Artists' works displayed at state fair

Thursday, August 21, 2003
Susan Lawrence of Marshall cleans the porcelain greenware on one of her original sculptures before firing it in a kiln and turning it into a porcelain doll. She entered two of her sculptures in the Missouri State Fair's Fine Arts competition and was one of six Saline County artists who had their work on display at the fair.

Six local artists showcased their work in the Fine Arts Building during the 2003 Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, hoping to make a lasting impression on people passing through to look at the exhibits.

While the fair is a way to have their photographs, paintings and sculptures seen by the eyes of many, the artists also entered divisions of the contest in hopes of winning an award.

Upon entering the Fine Arts Building, fairgoers could see two watercolor paintings created by Merle Griener of Marshall. After winning Best of Show last year with his first state fair entry, "Momentos from Japan," he entered "Contemplation" and "Blue Heron" this year.

Always interested in art, Griener said he was the student in school who got into trouble for drawing during class. As he grew up, he often used oil paints, but he currently prefers working with watercolors.

"I don't paint too steady anymore," said Griener, who has been retired for 13 years. "I can go away from a watercolor for a week and then come back and go right at it. It's a hobby and it's relaxing."

He said his favorite type of painting is still life. With his sporadic painting schedule, he likes being able to go down to his basement studio and start up where he left off, without having to worry about the scene changing.

While Griener is a painter who often creates scenes from objects, photographer Dara Watson of Blackwater does most of her work with people as the subject of the piece. About nine months ago, she even opened her own photography studio, Exposures, in Blackwater. She entered four photos in the state fair competition after seeing that they received a lot of response from her customers.

"I took wedding pictures for a couple in Boonville last November and the shot of the flower girl was one we liked," Watson said, adding that she runs the photo studio along with her sister, Dana.

In addition to "Wedding Day," Watson's "Train Guy" photo also became one of her favorites.

Shown above is one of the portraits painted by Marshall artist Jeremy Fry.

"He was kind of out in front of the studio relaxing in the train and one day we just looked out and saw him," Watson said of the photo. The picture shows a train engine with a man's feet barely hanging out of it before they seem to fade away into the darkness of the open window.

Agreeing that people make some of the most interesting subjects for pieces of art, Susan Lawrence of Marshall said she enjoyed working on the two ceramic sculptures she entered in the state fair competition. "My Sonya," named after her 16-year-old daughter, was a piece she started last year and finished at a slow pace. The portrait of Mike, her brother-in-law, was also a symbol of her love of sculpting.

"I majored in sculpting in college and enjoyed it since I was a kid," said Lawrence, who sells portraits, dolls and other sculptures from her home studio in Marshall. "I love the feeling of the creation of something out of nothing, taking the vision I have in my head and being able to form it with my hands. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to do that."

Sonya Lawrence, who also exhibited some of her work in the Fine Arts Building, said she doesn't know where her art will take her. However, she plans on taking her painting to a new level in a few years when she goes to college.

"I've been doing it since I was really little," the teen said. "I just enjoy drawing and painting ideas from out of my head or my dreams and it also relieves stress."

Another artist inspired by the feeling of creating a picture on canvas is Marshall resident Jeremy Fry, who entered portraits of his friends Josh Stemmons and Stephanie Clause in the professional division of the art contest. Fry stretches his own canvas and tends to work with photos he has taken of people.

"I took photography in high school and I paint a lot from close-up photos," he said, using the four or five photos of Stephanie as an example. "I work from all of them and take the best features from them and put them all together when I paint."

Declining opportunities to paint at art institutes in Kansas City and Chicago, Fry said he plans to use his talents to do some work on the side while he obtains a teaching degree from Missouri Valley College. He plans on becoming an art teacher so he can work with children and with different artistic media.

Another local artist who competed at the state fair was Ramona Durham of Nelson, with oil paintings called "Pride" and "Freedom" displayed in the Fine Arts Building. The Democrat-News was unable to contact her for comment.

To enter the Missouri State Fair competition, each artist was required to submit several slides for judges to consider. The selections were made to allow each artist to enter two pieces per division, with both amateur and professional pieces being displayed.

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