This small piece is one of the most formative of my career so far - if not for anyone else, than for me. My friend and colleague at Planet, Talamieka McNeil, gave us the heads-up on this arts competition at JSU, where she attended school. As a fan of the arts, I decided to cover it with her. However, as someone who had been to all the other student museums in the area, I was ready to be disappointed. (Sorry if this upsets people from the other schools, but it's true.) I was blown away by the quality of art from Jackson State, and I believed then what I believe now: the best arts program in that part of Mississippi is there. I was also blessed to meet Lorenzo Gayden, a young man whose talent comes as an embarrassment of riches. I've given him press several times - and he's deserved it each time.
Many art aficionados appreciate a chance to see art from young, raw talents. A good place to do that now is at Jackson State University. The 2004 JSU Juried Student Exhibition Competition is over, the winners have been selected, and their works are on display on the campus. The competition gives the students a chance to have their work appreciated by the judges, the university administration, other students, and by the public.
Sponsoring the competition are JSU’s own Clay Club and James Allen Antiques of Atlanta. Allen is the owner of the controversial “Without Sanctuary” exhibit of lynching photos, currently on display at the university.
Several different awards are given, including Best 2-D Work, Best 3-D Work, and Merit Awards. In addition, members of the administration give five Purchase Awards to the students.
“After we hang the show, they come and select their pieces,” says Hyun C. Kim, about the Purchase Awards. Kim is an associate professor in the art department and the faculty sponsor of the event.
“Two hundred dollars is given to the student by the judge who selects the work. After the exhibit, the art is taken to them. It is kept on the campus, in an office area. Some offices have several years of winners in them.”
Geoffrey Edwards, a senior from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, competed for the first time this year. One of his pieces, “Tiles 101,” a colorful, heavily textured ceramics piece, won the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts College Purchase Award. Edwards was surprised.
“I put two pieces in. The other piece is what I expected that might get some type of recognition. But this was the piece that ended up getting the award.” It was his first award. It seems to have had an affect.
Edwards, a psychology major, has decided a change of plans may be in order. “I’m sticking with art,” he says. “I like it. I’m going to see what the next few months bring as I try to develop a style, but I’m definitely going to stick to ceramics.”
Candice Catchings also won awards for her first competition. A sophomore studio arts major from Jackson, she won the Vice President Purchase Award for her mixed media self-portrait, “Visage,” and a Merit Award for her sculpture, “Message From God,” an angelic figure with a defiantly female form.
“I chose to do that because all the angels they talk about in the Bible are male,” she says. “This one just happens to be female.”
Catchings, a former biology major, is another convert to JSU’s arts program. She says she prefers the hands-on work of sculpture.
“I like working with the clay. I like that feeling of it in my hands. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something.”
Lorenzo D. Gayden is a senior studio arts major from Jackson. This was his second year in competition. His “Divine Vessel” sculpture won a Merit Award and was judged the Best 3-D Work. The sculpture, a vessel in the shape of an abstract pregnant woman, is ceramic glazed to a brass finish.
“A lot of my pieces have a double entendre effect. Since in Ceramics we make a lot of vessels, and since I figured that a pregnant woman was a vessel, I’d combine those two.” Gayden says the form is one that inspires him.
“I was in the process of building a portfolio of three-dimensional pieces and I like the human form, particularly the female form, particularly the pregnant female form. It’s really organic. When a woman is almost at full term, her stomach is a perfect arc. That is the most amazing thing to me. This is an homage to that.”
The student artwork will on display at the Art Gallery in the College of Liberal Arts building at Jackson State University until March 24th. The public is encouraged to attend. For more information, call xxx-xxxx.