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A New Look at Watercolors

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"When a painting is reproduced in a magazine, you don't have the full experience; you miss the significance of the size of it," explains artist and exhibit co-chair Eleanor Cox. "It's fun to have the exhibition here in Richmond to give the public the opportunity to see the real thing."

The artwork is spread between the Gumenick Family Gallery and the Slantwall Gallery at the arts center, and the excellent lighting and display of the exhibit allow for an open flow for viewing. There is a vast array of paintings from the 18 Southern states (plus Washington, D.C.) that qualify for the competition. The range of entries, from still lifes to abstracts to portraits and impressionistic images, makes the show interesting for both the casual viewer and the art aficionado.

If watercolor conjures images of timid brushstrokes and women parading by the lake with parasols, think again. The most striking elements of the presentation are the texture, depth of color and original subjects that inspire the artists: the near photographic perfection of Dean Mitchell's "Aging French Quarter"; the powerful detail of Marion W. Hylton's portrait "Sheepman"; and Laurin McCracken's striking "Still Life With Roemer." The transformative effect different surface paper has on the watercolor medium, and the way it informs the subject and mood of many of the exhibit's works, makes the drive to Glen Allen well worth it.

Juror George James, professor of art emeritus at California State University at Fullerton, pared down the entries and was the sole judge of the show.

"Because he's a college professor, he has a lot of visionary ideas that have the mark of the 21st century, and that was exactly the type of person we wanted as a juror," says Cox. James has participated in regional and international exhibitions and most recently has focused on an area of research involving the use of synthetic paper and traditional watercolor media.

The exhibition is free to the public and on view until May 13. Many of the works are for sale; the Cultural Arts Center receives a 30 percent commission. Cash prizes will be awarded to winning artists. S

The 29th Annual Southern Watercolor Society Exhibition runs through May 13 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, 2800 Mountain Rd. Call 261-6200.

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