'Gateway' show returns this weekend to museum

This year's show draws unprecedented number of entries

Mike Easterling

FARMINGTON – When planning their art exhibition schedule, officials at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park try to strike a balance between featuring the work of local artists and that of national artists.

In recent months, the museum has presented one show that featured many of the better-known works by legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams and another show that showcased the works of photographers from throughout the Four Corners.

But when the time comes for the museum’s annual “Gateway to Imagination — A National Juried Art Competition” show each year, it’s not an either/or proposition, as the show is designed to attract plenty of representatives from both camps.

That certainly turned out to be the case this year. Jeffrey Richardson, the curator for museums system, said a change in the system by which works are submitted for consideration for the juried show resulted in an unprecedented number of artists and entries. Almost 450 pieces by 161 artists from 32 states were submitted, and 115 of those pieces were chosen by juror BettyAnn Mocek for inclusion in the show, which opens this weekend.

“We had almost double the amount of artwork submitted this year,” Richardson said, explaining that the $45 total entry fee was increased for the first time in 10 years this year, and many artists may have felt compelled to submit the maximum of three pieces because of that price hike. Last year’s show attracted 229 entries from 118 artists.

The show is designed to attract artists from across the country by awarding $4,650 in cash prizes. The Four Corners art community will be well represented in this year’s show, but Richardson said local artists won’t be dominating “Gateway” the way they sometimes have in the past.

"Pow Wow" by Kevin Bartlett is one of the pieces featured in the "Gateway to Imagination" exhibition opening this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.
Michael Kimble's "The Drive-In Movie" is featured in the "Gateway to Imagination" show.

“I thought the bulk of what we would receive would be from the Four Corners, but it isn’t … There’s certainly a very strong contingent of individuals from the Four Corners, but it’s not the majority,” he said.

Richardson said that strong national interest in the local show is a good thing.

“This is a nice balance that brings in that local work but includes people outside the region, as well,” he said.

The quality of the work drew praise from Mocek, the juror who is an artist, professor of art and gallery director at Concordia University in Chicago. Mocek will deliver a lecture before the exhibition’s opening reception this weekend.

“The variety of media was exhilarating and shows that passion for creating fine art is alive and well in America,” she wrote in her juror’s statement. “As an artist, professor of art, and director of a university art gallery, I value and understand the technical aspects of all types of visual art media. This competition did not have a specific theme. I found this very positive, as it allows for representation from a wide array of artists across the country … creating works of art they are honestly passionate about … not making something to fit a particular theme or idea.”

She also had praise for the Farmington Museum regarding the approach it takes to the show.

“Many museums are not willing to take on the work involved in producing a national competition with an open call for art from artists around the country,” Mocek wrote. “I commend the Farmington Museum for their support of fine art. There is something in this exhibition for everyone.”

Richardson said, in the past, the museum has alternated between choosing an artist, an art instructor and a gallery director to fill the role of curator for the annual “Gateway” exhibition.

“We didn’t have to figure out which of those categories to choose from this year,” he said. “We found a juror who fit multiple categories. She actually checked all three boxes we look for in a juror, so she brings a unique perspective to this. … She was a very unique candidate.”

Mocek wrote in her juror’s statement that she favors artwork that seems to have more than one meaning.

“Art is more than just pretty pictures,” she wrote. “Art is not always easy to understand, and sometimes it can make you even feel uneasy or confused. Art and artists help society think outside the box. It is this type of creative thinking that allows us to discover cures and solve problems in our world. Really good or important art has depth and inspires the viewer to come back time and time again to get a closer look, ask a question, and learn something new.”

Richardson is anxious to see how the public reacts to the work.

“It’ll be nice to see how many people show up for the opening and how many people make their way through the show,” he said. “I think it will be very well received by visitors — not just friends and family members of the artists, but the people from here and outside the area who are visiting the museum.”

A number of cash awards will be presented during the opening reception, led by the Best of Show award at $1,000. The first-place award is $600, the second-place award is $400 and the third-place award is $300. The Director’s Choice award and the Curator’s Choice awards will go for $250 each, and two Northwest New Mexico Arts Council Choice awards will be presented at $200 each. Six honorable mention awards of $75 apiece will be presented. Additionally, the museum will purchase up to $1,000 worth of work from the show.

“Gateway to Imagination” remains on display at the museum through July 9.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

"Fandango" by Peggy Wyman can be seen in the "Gateway to Imagination" exhibition going on display this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

If you go

What: Juror’s lecture and opening reception for “Gateway to Imagination — A National Juried Art Competition”

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 7

Where: The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St.

For more information: Call 505-599-1174 or visit farmingtonmuseum.org