The Artist Co-op’s 2011 Emerging Artists Exhibit, on view through July 31st, offers an unusual interactive benefit. The public is invited to vote for one of six artists, with the winner receiving a three-month mentorship beginning in August. Votes will be tallied July 30, and the winner announced at the closing reception, July 31st 1-4 p.m.  

The artist-run cooperative gallery has been selling artwork in the Old Market since 1975. Their status as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization allows revenue to go directly to the artist. This is one reason for aspiring artists to apply for the mentoring prize. New Co-Op member Travis Apel has been coordinating the mentorship program since joining last October.

“It has been a good experience” Apel said. “I’ve learned a lot through doing it. We put applications out  in different parts of town; Hot Shops, Mid-Town Crossing, Dick Blick, McFoster’s, Borders, Scooters, and were relieved to have as many applications as we did.” 

Apel and two other new co-op members chose the new talent for this exhibition. The six artists represented work in a range of media and subject matter. They are:

— Sean Akers, presenting wire-embedded shapes on flat wood surfaces. Copper, silver, or brass emphasize the line at the shape’s edge, while the painted shapes help create a sensation of motion. Pinwheels uses this device to good effect. When viewed at a distance, the different levels of color blocks appear to rotate. Confetti shows what Akers’ painting can do without the wire.

— Michaela Morrisey, showing digital photographs and their accompanying doll house.  Morrisey’s scenes bring to mind Victoria Hoyt’s The Problems of Getting Together, minus the marshmallows and beans. Morrisey uses gilded keys, birds, and eggshells to comment on the human condition. Sanction of Time staged in the kitchen, or Nectar of Life staged in the bedroom, use symbols as a universal language. Collectively, the group of photos poses more questions than answers.

— Reagan Pufall’s landscape photography, featuring beautifully framed compositions of the Colorado landscape, plus one Iowa sunset. Pufall portrays the expansive landscape with an eye toward a timeless vista. Of the five metal prints, only one contains a figure. Whether black and white, or color, Pufall’s appreciation for the unique beauty of the Midwest makes a clear impact.

— Julie Schram-Emilo’s  graphite pencil renderings from the lives of young girls. Zaria Visits Music Class intertwines two distinct personalities in a strong composition. The poignancy of the moment heightens similarities and differences between the two. Conversely, the singular portraits in exterior settings focus on the pensive gaze of each girl. Sunny Day in November and Bright Orange Hat are thoughtful. Schram-Emilo’s pencil uncovers the depths of personality.

— Jon Summers’ oil paintings and drawings, referencing abstraction and representation. It is enjoyable to look at art done with this degree of skill. Both Night Hunt and Punched, oil on canvas, demonstrate efficient use of figure/ground with a concise palette. Their surface handling and paint dexterity activate the picture plane, while unifying the space. Summers’ graphite drawings do as well, employing a versatile application of this traditional medium.

— Kirk Vaughn-Robinson’s bronze figures, capturing rhythm and movement, also skillfully done. Each figure embodies either a sensation of motion, or a meditative moment. The figures evoke a liquidity which emphasizes the figure’s gesture. Mer-Horse #3 is particularly effective in suspending the animation of a literally portrayed hybrid seahorse.

Though each of the above exhibit strong individual talent and personality, the cohesion of the installation enables each artist’s work to be seen to good effect. The remainder of exhibition space has a variety of its members’ art on display.

“I recognize the Co-Op as a good space” Apel said. “You learn presentation is pretty important. Work has to be shown properly” he continued. “The artwork is like a candy shell. The thesis, what’s in the mind of the artist, is what the work is all about. Every artist is his own universe.”

The 2011 Emerging Artists Exhibit will continue through July 31 at the Omaha Artist Co-op Gallery, 405 S. 11 St. For details go to

Leave a comment