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Saturday November 1st 2014

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Artel Returns to Black and White

By Jennie McKeon

Artists don’t usually see the world in black and white, but they did for the latest exhibit at Artel.  Back by popular demand, Artel Gallery presents “Return to Black and White.”

The art on display contains only black, white and shades of gray. Even frames stick to the guidelines.  Duncan Stewart had the difficult task of jurying the show, having to chose 25 works to display out of 140 pieces submitted.

“There was a lot of photography,” Stewart says. “The works I chose tended to be more challenging.”

Just one look at the old, bright yellow house Stewart uses as a studio and it’s clear that he is a man not afraid of color. Yet, he is still excited about the idea of stripping the privilege of color away.

“Color can be seductive, dramatic–you can rely on it,” Stewart says. “Black and white cuts
things down to the basics. It hasn’t got much to hide behind.”

Before Stewart even saw the works to jury, he knew what he wanted in the exhibit. Artel’s motto is “Art with an Edge” and Stewart sought art that lived up to it.

“If you show me a pencil drawing of a tiger, that’s not going to push things,” he says. “Show me something new–something that challenges the idea of black-and-white. The primary purpose is to show how you demanded the use of materials.”

Stewart isn’t only an artist, he has taught art for the past 35 years at University of West Florida. Although he retired in 2004, he continues to teach art history via online classes for UWF and Pensacola State College—“education in your pajamas or, at least, grading education in your pajamas.”

His teaching experience of grading and judging his students’ works has made serving as a juror almost like second nature.

“It’s actually amazingly easy,” Stewart said. “As a teacher I was always making judgments based on challenging the students. You know immediately which ones aren’t going to fit. The tough part is the middle ones.”

Stewart has been an artist for 45 years– and still creating art. Is it better to judge than to be judged?

“I’ve been in hundreds of shows over the years,” Stewart said. “My personal stance is at the age of 71, I make stuff because I want people to look at it. I could care less what people might think of it.”

As for the exhibit itself, “Return to Black and White,” is an eclectic mix of photography, oil and acrylic paintings, pottery, assemblage and mixed media. There isn’t, however, any videos.

“When I was in school there was painting, drawing and printmaking,” Stewart said. “Now, so much art is video and computer generated. I prefer work that’s not ephemeral.”

The Best of Show honor went to Sheila Courtney for her mixed media piece titled “Gaudi Visits Fort Pickens.”  First place went to Dani Martire, second place to Karen Valdés and third place to Rick Otoupalik. The edgiest award went to Ralph Thomas and honorable mentions went to: Stephanie R. Cassano, Kathleen McClintock, Luke Vest, Jean Harris and Carol McCreary.

The opening reception for the exhibit will be Friday, Feb. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.  Whether you come out for the reception or stop while you run errands downtown, take some time to look at local art that goes beyond beach and lighthouse paintings.

“Come out and expect to see things in a new way,” Stewart said. “I hope the exhibit raises some questions about what art should be–maybe you’ll see something out of context that says ‘this is art’ and it will make you want to find out more about the artist and the medium being used. Keep your mind open.”

RETURN TO BLACK AND WHITE
WHEN: Reception is 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3
WHERE: 223 S. Palafox
DETAILS: artelgallery.org