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Student Talent

Two Oldham County residents
win art awards at UK exhibition

Juried student art exhibition
highlights mixed media

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(June 2010) – While studying art at the University of Kentucky, La Grange, Ky., resident Virginia Conn has learned that the most successful art is that which pushes boundaries. She is one of two students from Oldham County who recently won awards in the Carey Ellis Juried Student Art Exhibition in Lexington, Ky.

Virginia Conn's art

Photo provided

Virginia Conn’s mixed media work
won the Arturo Alonzo Sandoval
Fiber Award.

Conn, who has now graduated summa cum laude with two distinct bachelor degrees in English and Art Studio, was both “excited and surprised that I won the award, as the pieces that won were my first foray into mixed media.”
Conn won the Arturo Alonzo Sandoval Fiber Award, a new award presented this year at the Carey Ellis show. Sandoval is the Alumni Endowed Professor of Art at the University of Kentucky who donated the $100 cash prize. The award was presented to an artist juried into the Carey Ellis show whose work demonstrated the use of fiber.
She usually works in pencil and conte pencil – a mix between charcoal and graphite. Conn said the media she incorporated into her works included twine and tracing paper in addition to the drawing component.
“The Sandoval award is technically an award for fiber-based art, so my having used twine as a fiber in the piece was really a stroke of luck,” said Conn.
Conn, 23, said the particular piece of art that won the award “was inspired by a Dutch Baroque marriage portraiture, which was full of hidden symbolism.” Everything in the portraiture, from the style of collars, to the placement of a ring on a particular finger, symbolized “something that was meaningful to the Baroque viewers but is incomprehensible or merely unimportant to contemporary viewers. I took the idea and modernized it,” she said.
Just as each viewer would interpret what he or she sees differently, “each artist brings his or her own personal experiences and beliefs to the work being created,” Conn said. “I took a very old idea and made it my own, as any artist necessarily does.”
Natasha Giles of Prospect, Ky., won first place honors in the Dean’s Awards and received a $500 purchase prize. Giles, a graduate student winner, works primarily in oil paint and plans to pursue a career as a studio artist and teacher.
Her painting, titled “On the Block,” was created at a time when she “was really looking at female image in hip hop culture. I was investigating the idea of how women are still seen in popular culture as a commodity.”
Giles,24, will graduate in 2011. Artists that have influenced her include Jenny Saville, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Luc Tuymans and Barkley Hendricks.
“As an artist and painter, I am always thinking about where painting can go, how can I push my medium, how can I bring painting off of the wall,” said Giles. “I am thinking about how I can push painting as an installation.”

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