Publication Date



Each year, the Giles Gallery at Eastern Kentucky University, in conjunction with the Chautauqua Lecture Series, mounts a juried art exhibition organized around that year’s theme. Ann Tower of Ann Tower Gallery served as juror for the 2010-2011 show (January 24 through February 18, 2011), Chautauqua National Juried Exhibition: Nature’s Humans. Both the selection of the artwork and the awarding of prizes were done through a blind process, meaning that the juror had no information about the individual artists or their background.

Art exhibitions organized around a theme present special problems for artists. Their restrictive nature excludes many artists whose work does not fit comfortably within the context of the subject. Contemporary artists’ penchant for self-expression is more than a myth: the discovery and development of subject is the raison d’être for most artists. Another issue is that a theme suited for lectures is not necessarily one that works well for the visual arts. The Chautauqua exhibition on Space, Place and Life (January 23 through February 29, 2008) provided subjects with which artists could readily connect, and was our largest show. On the other hand, the exhibition on Compassion (January 25 through February 21, 2007) did not elicit the same strong and wide response. In our ironic, postmodern age, such a topic could be read as sentimental, and that is anathema to many of today’s artists. The Chautauqua National Juried Exhibition: Nature’s Humans was notable for the artists who responded. Although we had entries from all around the nation, the award winners came from either Kentucky or the surrounding states, suggesting that perhaps the subject strongly resonated with artists within our region. The artworks exhibited were as varied as the topics of this year’s lectures. The accepted pieces ranged from academic drawings of pregnant women to live silkworms housed in a silk and wire cages. Amazingly, as the show began to come together, currents and motifs began to emerge. Chief among them were metaphorically biomorphic forms, such as nature/human hybrids, humans in nature, and nature in humans.