Johann’s photograph wins juried Spartanburg exhibition

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

Susan Johann&squo;s photograph &uot;Winter Hydrangea&uot; garnered the first place award in the Artists&squo; Guild of Spartanburg&squo;s 36th Annual Juried Exhibition, which opened Aug. 1 at the Spartanburg Art Museum.

Johann, a Polk County resident, is a photographer whose work is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute&squo;s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Her portraits of noted persons have been featured in magazines, on book covers and on CD covers. She has also mounted solo shows of her artwork of floral and other nature forms in galleries in New York, Santa Fe, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee.

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She recently relocated to the Tryon area from New York City and is a first-time entrant in the guild&squo;s juried competition.

Clemson University Assistant Professor of Art Todd McDonald, the juror for the show, evaluated the 208 entries to select 65 pieces that comprise the exhibit. In the jurying process, he kept coming back to Johann&squo;s work, finding more and more complexity in the piece each time he viewed it.

&dquo;As I spent more time with it, this seemingly decorative piece lured me into a complex visual experience. As a painter, trained in observation, I often find photographs oversimplified and synthetic. However, Susan&squo;s excellent craft and understanding directs the viewer through a rich pictorial space.&dquo;

Second place was awarded to Elizabeth Rundorff Smith&squo;s work &uot;Rattle,&uot; a small oil on canvas. Of the piece, McDonald says, &dquo;The miniscule image lures us down a set of stairs into an uncanny space. At the same time, the shapes create a compressed relationship to the canvas that resonates in sympathy with the concerns of geometric abstraction.&dquo;

Stephen Stinson&squo;s photograph &uot;Lemon Cucumber at Wadmalaw Island&uot; took third place. The image, a close-up of a hand holding a lemon cucumber, takes a common image and raises it to the level of art.

&dquo;The dirty hand and the intense color create a nice polarity between the utterly terrestrial realm of working the land and the ideal and often surprising beauty of nature,&dquo; McDonald says of the prize-winning photograph.

Other awards went to Hamed Mahmoodi for &uot;Beekeeper,&uot; Susan M. Hopps for &uot;Refuge,&uot; Michael Slattery for &uot;Meeting Street Security Cam&uot; and Richard Lafean for &uot;Portrait of Michael West.&uot;

McDonald says that the process of selecting the number of pieces that the gallery could accommodate was difficult because of the high quality of the submitted pieces.

&dquo;Regrettably, there were a great number of great works that could not be included in the exhibition. It is refreshing to know that there is such an active and prolific artistic community in the region. My favorite pieces all take mundane subject matter and present it in a way that is both visually enigmatic and ultimately delivers rich content with unpredictable results,&dquo; he says.

The juried exhibition is the largest show mounted each year by the Artists&squo; Guild of Spartanburg, a non-profit organization for visual artists in Spartanburg and the surrounding communities. The exhibit&squo;s major sponsor is the Spartanburg Art Museum. This program is sponsored in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission, The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg and its donors, the county and city of Spartanburg, and the guild&squo;s generous supporters.

The exhibition continues through October 10. Summer Gallery hours are 10 a.m. ‐ 5 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday; 10 a.m. ‐ 9 p.m., the third Thursday of each month for Art Walk.