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Student artists awarded and featured in Pierce art show

The winners of Fort Steilacoom’s annual art contest saw their work hung in Pierce’s gallery

June 8, 2016

“It’s one of our stronger art shows,” said David Roholt, art professor and the coordinator of Pierce College’s Fort Steilacoom campus art gallery.

Every year Pierce hosts an art show and contest to which students can submit their pierces, and possibly win the prize of their art being bought and featured in the Olympic building’s art gallery.  This is the 42nd year that the art show has been held.

This year’s winners included students from multiple classes and ages, and even one who had never taken an art class before the contest.  

Daniel Webster was surprised to win a place in the gallery, having never taken an art class before, nor creating much artwork in his spare time.  Webster had worked with “linocut,” a printmaking technique where the artist essentially makes a large stamp by carving a design into a linoleum block.  

“It probably took about twelve to fifteen hours to carve.”  Webster said.  “Most of it was because the tools were so sharp, and the material’s not very smooth to work with.  So you want to go very slowly so you don’t hurt yourself or make a mistake.”

One of Webster’s featured pieces, “Main Street USA,” was inspired by a childhood memory of visiting Disneyland and its famous entrance of the same name.

The first place winner, Shanley McFarland, was also floored at her being selected, especially the grand prize.  Her piece, “Fish Face,” was originally created as an assignment for her art class.  “I’m very humbled.  I just wanted to get my assignment in on time,” laughed McFarland.  “I can’t stop smiling.”

Her piece, as it was assigned, was a study in cubism.  One of the most revolutionary artistic movements of the 20th century, cubism analyzes objects by breaking them and reassembling them into an abstract form and depicted from multiple viewpoints at once rather than one.  McFarland described it as “a set of different images of motion all combined into one image.”

Her painting, which was created with watercolor paints, was inspired by watching the movement of her pet fish in their tank at home.  According to her, the painting took roughly sixteen hours over two weeks.

John Smith, a pierce alumni who has worked for the gallery in the past, was the judge for this year’s art show.

After going through all the submissions and deciding which pieces are going to be in the show, Smith had to further narrow the selection to the grand prize.  Smith said that he judged the artwork not just by the more objective technical ability and execution, but also “creative vision.”  

“My favorite piece, which I won’t name, is not actually the grand prize winner, because I felt that what they wanted to accomplish just wasn’t quite there.”  Smith said.  The powerful creative vision is an important aspect to Smith, but he tries to look at “every angle.”

“In the end, I don’t totally know if the juror is supposed to be picking their favorite things or the things they felt were done the best.  I tried to shoot for something in between.”

Smith said that he doesn’t totally know a specific way to judge an artist’s creative vision.  He said that he wasn’t sure if it was instinct, emotion, or something else.  “I go with what feels right, I guess.  I always feel that art should make me feel something.  You can have a really pretty picture, and you can really enjoy looking at it.  But I like art that makes me have an opinion, or makes me feel a certain way.”

Smith said that the best living artists, whether they are hated or loved, still evoke feeling.  “And that’s really important to me, I think.”  Smith said that “Fish Face” made him feel “jubilant” or “joyful.”  

“It puts me in a good mood.  That’s one where if you had a chance to look at it everyday, it would always leave you feel better than before you looked at it.”

Smith said that despite feeling satisfied with his choice, judging the contest may not be a job he wants to do again.

“It’s tough.  I mean, I’m not famous or anything.  Judging your peers is really difficult, at least for me.”

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