CHAGRIN FALLS – For the second time in three years, a painting by Solon artist Judy Takacs won the Best of Show in the Valley Art Center’s Annual Juried Art Exhibit. The awards were presented Nov. 1.

Ms. Takacs, well-known in the region for her larger-than-life people paintings, won the top prize in the show’s 42nd annual edition for “The Guarded Idealist,” an oil on canvas depicting two women.

The painting pays tribute to women of a certain age. According to Ms. Takacs, “that seems to be a theme of mine.”

Two figures, posed against a red background, share determined body language, intent faces and silver strands embellishing their hair. The women in the painting are actually the same woman, Ms. Takacs said.

Her name is Jane Petschek and they met at the Fairmount Center for the Arts juried annual two years ago in Russell Township. Ms. Petscek is also an artist, a printmaker. “I am usually pretty shy about asking people but I told her ‘I really want to paint you,’” Ms. Takacs recalled. “Jane was just so striking and as it turned out, she had modeled before.”

The fact that Ms. Petschek is an artist also fit with the theme of the painting Ms. Takacs had in mind. “I wanted to show how, as artists, we have to protect our principles, how we all have to try to do that,” explaining the intent and determined expressions in the painting.

Those principles are also why Ms. Takacs said she does not like to define her paintings as portraits. “Portraits are true to the people you see before you. I am a painter of people and like telling a different story and it’s why I don’t do (portrait) commissions.”

The artist said she is intrigued by a wide range of artists from the super realism of Daniel Sprick to the tenderness of Norman Rockwell.

More about Ms. Takacs, her work and her special ongoing project, “Chicks With Balls,” a traveling exhibit and book, is available at www.judytkacspaintspeople.com and www.chickswithballsjudytakacs.blogspot.com.

The thread of a female theme seems to be running through this year’s show at Valley Art Center. The first place award went to another woman, artist Tracy Ameen, whose double-walled clay sculpture is titled “The Untitled Woman.” It depicts three figures with their arms entwined around a vertical vessel.

The second place award-winning work, “BOOMPA, is a large mixed media piece by Rita Love. The piece has a 1940s theme, featuring a background of what appear to be letters from home underpinning the surface themes of World War II which include two partial portraits of a woman and a soldier.

Stephanie Mercer’s photo of an abandoned diner, a stark vision, described as an “archival pigment print from scanned negative,” won third place. The cash awards given with the top award winners represented more than $2,000.

Other winners were “Rescued Cyborg Tesselation With Bloodrout” by Edward A. Raffel, which was presented with the Phyllis Lloyd Memorial Award. The Hardy Watercolor Award was presented to Bonnie Labovitz for her watercolor “Seasonal Fantasy,” the Stan and Hope Emerling Watercolor Award went to Wade Young for “Evening at Indigo Lake” and the Elsie and Byron Lutman Award was presented to Jeffrey Allen for a ceramic piece titled “Hingemen: Ocho.”

Honorable mentions went to works by Gwen Waight, Kim Mettee, Michael W. High, Rita Love, Dicc Klann and Megan Frankenfield.

This year’s jurors were working artists Lissa Bockrath and Dana Depew, both painters and ceramic artist Lynn Lofton. Each was represented in the show by two pieces of their work.

In their statement, the jurors stated their selections were “works that we felt demonstrated the highest standards of consistent craftsmanship and professional presentation along with an awareness of contemporary and historical aesthetic issues. (This exhibition) accurately mirrors the quality, richness and diversity of contemporary art currently being produced in this area.”

VAC Executive Director Mary Ann Breisch said this year’s event attracted a record-breaking number of entries at well over 300 pieces. From the entries, a large show of more than 100 works are exhibited.

The challenge for the gallery committee was to exhibit everything to its best advantage. To accommodate the wealth of art in this year’s show, some wall pieces were displayed along the walls of the gallery’s entryway.

Not planned for, however, were the four empty spaces on the main gallery walls. The spaces – waiting to be filled with art works by Diane Farr, Wade Young, Chad Cochran and Joy White – remained bare an hour before the opening reception and awards presentation.

Mrs. Breisch explained they were not where they were supposed to be, but due to arrive momentarily. They had been borrowed by the set designer for “Jenny’s Wedding,” a Katherine Heigl and Tom Wilkinson movie currently filming in Cleveland.

The 42nd Annual Juried Art Exhibition remains on view daily except Sundays through Dec. 13 at the Valley Art Center, 155 Bell St., Chagrin Falls. Call 440-247-7507 or visit www.valleyartcenter.org.

The Valley Art Center annual juried event is supported by Whole Foods Market, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the Ohio Arts Council and Deb Perry.

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