To the visual arts community the first sign of spring each year is the opening of the national Galex competition and exhibition. This year’s 39th opened last Saturday at the Galesburg Civic Art Center in downtown Galesburg. Juror Robert Poplack, a professor of art from Belmont, California, selected forty-three art works to compete for six cash awards totaling $3,000.

There are more painterly, non-objective works here than in any Galex in recent years. Some captured prizes. "Thresher" by Claire Thornson, Santa Cruz, CA, is now part of the GCAC collection. The panel’s surface is energized with the scraping and scratching of oil paint. Two murky yellow figures emerge from an elusive field. A merit award was given to Neltje, Banner Wyoming for "Rhythmic Roll." It is large in scale, approximately 5’x5’, a square of bright colors and bold gestural brush work. Paint rolls and drips over the exploding surface.

Another richly painted surface appears in San Francisco artist Benedict Cressy’s "Knock." Small in scale, it implies a larger space, broken down into concentric hard-edged shapes. It combines an impression of looking into and down at the same time. It received an Award of Excellence.

The Grand Award was given to Ryan Reynolds, Berkeley, CA, for "September 9." The geometry of a bridge-like structure is softened somewhat by decisive, accurate, free-hand brush strokes. Like Neltje’s "Rhythmic Roll," the structure explodes into the viewer’s space.

In "Brazilian Yo-Yo String," Susan Carson, Pekin, investigates the same dynamic movement of paint in a purely gestural style. The surface is rich in color, texture and variety of painted marks. Lines swing back and forth and across like a yo-yo spinning in the small work.

Highlighting transparency and torn edges, Betty Friedman, Oakland, CA, won the Fine Print Award with her handmade paper intaglio print.

It’s not surprising that many of the works selected for awards are rooted in the painting tradition of the late 20th century Bay Area of California where the paint itself is master of the canvas, not the objects painted. After all, this is the juror’s home base. He has selected work that exemplifies the teachings of the great artist teacher from U.C., Berkeley, the late Hans Hoffman, someone we in the Midwest don’t hear much of.

It’s good to be introduced to fresh work that has traveled far across the western U.S.A. to visit the local Galex.

On a regional note, eleven artists represent West Central Illinois and the Quad Cities. Not surprisingly, the works are primarily representational. Outstanding among them is East Peorian Todd Snyder’s "Silver Machine." It’s almost transfixing in it’s surreal precision painting of an ominous machine on tracks in an industrial setting. Sky and smoke stacks echo De Chirico. Mysteriously, one door in a series of doors swings open but no clue is given to the who, where, what, or when of the machine.

Another "to fool the eye" painting is "Trajectories" by Clark Scott, Monmouth. A small patch of red satin is pierced by a needle and thread, a thimble is close beside. One has to look close up to tell where the painting ends and object begins.

Matt Myers, Macomb, won the Sculpture Award for "Grasping at a Memory," a small steel, wood, and silver work. It is an elegant study in balance. "Ship" by Robert Reed, Galesburg, offers it’s own solution to balance in a compact marble carving. The weight of the marble is dispersed in segments that suggest the rocking of a ship. It’s been awhile since a local sculptor has shown carved stone.

While I’ve separated California artists from regional artists, I did so for the purpose of review. The show is an impressive mix from far and near. Definitely worth a visit. It runs through April 9 at the Galesburg Civic Art Center, 114 E. Main Street. For more information call (309) 342-7415.



The 30th Bradley International Print and Drawing has opened in Peoria. It is hosted in four locations: Illinois Central College Performing Arts Gallery, Peoria Art Guild and Heuser Art Center Gallery and Hartmann Center on the Bradley University campus, and Contemporary Art Center. The exhibit runs through April 7. More information? (309) 677-2989.



It is unusual for a reviewer to write about their own work in an exhibit, because most aren’t artists. I will do so for the sole purpose of sharing a personal art experience that was important to me.

I lived and painted in the San Francisco Bay Area for six years. When I learned the juror for the Galex 39 was from this region, I knew exactly what piece to submit to the competition. It was "Dorland: Writer’s Cottage."

I’d had artist residencies at Dorland Mountain Colony in Temecula, CA twice, once in 1985 and again in 2002. Dorland, where no snake, spider or mouse was harmed. Ironically, during the devastating fires in Southern CA last Spring, Dorland — the ten rustic hand-built cottages, the lily pond, all the wild life, deer, puma, birds and all the century-old vegetation on 300 acres — burned to the ground.

Did the juror know of the fire when he selected my painting for this exhibit? Because now the painting of Dorland is a painting of the original Dorland — before the fire. Though the colony will be rebuilt, it will not be with sun-baked bricks.

The painting was made one July afternoon sitting in the middle of the bed, in the middle of the room. The peaceful realization came to me that I had all I’d ever need surrounding me. My brush and paint quickly captured the kerosene lamp (no electricity), the manual typewriter, a painting hat on a nail, and sandals sitting in the sunlight filtering in from the screen door (no locks).

Outside the door the sky and mountains paled in the heat of mid-afternoon. They seemed to go on forever. I felt at one with my environment. Did the juror sense this in the painting? Does it matter? What matters is the image exists. It’s a memory in paint of a unique place, and now the word "unrepeatable" can be added to the word "experience."