Guest Juror Stefanie Fedor reflects on the works selected for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition
The world is a very different place today than it was when I was invited to jury the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition back in 2019. When the time came to review the works submitted by the 348 artists with ties to Arkansas and the six surrounding states that comprise the Delta region, we were all only beginning to understand the personal, professional, and societal impacts of social distancing through a global pandemic. It is necessary I acknowledge this, because I believe art and the work of artists carry additional weight and meaning in the framework of this extraordinary moment—the works in this exhibition notwithstanding.
When it came time to make my selections for “The Delta,” I took in all the considerations I normally would – quality of the work and a strong artistic point of view – but I also had additional things to take into account. I knew that the exhibition and these works would not get placed in a gallery and would not be viewed amongst an audience sharing their own ideas and feedback. Instead they needed to stand alone and also be reflective of this – hopefully – rare point in time.
One of the great joys of curating and jurying exhibitions comes when you are finally in front of the actual artworks and themes and conversations naturally emerge. Despite these works not coming together physically in the galleries, themes did appear—haunted landscapes and sites with the traces of human touch, portraits in isolation, and ecological and material concerns course through many of the works in this exhibition. While some of these themes may seem somber, I believe they also present the opportunity for hope. The chance to look at an artwork and see a reflection of ourselves, our emotional state of being, and our collective concerns says we are connected.
Art has the capacity for both the political and the personal and at this moment to look at an image and feel a kinship is a source of comfort and optimism. Very much like another great Delta tradition, the Blues. In a foreword for the program of the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.” In times of change and uncertainty we look to, and will look back on, the work of contemporary artists of the period to make meaning of and to write the stories of that time. The 63 artists chosen for the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition are doing just that, looking deeply at the world around them, reflecting it back to us, creating a record and letting us feel seen and counted. It has been a tremendous honor to have been invited by the Arkansas Arts Center to jury the 62nd Annual Delta Exhibition, I remain grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to the works of these talented artists.
— Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond
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