LaGrange National features artists from around the world

Feb 3, 2012

The Lamar Dodd Art Center and LaGrange Art Museum are partnering again to co-host the 27th LaGrange National Biennial. The juried show features works of artists from around the country.

The exhibitions officially open Feb. 10 with receptions from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LaGrange Art Museum and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lamar Dodd Art Center.

"Juror merit awards will be announced around 7 p.m. at the museum," said Amber Dow, head of marketing and public relations at LAM. "Then we'll be encouraging people to head over to the college for their opening."

More than 240 artists from across the country submitted work to the juried competition, held every other year in LaGrange. Only 130 pieces were chosen. At least $15,000 in purchase awards will be made. The purchased works are added to the permanent collections of the sponsors.

"We've amassed quite a collection over the years," said John Lawrence, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Art & Design and Director of the Lamar Dodd Art Center. "I'd say that three quarters of the art the college owns are things we've purchased from the National."

Owen Holleran, who retired from the art museum, ran the National for seven years.

"The LaGrange National has been the source of about half the items in the museum's collections," he said. "Usually, we get submissions from about 40 states, the District of Columbia and sometimes from Puerto Rico and other territories. The Callaway Foundation provides the museum and the Lamar Dodd Art Center with the funds to make the purchase awards. Without that support, the LaGrange National would not exist."

Lawrence said the exhibition began years ago as an annual arts festival at Callaway Gardens. It moved to LaGrange in the 1970s.

"For the first five years or so, we held it at the old Callaway Auditorium," he said. "And we only had paintings and drawings. It wasn't as bold as today's shows."

Then the Chattahoochee Arts Association got the old jail house and transformed it into the Chattahoochee Valley Art Museum (later the LaGrange Art Museum). About the same time, the college built the Lamar Dodd Art Center.

"I got the wild idea to include photography," Lawrence said. "We decided to break the exhibit into two parts at two venues. The art museum would show paintings, prints and drawings, and the Dodd would spotlight all art forms, including photography, ceramics, sculpture and decorative arts."

This year's judge is Dr. Robert E. Steele, executive director of the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African-Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Mary-land in College Park. Under his leadership, the center became a nationally known institution in the field of African-American visual arts.

He has written and contributed to a number of publications in the field of African-American art, including several entries in the St. James Guide to Black Artists. In addition, Steele has a number of advisory board memberships such as the Governing Board of Yale University Gallery of Art, the Board of Directors of the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and the Founder of the National Black Arts Festival's Collectors Guild, the Advisory Committee of the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette College, the Advisory Board of Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions at Rutgers University, and the Board of Directors of Brandywine Work¬shop in Philadelphia.

He received his bachelor's degree in 1965 from Morehouse College in Atlanta, and two masters' degrees, one in divinity in 1968 from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and another in 1971 in public health from Yale School of Medicine. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University in 1975.

Lawrence said Steele is a perfect example of the caliber of judge they want for the National.

"We like to get a judge with has a wide range of expertise, someone like a museum or gallery curator," he said. "We've found they tend to pick a show that has variety in it."

Three residents of LaGrange who have had their art chosen for the show are Annie Green, Amber Dow and Sandy Cox.

Green is a painter and craftsman, but is best known for her yarn art. Since retiring from teaching, she is still invited to schools, clubs and organizations to set up mini-exhibits, teach art classes and demonstrate her yarn art technique.

Dow works in mixed media and her work tends to be larger pieces. She uses layers, multiple textures and imagery to create realistic emotions in an abstract medium.

Cox comes from a family of artists who began painting when they became "empty nesters." Her medium of choice is oil.

Lawrence, who will oversee the exhibition at the Dodd, said the National serves an important purpose.

"It brings to LaGrange contemporary trends in American art, and is an opportunity to show our students what is out there," he said. "This is a great way to build our collection and show a different approach to art."

The works of the National will be on display at both venues through April 20.

For more information, call the Lamar Dodd Art Center at (706) 880-8211 or the museum at (706) 882-3267.

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