The Annual Delta Exhibition is in its 56th year at the Arkansas Arts Center. It includes over 13,000 entries from over 450 artists from the Mississippi Delta region. This year, most of the works in the exhibition are paintings and many have a narrative style. They tell stories about the people or landscapes they depict.
David Bailin draws and paints on large canvases in his home garage studio in Little Rock. He uses erasure marks and paints with coffee rinds to create shape and texture in his pieces.
He is the Grand Award winner this year for Slippage, part of a series called Dreams and Disasters. He says it’s about the type of insights he gets when he wakes up after nodding off.
“During those times of wake up I got a lot of interesting ideas, I mean they would pop in and then you would lose them,” said Bailin.
Slippage shows a landscape of a house and trees that’s tilted sideways and becomes blurry to the viewer. Bailin says he wanted to convey how jarring moments or sudden disruptions cause people to become aware of themselves and their environments in new ways. He says that’s partly inspired by living in a small town in Arkansas.
“Part of what I think about living in a suburban area in Little Rock and stuff, is that a lot of times we take for granted our daily routines and it’s only in those times when we seem to wake up when we realize who we are and what we are. What I try to capture in dreams and disasters is that discontinuity between the routine and the actual realization of who we are.”
Jeff Sharp is another award winner from the Delta. He’s a recent college graduate at the beginning of his art career. Sharp studied the anatomy of owls to create a large bird sculpture constructed from spare car tires he picked up on the highway.
“The piece I submitted is named tread lightly, it’s of an owl that’s soaring down to scoop up its prey. It consists of tire tread, soap drum and plywood made of pallets and pretty much discarded materials I found by the side of the road,” said Sharp.
He wanted to show the hidden environmental impacts of trash, as something can seem harmless but is not. “You think of an owl as a very peaceful animal. In reality, an owl is very fierce and is a predator that is very dangerous to its prey.”
Sharp says his parents were skeptical at first when he filled their back yard with tire parts to build the bird, but his success in the Delta helped change their minds about his artwork.
Todd Herman is the Director of the Arkansas Arts Center. He says the exhibition opens doors for regional artists.
“I think what is often compelling about the Delta is the feeling that there are so many artists in this region who have so much talent, there are really great artists around here and I think people enjoy coming and seeing what the artists do who live down the street, or who they might see at the grocery store. ‘Oh this is what that person does, now I know what they produce, what their art is like.’ And I think it gives the visitor a real optimistic and uplifting feeling of what the arts are like in Arkansas,” he explained.
The exhibition juror this year was artist Brian Rutenberg, who is based in New York City. The exhibition will be at the Arkansas Arts Center in downtown Little Rock through September 28th.