The 83 works on display in the Pastel National exhibit at Wichita Center for the Arts offer a striking range of diversity.
On one end of the spectrum are works such as "Bus Stop" by Tatijana Jacenkiw of Illinois. The piece has a loose style and depth of color that is achieved through sketchy strokes and rough layering of colors.
In contrast is a still life titled "Apples" by Sangita Phadke of New Jersey. Smooth and ultra-realistic, it's hard to identify as a pastel from even a foot away.
"The direct nature and pure color that you find with pastels lends itself extraordinarily well to the qualities of spontaneity, and the achievement of beautiful light qualities," said Jana Erwin Durfee, the Center's gallery director. "I think colorists really react to pastels because of the very pure color and immediate nature of the medium."
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Of the 83 works accepted for the show, seven were awarded prizes by this year's guest juror, Doug Dawson, a pastel artist from Colorado. His style is loose and impressionistic, Durfee said, adding that a juror's personal approach should not affect judging decisions.
"That is what makes a good juror," she said. "The juror is looking for the artist's handling of the medium and the effects and light quality that they are able to achieve."
Artists who have submitted pieces in a photorealistic style have just as much chance of winning prizes as artists who have created work in an Impressionistic style, she said.
The Center has hosted the pastels exhibit since the early '90s; it takes place every other year. All pieces are for sale, and the Center itself will likely buy some of the works, Durfee said.
As of the Purchase Awards Program, the Center's director, Howard Ellington, will purchase pieces to add to the Center's permanent collection, which has about 6,500 works in it.
Tonight's reception will include the awarding of prizes in the pastels shows. Two other new shows also will open: a display of landscape oil paintings by Houston artist Darlene Wall and a ceramics exhibit by Monette Mark.