PBHS Artists Shine In Annual Exhibit

Justin Thomasson’s self-portrait, “Ikicki No Uta,” is one of the eye-catching works in this year's show.

Justin Thomasson’s self-portrait, “Ikicki No Uta,” is one of the eye-catching works in this year's show.

Ashia Shelton, who will be a senior this fall at PBHS, stands next to her painting "Stranger Fruit." She has two other works in this year's show.

Ashia Shelton, who will be a senior this fall at PBHS, stands next to her painting "Stranger Fruit." She has two other works in this year's show.

Sixteen young artists are featured in the Arts & Science Center’s 2018 Pine Bluff High School Annual Art Exhibit, on display in ASC's Simmons Gallery.

The exhibit comprises 20 works, in mediums such as pencil, colored pencil, and acrylic paint. Colorful pieces covering the walls of the Simmons First Gallery contrast with black and white pencil self-portraits.

The artists, all juniors and seniors from Shalisha Thomas’s Art I and Art II classes this year, are:

Pine Bluff High School teacher Shalisha Thomas (left), curated the 2018 exhibit of her students' works. She took over from Virginia Hymes (right), who retired last year after more than 40 years of teaching. Thomas is herself a former student of Hymes.

Pine Bluff High School teacher Shalisha Thomas (left), curated the 2018 exhibit of her students' works. She took over from Virginia Hymes (right), who retired last year after more than 40 years of teaching. Thomas is herself a former student of Hymes.

  • Aiyanna Arnold

  • Tamisha Battles

  • Jatavian Bell

  • Mya Breedlove

  • E’Leecia Clark

  • Lakeycia Cleveland

  • Johnathan Collum

  • Carrington Craig

  • Colby Davis

  • Kalaya Evans

  • Marcus Lindsey

  • Morgan Mitchell

  • Aliseyanna Nole

  • Ashia Shelton

  • Kyla Taggart

  • Justin Thomasson

Ashia Shelton, who will be a senior this fall, has three pieces in the show. “Stranger Fruit,” despite its deceptively bright colors, explores a darker narrative. The piece’s title is inspired by the poem written by Abel Meeropol and set to music, most famously performed by Billie Holiday.

“Instead of focusing on the raw meaning of the poem ‘Strange Fruit,’ I wanted to imply a different one,” Ashia explained in her artist statement. “I wanted to represent the lost voices of black men and black people in general. It was important to represent the lost voices as beautiful fruit. In this piece, I chose primary colors. Primary is defined as ‘of chief importance; principal.’ I wanted to also represent the voices as important ones rather than the ones that were outcast.”

Justin Thomasson’s “Ikicki No Uta” is one of the eye-catching works in this year's show. Justin, who will be a senior this fall, drew the self portrait in color pencil. The title was inspired by a Japanese song called “Shiki No Uta,” he said. "I chose to do myself holding the guitar because that was the kind of feeling that came from listening to the song."

Ashia's and Justin's talents have been recognized outside of school. They both previously lent their talents to the Drain Smart program, which uses art to communicate the function and importance of local storm drains. They each painted a drain near the Pine Bluff Civic Center complex; Ashia’s can be seen at 10th and State streets, and Justin’s at 11th and State streets.

Ashia designed the Go Forward Pine Bluff logo for the task force in 2017. This spring, Justin finished second in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Talent Hunt, winning a cash prize and received an all-expense paid trip to Houston, Texas, where the Omega Psi Phi Ninth District Talent Hunt was held.

Ashia and Justin were recently accepted into Girls State and Boys State., respectively.

Johnathon Callum, who recently graduated from PBHS, speaks during the May 3 opening reception. HIs piece, "Brotherhood," seen to his left in the photo, "depicts the image of two interracial players coming together during a political conflict," Johnathon explained in his artist statement.

Johnathon Callum, who recently graduated from PBHS, speaks during the May 3 opening reception. HIs piece, "Brotherhood," seen to his left in the photo, "depicts the image of two interracial players coming together during a political conflict," Johnathon explained in his artist statement.

Johnathon Callum's "Brotherhood" depicts two interracial players coming together during a political conflict. "I use paint to allow the picture to pop out at you, and allow the emotions to pour out of my work," Johnathon explained in his artist statement. "It really grabs your attention, the reason I chose to do this is because I am currently channeling my art work toward the topic of 'Football and Politics.' Currently, NFL players are dealing with many political issues that are being covered up. I am trying to be their voice, and show them they do have people that see the injustice taking place. I hope to wake people up to the problems, so we can solve them one at a time." 

PBHS art teacher Shalisha Thomas curated the show for the first time this year. This was Thomas’s first year teaching at PBHS as well. She previously taught at Belair Middle School for five years.

PBHS art teacher Virginia Hymes, who retired last year after more than 40 years of teaching, facilitated the show from its inception until 2017. Hymes is also an ASC board member.

Thomas, herself a 2002 PBHS graduate, was one of many students Hymes inspired during many years of teaching.

“The high school experience is different for each student. For me, the quiet introvert, I did not feel like I fit in at times,” Thomas said. “Taking Mrs. Hymes' class in high school made me feel like I belonged. She was so encouraging, and she did not allow you to just sit in class. You had to participate!

“Mrs. Hymes saw the potential in her students. She worked tirelessly to produce strong artists. Her influence helped me make my decision to become an art educator. I have always loved art, but her passion for teaching inspired me to become a teacher. It is definitely an honor to assume Mrs. Hymes' position at Pine Bluff High School. No one can take Mrs. Hymes's place, but it is my privilege to continue to teach and inspire students like she did, and still continues to do today.”

Virginia Hymes’s pride in both her former students and Thomas’ students is evident when speaking to her. "Shalisha — she’s a former student of mind. She’s a jewel." 

Hymes, who attended the 2018 opening reception in May, loves seeing the students show off their art with their families.

“I tell you, it is such a joy when I see the kids and the parents are so proud of them," Hymes said. "It feels so good. You should see the grandparents. They bring their families. As a teacher, to see that, it means a lot. These kids are the ones you know you want to reach out to. It’s an experience you know they will never forget.”

The exhibit, sponsored by Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel, is on display through Saturday, July 7.

Organic Forms in Metal, Textiles Intrigue in Fire & Fiber Exhibit

ASC Digital Media Specialist and collections care assistant ashely smith (left) and ASC Curator Dr. Lenore Shoults finish the installation of "fire & FIber: New Works by Sofia V. Gonazalez and David Clemons" on Tuesday, April 24, in the William H. Kennedy Jr. Gallery. 

ASC Digital Media Specialist and collections care assistant ashely smith (left) and ASC Curator Dr. Lenore Shoults finish the installation of "fire & FIber: New Works by Sofia V. Gonazalez and David Clemons" on Tuesday, April 24, in the William H. Kennedy Jr. Gallery. 

By Shannon Frazeur

Metal and fabric come together for the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas’ latest art exhibit, Fire & Fiber: New Works by Sofia V. Gonzalez and David Clemons, opening Thursday, April 26, 2018, in the William H. Kennedy Jr. Gallery. The exhibit kicks off with a reception from 5-7 p.m. April 26. The artists will be on hand to make remarks at 5:30.

Fire & Fiber features the work of metalsmith David Clemons and fiber artist Sofia V. Gonzalez.

“The organic nature of both artforms comes together in a sumptuous feast for the eyes,” says ASC Curator Lenore Shoults, Ph.D.

“Clemons’ sculpture and jewelry conjoin the raw power of metalwork and delicate use of found objects,” Shoults says. “Gonzalez conjures a palette from nature dyeing silk, wool, and cotton to form the exquisite layers of her sculptures. In both artists’ work, we find unexpected use of materials. Gonzalez uses fiber almost like paint, stroke upon stroke of rich color building sculptures sometimes reaching over four feet in size. Clemons’ work is diminutive and yet powerful, the use of found objects packing a punch once enveloped in silver. By the hand of both artists, the ordinary elevates to art; Gonzalez takes debris from the natural environment boiling it into luscious colors and Clemons frames the detritus of humans in sterling.”

David Clemons, “Debris Field ,”  2016 (Neck Piece) Sterling silver and mixed media, 18” diameter

David Clemons, “Debris Field,” 2016 (Neck Piece)
Sterling silver and mixed media, 18” diameter

Clemons is an artist in residence and instructor in metalsmithing and jewelry in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree in metalsmithing from San Diego State University.

“My studio work has always been an extension of the experiences I have internalized, and I dissect my experiences and tease out greater awareness of the impact levied by each experience,” Clemons says in his artist statement. “My practice has become deeply introspective as probing my understanding of loneliness, friendships, creativity, Southern culture, fatherhood, and finding a new sense of place and redefined identity have been my source material. This personal exploration has been difficult at times as I do not always feel I have the adequate tools or emotional distance to gain insights into some of these uncomfortable mental places.

“The nagging question at the root of the work is: What happens as you confront and reconcile the mental image of yourself with the reality of who you must be, based on the demands of your life? This was the question I pondered sitting on a rocky shore line watching a boat struggle against the waves to reach open sea. The infinite possibility in the vast expanse of the ocean posed a physical and metaphorical escape; this is an escape with brilliant potential but fraught with danger. The seeds for this body of work initially grew in the form of a short story inspired by this observation. The story chronicles a character fleeing from captivity only to meet an uncanny stowaway on his boat. I found myself being more enticed by the objects I began sketching than the written words. The objects have nautical references and heavily feature crude boats and warning buoys foreshadowing impending destruction.

“As I executed the work in this new direction I utilized a process-based approach, a methodology driven by trying to convey emotional tension and introspection through material manipulation and alluring objects. Ultimately, the objects stand alone from the narrative and are intended to evoke a visceral response in the viewer, tapping into subconscious fears, anxieties, sympathies, and curiosities. The works are intended to be stand-ins for a human need to probe the darkness of the unknown within one’s self.”

Sofia V. Gonzalez, “portrait of place, 3,” 2015 Mint, rosemary, blackberry, black bean, oak galls, and eucalyptus natural dye with iron on raw silk, 30”h x 12”w x 7”d

Sofia V. Gonzalez, “portrait of place, 3,” 2015
Mint, rosemary, blackberry, black bean, oak galls, and eucalyptus natural dye with iron on raw silk, 30”h x 12”w x 7”d

Gonzalez is an adjunct professor of art at the University of Central Arkansas and UA-Little Rock. She has an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where she focused on furthering her skills in textiles and natural dye techniques. She was a 2017 Hot Springs National Park artist in residence. The Arkansas Arts Council awarded her an Individual Artist Fellowship in Contemporary Craft in 2017.

“As a maker, I feel a frantic urge to record the places I have known, such as northern California and central Arkansas, to attempt to embody the way these locations have shaped me and the way I feel within them,” Gonzalez says in her artist statement. “Recording and archiving both physical and emotional landscapes, I create a moving methodology to respond to places that have already affected me and those I will meet in the future.

“Collecting flowers, hulls, barks, fruits and vegetables, I boil the materials to release the inherent colors of the land. Sewing, looping, and layering naturally stained textiles focuses a restless mind as I archive through making to respond to the fear of what may happen when a place changes. A homesickness for places I still know saturates each stain and reveals a constant concern of what might happen when a specific site and I are no longer connected. The fleeting feeling of place leaves me frantically trying to grasp onto something I cannot hold. To keep still, my hands must move and I ground myself in the physical plants and fibers. I knot, loop, cut, and drape dyed textiles to focus and to remember the intimate moments in each place I know. The cardinal singing in the backyard at dawn is woven into each crocheted thread, actually colored by the neighboring summer weeds.

“I am colored by the land; together, we generate place.”

“I have been fortunate to see both of these artists at work: Sofia teaching young students the techniques of hand-dyeing with natural materials, and David demonstrating the process of forging metal for maker audiences young and old,” says ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller, “Each artist's methodology and aesthetic reflects ASC's aim to explore with our community the diversity of artistic expression.”

This exhibit marks the debut of the gallery’s new LED lighting, which was made possible by the generosity of the late Diane Ayres. She was a longtime supporter of ASC.

The exhibition is sponsored by Relyance Bank, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission.

Fire & Fiber runs through Saturday, July 28, 2018.