Not just once, but twice now a design created by Martinez artist and teacher Mary H. Harris has been selected to grace the cover of the Applause Arts Preview section. Judges chose her design as the winner of The Augusta Chronicle’s sixth annual Applaud the Artist Cover Design Contest. She also won in 2015.
“Are you serious?” Harris said. “Oh wow! Oh gosh! I’m thrilled. The design I sent you, I really liked it. I guess the judges did, too!”
Indeed they did.
Keith Claussen, a retired Chronicle arts columnist and former executive director of the Morris Museum of Art, described the entry as “A cheerful salute to Augusta’s upcoming whirlwind of arts events and activities. The artist has created a lively, fanciful showcase with embedded references to music, theater, art, dance and more.”
Todd Beasley, the museum’s creative director, noted “In looking at the group of entries as a whole, this one really stands out. The color is great and the many aspects of ‘the arts’ are represented. Even the roots of the trees are paint brushes. This looks as if it was specifically done for the contest. It’s my favorite piece in the group and I think it will reproduce well for the cover of Applause.”
Added judge Scott Thorp: “The work possesses an active composition utilizing a vibrant color scheme. It’s a wonderful combination of abstract and representational styles celebrating a range of artistic mediums.” Thorp is chairman of the Department of Art and Design at Augusta University.
Harris said her design was based on a fantasy inspired by her favorite artists, namely Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.
“A lot of other artists are represented in there,” she said. “Matisse is in the reclining figure, the flowers and leaves cutouts; the dancer on the shell is a reference to Botticelli; the sky, a little bit to Van Gogh.
“There’s a lot going on in there – some of it is kind of strange, but I wanted to pull people into it and make them have to look to find where the musical instruments are, where the dancer is, to search for the references to art, dance, theater, music.”
Harris said she just started back teaching art part time to fifth- through eighth-graders at Heritage Academy after what she called “one year of retirement.”
“I missed the interaction with the kids,” said Harris, an art teacher of nearly 30 years. “Now it’s the best of both worlds. I get my own time and I get to be creative with the kids.”
The judges also awarded honorable mentions to Ronda Walker Bryce of North Augusta and William Dunn Wansley of Thomson.
For Bryce’s entry, Claussen noted, “In this artist’s clever and nicely drawn creation, visions of music and dance spring from a cereal bowl and coffee cup, with splashes of color from the artist’s own pastels.”
Wansley’s watercolor “is appealing to me since it includes the re-emergence of the Miller Theater, incorporates the Applause name, and includes James Brown. Other aspects of “the arts” are also represented in the piece,” Beasley said.