Catamount artists show their talent at 56th Annual Juried Art Exhibition

The crowd filling the lobby of the WCU Fine Arts Museum was awash with excitement as the award ceremony for the 56th Annual Juried Art Exhibition commenced on March 14.  

The exhibition gives the opportunity for any undergraduate student to submit their art to be considered for the gallery showing. 

To have one’s art chosen is no small feat. Only 25 of the 146 submitted pieces were selected to be shown in the museum. 

The annual art exhibition demonstrates the talent and diligence among the students at WCU. It strengthens the Catamount art community and allows student artists to be recognized for their hard work. 

Executive director of Bardo Arts Center Denise Drury Homewood hosted the award ceremony.  

“This annual exhibition represents the best in Western Carolina University undergraduate student artwork,” Homewood said.  

This year’s juror was Erica Diamond, an Asheville based artist with an impressive footprint in the art world. She is a textile focused artist, curator, and art educator. From eggshells to bullet-proof Kevlar, from human touch to queer issues, Diamond innovates new ways to explore the human experience.  

“In general, my work addresses the vital but also fleeting qualities of human contact,” Diamond said. “I tend to investigate themes of immortality, the commemoration of touch, and also the thresholds between others and myself.” 

Joshua Masters and Erika Diamond talk art in front of their award-winning piece “Stress Response.”

According to her, choosing pieces for the exhibit out of the many impressive submissions was tough. Her decision came down to the pieces that she found unforgettable and demonstrated potential for further expansion.   

Of the 25 exhibited artists, 15 received awards for their work. One of these artists was Joshua Masters, who was awarded Best in Show for their piece, “Stress Response.”  

Masters said their work is about how people respond to the constant stress and trauma that is associated with being part of a marginalized group.  

“It’s not just an individual piece.” Masters said. “It’s a series, because it’s all about how we lean on each other and help support each other when we’re going through things.” 

Masters crafted the pieces out of high fire porcelain, pinching together very thin coils of the material to form the vases.  

“That makes them very fragile and increases the stress on them when you’re firing,” Masters said. “That was part of the process. I wanted them to warp and move in the kiln under the stress and heat.”  

The labor-intensive pieces took up to 16 hours in one sitting for a single vase. Once a vase is started, it must be finished before the porcelain dries and cracks.  

“All of these were a marathon for me,” Masters said. “My own little stress, but I’m really pleased about how they turned out.”  

Diamond said that Master’s piece was the one that stuck with her the most, that it is mature but honest.  

Matthew Cain receiving the BCFPA Dean’s Award for his piece “Occupation.”

Matthew Cain received the BCFPA Dean’s Award for his piece “Occupation.” 

 This piece cannot truly be captured in a still photo, the meaning is in the movement.  

A projection on a grid of notebook paper hung on the wall tells the story of the human condition. 

“My work interrogates the transition into the obligation of society and time as a pressing relationship to the self,” Cain said in his artwork description.  

His work tends to be about things he’s dealing with in his life.  

“It’s just a way to talk about it,” Cain said. “Being a senior in college, trying to figure out what the next move is, you feel like you might be making the wrong choice. This piece is just a way to talk about being scared of some of those choices.” 

The projection shows Cain moving from panel to panel; sometimes walking, sometimes dancing, sometimes pausing to lie down. The perfectly sequenced clips create a memorizing and compelling story on the crumpled notebook paper.  

Hornsby’s book skirt screen printed with her own words and words that have been written to her.

Anilia Hornsby received the Design Media Award for her piece “Thinking of you.” As a WCU graduate with a B.S. in Anthropology with an archeological practices concentration and Cherokee studies minor, Hornsby was one of the non-art majors in the exhibition. She created the piece for a book art class when she was still enrolled at WCU.  

The skirt is a reimagining of a book that features a silk inner skirt, screen printed with words in bold red lettering of some of Hornsby’s own words and some words said to her by others. A grey wool outskirt trimmed with ribbon hand-picked from Spain acts as the book cover with a complimentary bandana screen printed in the same fashion represented the masculine form of the piece. 

The piece explores the parallels between books and human relationships.  

“The screen-printed ‘pages’ inside the dress carry messages, reminiscent of the personal and hidden narratives we carry in our relationships,” Hornsby said in her artist description. “The act of opening a book parallels the vulnerability and trust involved in undressing, where each layer revealed is a page turned, uncovering deeper truths.”  

To the artist community Diamond imparted a piece of wisdom. 

“If I could leave you with some advice from my years as an artist and curator,” Diamond said. “It would be that work comes from work. Don’t edit yourself. Just keep doing the work.”