Voices of the Delta: Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta

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Jurors of the 60th Annual Delta Exhibition Les Christensen, Brian Young and Shea Hembrey

The Delta Exhibition has long been a southern standard.  Now in its 60th year, it continues its lasting tradition of a much-anticipated annual event for artists and art appreciators alike.  The quantity, 1424 works by 618 artists, and diversity submitted speaks to the dynamic state of contemporary art in the Mississippi Delta. Of note was the surprisingly large number of figurative works entered in both two and three dimensions.

It has been an honor to be a part of the selection committee. My colleagues, Shea Hembrey and Brian Young, were tremendous throughout the entire process. With so many quality submissions, narrowing them down was an arduous task surpassed only by the difficulty of the awards selection. I thank everyone at the Arkansas Arts Center for making this such a pleasurable experience. I also offer my sincere appreciation to all of the artists in the region. They make our lives richer, more vibrant and remind us of how powerful the arts can be.

– Les Christensen

Most remarkable in the juror process, for me, is what you are not seeing here: the large pool of all submitted works that together evoked an overwhelming presence of nature. Markedly green and brimmingly alive, our region’s landscape exerts itself both subtly and overtly into the works created with a palpable, deep understanding of the seasons and cycles of life. It is not nature pristine, wild, and idyllic portrayed, but instead, our familiar, yet still-mysterious backyards, woods, and fields. Here we encounter the extremes of fanged wolves and snakes opposite works of docile, cute, rotund bears. These images present a full range of human nature through still, deliberating faces staring back to battling, wee heroines in Darger-esque epic struggles. Ponder these artworks – offered up like opalescent flowers for your consideration. What do they say about us, our region, our values, our future?

– Shea Hembrey

I have known the Delta exhibition from the time when I first began my tenure as a curator at the Arkansas Arts Center in 1997. When I began jurying this 2018 Delta, I was anxious to see if the internet’s influence would somehow strip away some of the Southerness of the Delta submissions. In other words, with artists able to so readily view material from their colleagues in other regions, would the whole of contemporary art grow more and more homogeneous? For me, the answer became unexpectedly “no.” Certainly, we are seeing a rising sophistication in the handling of materials. We selected work with faux fur, coffee, cold wax, ziatype, video, yucca, fluorescent tubing, resin, found objects, copper point, and of course the traditional materials. Despite this seemingly endless list of media, there is a thoughtfulness and subtlety in nearly all of the works. These traits come in the manner in which these Delta artists have captured the essence of the region. People, place and nature remain strong unifiers. My colleagues Shea Hembrey and Les Christensen have thoughtfully recalled how this plays out in the group of works that the three of us, collectively, have chosen to reveal as a cross-section of the best that the Delta offers to its audience.

– Brian Young

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