Show Preview | Gold Medal Exhibition

Los Angeles, CA
USC Fisher Museum of Art, March 29-April 19

Jesse Powell, Fresh Snow in Truckee, oil, 24 x 36.

Jesse Powell, Fresh Snow in Truckee, oil, 24 x 36.

This story was featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Although the California Art Club’s Gold Medal Juried Exhibition and Sale features exemplary representational fine art, quality and technical skill alone are not sufficient for the jury to accept artists into this prestigious show. Elaine Adams, the club’s executive director, says, “There has to be some sort of poetry to their work, something deeper.” The pieces may explore contemporary issues and the artist’s particular concerns, from the environment and social justice to spiritual messages.

This year the club received nearly 500 submissions from 209 artists; 157 artists were juried into the exhibition, among them Adrian Gottlieb, Kevin Macpherson, Charles Muench, Michael Obermeyer, and Mian Situ. The exhibition opens March 29 and runs through April 19 at the USC Fisher Museum of Art in Los Angeles. Some 210 works are featured in the club’s 104th exhibition.

The esteemed jury that selected the works includes four representatives from Southern California museums and several signature artists from the club. “We want collectors to know the included works have gone through a major vetting process,” says Adams. In the 20 years Adams has been involved with the show, she’s seen the artists grow and become more confident. “At first, I saw artists trying to replicate work from the past. They didn’t understand their own voices.” Not so today, she says.

Figurative sculptor Alicia Ponzio, who in 2014 earned the Best Multi-Figure Sculpture award, returns to the exhibition with a work of purposeful authenticity. IN RECENT DAYS is the artist’s second self-portrait sculpture, and she believes this one is much more “real” than the first one. “I’m at a stage in my life where I’m happy with who I am,” the San Francisco-based artist says. “The last one didn’t feel quite like me. I wanted to sit down and be honest about who I am.” The sculpture is plaster, stained with coffee, on a marble base. Ponzio says she works regularly with the medium in her creative process. “I’m happy to be showing [pieces made of] plaster. It’s not as expensive as bronze, but it can create beautiful and expressive effects,” she says.

Charles Muench, Kearsarge Pass, oil, 32 x 48.

Charles Muench, Kearsarge Pass, oil, 32 x 48.

Charles Muench, a frequent participant and award winner since he joined the club in 2002, says he starts planning for the next year’s show the day after the previous one ends. In KEARSARGE PASS, he portrays a subject he finds both beautiful and vital. “In 2000, I backpacked over that grueling pass into Kearsarge Lakes. While camping, fishing, and painting in the presence of these gothic peaks, I had an artistic epiphany. I needed to be living in the Sierras, not traveling [there] for occasional visits. I needed to be immersed in the landscape,” he recalls. In his return to the pass and the resulting painting, “not only was I overlooking the vast expanse of the Sierra back-country, I was looking back to the past travels of my journey as an artist.”

Two events precede the show’s public opening. A preview for members of the club’s Collectors’ Circle is on Friday, March 27, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Artists’ Gala Reception follows on Saturday, March 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. The awards ceremony, at which the Best of Show honors are announced, is the highlight of that evening. —Ashley M. Biggers

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