot portraits of androgynous subjects in elaborate clothing with Asian-influenced designs.

“I was kind of thinking about gender identity when I was doing these and expectations that kind of go along with what your gender is and how you really can’t avoid those as much as you try,” she said.

“Especially in this day and age right now, gender is just a very hot topic and it’s getting more and more fluid.”

This is the first time Krannichfeld has had her work accepted into this exhibition, and she said it's been a lifetime goal. She won the Delta Award, a second place honor following the exhibition’s Grand Award, which went to Oklahoma-based artist Mark Lewis.

The exhibition runs through September 20. A counter exhibition of works not selected for the Delta Exhibition will be on display in North Little Rock in September and October. It’s called “Delta Des Refuses” referencing the famous French exhibition “Salon des Refuses,” meaning “exhibition of rejects.”