Lexington Art League
The Nude 2000
January 7 - February 27, 2000
The Lexington Art League welcomes portrait artist Joy Thomas and sculptor Ed Hamilton as jurors for The Nude 2000. Both are nationally recognized, Kentucky artists who bring a strong background in figurative work as well as professionalism to the jury process. It is the belief of the Lexington Art League that the breadth of experience in the creation and study of art that these individuals bring to The Nude 2000 will encourage artist participation and result in a strong, competitive and dynamic exhibition. (left: Ross Zirkle, August, woodcut, lithography, 46"x 56", 1999)
The Nude 2000 is comprised of 95 works of art in a variety of media and styles ranging from quickly sketched impressions to fully realized drawings, paintings, sculpture, photographs, and hand-pulled prints. The exhibit represents a rich cross-section of contemporary American figurative art with work by 64 artists from 33 states.
The Nude 2000 marks the fourteenth year for an exhibit that has grown in popularity since its inception in 1985/86 by Susanee Strawhorn and members of the Art League. Susanee Strawhorn, the volunteer gallery director at the time, worked with a small committee to coordinate the exhibit in response to their belief in the need for a venue for figurative works separate from other themes and subjects (e.g. landscape, still life, etc.). The group felt that figurative work was often "lost" in the themes and subjects of other shows. They also believed that figurative work, and especially that of the nude human form, was important enough to merit this specialized thematic exhibit. (right: Federico Pizzurro, Reclining Nude, oil, 32"x 38", 1998)
In the beginning, the exhibit was open only to former and present residents of Kentucky. This tradition continued until about 1995 when it was extended to include Southeastern states. Around 1997 The Nude was opened to all artists 18 years of age or older. In 1999 The Nude became an international competition with entries from across the United States and Canada. The Lexington Art League believes that this development exposes local and regional artists to a more extensive competition that challenges and invigorates their artistic growth. This development keeps the exhibit fresh and significantly strengthens the entire exhibit each year. As the years have passed, the awards given as an incentive to artists have increased to their current level of $1000 (First Place), $500 (Second Place), $250 (Third Place), and three $50 cash or art supply Merit Awards. (left: Richard Beatty, Torso, limestone, 16"x 8 1/2"x 8 1/2", 1998)
Each year a different juror or jury panel is selected. Over the years, each juror has brought his or her own talents, ideas, biases, and opinions to each show. However, the overriding goals have remained the same - to provide a forum for contemporary representations of the human form based upon skill in execution, anatomical understanding, proficiency in an artist's chosen medium and, perhaps most importantly, originality of vision and empathy for the image portrayed.
Dealing with Controversial Subject Matter
From the start, the Lexington Art League knew it might face opposition to the content or theme of the exhibit. Certainly there will always be a small, sometimes vocal, group of individuals who are not comfortable with the subject of the nude human form. However, the Art League has always been open about the content and purpose of the exhibition and maintained the attitude that if one objects to the exhibit, one can chose not to visit the Loudoun House Gallery during the run of the exhibition. Interestingly enough, the exhibit has become one of the most anticipated and well-attended exhibits put on by the Art League. It has even been featured on television news programs on many occasions (including the inaugural exhibit in 1987). While this does not, in itself, justify or give credence to the show, it does indicate a certain acceptance within the community. Total attendance for The Nude '99 topped 2,800 - a pretty amazing statistic, considering Lexington's size and attendance at the relatively low attendance at other visual arts venues. It is also interesting to note that, traditionally, The Nude has been Lexington's biggest show in terms of sales; a fact that appears to contradict the experiences of many retail galleries.
Left to right in Loudoun House Gallery: Parness Gallery Hallway, Boyer Gallery View towards Front, Gierlach Gallery with Front Door, Gierlach Gallery with Hallway Showing.
Certainly, there's no denying that in many works there is an underlying sexuality or sexual content. And one can always question why so many are attracted to the show year after year. Is it prurient curiosity? Sexual gratification? Admiration for the technical and expressive skills of the artists? Love of the classical theme? As humans and sexual beings, all these reasons (and many more) are co-mingled. Lexington's job in presenting this exhibit is to educate viewers about the tradition and value of such works and to help them overcome the initial awkwardness they may encounter when first confronted with such work.
In the final analysis, the Lexington Art League will continue to offer this exhibition believing, as Susanee Strawhorn and the original committee did, that the study and portrayal of the nude human form truly is important enough to merit this specialized thematic exhibit. And, through these figurative works, as is true for all art, we catch a glimpse of ourselves and our humanity.
The Loudoun House Gallery is located at 209 Castlewood Drive, Lexington, KY 40505. Gallery hours at the Loudoun House Gallery are 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM Tuesday - Friday, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM Saturday - Sunday, free of charge; the MetroLex Gallery Hours are 8:00 AM - 6:30 PM Monday - Friday, and 8:00 AM -1:00 PM Saturday, free of charge The MetroLex Gallery is a cooperative effort of Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc. and the Lexington Art League and is located within the atrium lobby of the National City Plaza, 301 E. Main Street, Lexington, Kentucky. (information as of 1/00). Images courtesy of Lexington Art League.
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