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Five and Counting 

National Juried Exhibition opens at Art Source

Art Source Gallery is bursting with activity on their day off. It is Sunday on Memorial Day weekend and the gallery is closed, but I am meeting gallery representative Zella Bardsley to get a sneak peek at the pieces chosen for the 5th Annual National Juried Exhibition show. Bardsley has been at Art Source Gallery for 12 years, and wanted to bring fresh looks to Boise. She knew that to do this, she would have to expand the gallery beyond its usual collection of local artists and draw new unknown artists from the area, as well as drawing from artists nationwide. The result of Bardsley's ambition is a national juried show, now in its fifth year. Bringing new artists from around the country has successfully provided the "fresh new look" Bardsley and Art Source Gallery were seeking. Just as importantly, it has also given local artists incentive to rethink and invigorate their work as well.

Bardsley sends e-mails to every arts commission nationwide inviting artists to send submissions for their annual juried show. This year, the gallery received 238 entries from around the country. These entries were narrowed down to 47 by juror Barbara Robinson, artist services director for Idaho Commission on the Arts. Robinson is a native Idahoan with a background in art history and has been with the commission for 13 years. Robinson says she did not choose entries based on a theme or predisposed idea of what the work should look like. She tried to choose pieces from artists who showed a mastery of their medium. Robinson chose pieces that were mature and skillfully done, and says she also looked for something in a piece that made her stop and take a second look. She is pleased that the pieces she chose show a wide variety and blend of subjects. A full range of disciplines are presented--sculpture, photography, watercolors, oils, acrylics, collage work, lithographs, a wood block print and even needlepoint. Robinson has only seen the pieces on slides and is looking forward to seeing all the work in person, when she will choose Best of Show and runners up. Those pieces will be announced at the First Thursday reception.

Back in the gallery, hammers pound out a rhythmic sway as workers hurry to hang the pieces. It's loud and slightly chaotic as I follow Bardsley around a corner to where the juried show is being hung. It is apparent that Robinson chose works that stood out as strong, individual pieces and there isn't a real cohesive feel to the show. However, there really shouldn't be a theme or communizing strain throughout the work in a juried show. The works stand alone.

One piece stands out to me right away, an oil painting from a Meridian artist. I find her use of color soothing. Her piece looks a bit familiar, perhaps because I see influences of Hopper. I inquire about the price and find it reasonable. I'm drawn to a sculpture--it's a strange trio of baby dolls conjoined at their heads, each complete with a diaper and religious symbol diaper pin. A bold wood block also catches my attention. Artists were allowed to submit up to three pieces and those who were chosen as a series are notable as well. It is good to see some uniformity within the mix. I browse through the artist labels. They are mostly from Idaho artists, but a few different states stand out--Virginia, Kansas, Michigan, California. Bardsley informs me that Robinson didn't have any artist information when she chose the slides, so it's interesting that most of the chosen pieces ended up being from Idaho artists. Bardsley is also glad to see a wide mix of media--she thinks that this year shows the widest variety yet seen from the competition.

With cash rewards of $500 offered to the Best of Show and two runners up, along with the potential sale of the chosen pieces, Art Source Gallery and other sponsors of the event hope to lure more artists in coming years. The show has a lot of potential for growth and Bardsley has high hopes for it's future.

Gallery strollers, don't miss the opportunity to view the juried show this Thursday. Several artists will be available for comment and the bragging rights to Best in Show and runners up will be handed out at 6:30. In addition to the usual snacks and goodies Art Source Gallery offers every First Thursday, this week attendees can enjoy the acoustic stylings of songstress Karen Schirer.

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