Two artists from Bowling Green State University who draw on subjects close to their hearts won the top two prizes Friday at the 94th Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.
Brandon Briggs, who received his graduate degree from BGSU’s School of Art and now teaches there, won best of show for “Threshold,” a nude portrait of his wife just hours before she gave birth. The painting also won the Molly Morpeth Canaday Award.
Jessica Summers, a graduate student at the School of Art, received the Second Award for “Cooking in Pajamas: Portrait of My Mother.” She also received the Israel Abramofsky Award for her painting “Self Portrait as Domestic Goddess.”
Briggs, who grew up in Elkhart, Ind., said his parents encouraged him to pursue art. His mother would bring home printer paper from work. His earliest figure drawings were of the cartoon character Garfield.
His interest took a more serious turn when he visited the museum in town and saw a painting by the 20th century American artist Roger Brown. He said he’s not sure why the painting so captivated him, but it helped set him on a path to becoming an artist.
As an undergraduate at the University of Indiana South Bend, he was captivated by his life study figure drawing class.
“It’s the romantic idea of drawing from life like the masters,” the Bowling Green resident said.
For models he uses those around him and himself. His self-portrait “Peter Pan” is also included in this show and another self portrait was an award winner in 2010.
But, he said, he doesn’t feel it’s necessary for the viewer to know the subject is his wife, or a friend, or himself.
He sees his subjects instead as archetypal figures, “characters from a certain demographic.”
Briggs sets up “a confrontation between the person in the painting and the viewer.”
Summers also credits her mother with inspiring her to pursue art. Her mother went back to school and got an art degree while Summers was growing up in Muncie, Ind.
The painting is part of a series — “There’s these wonderful women in my life I look up to,” she said.
Hung just to the right of the painting of her mother, is her “Self-Portrait as Domestic Goddess,” which shows her proffering a casserole, emulating her mother.
Summers, of Findlay, got her undergraduate degree in art education at BGSU, and then went off to teach high school art in Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte, N.C.
She chose the education route, she said, because she wasn’t that passionate about creating art at that point.
That passion “slowly crept up on me,” she said. “I realized there was something missing in my life.”
That dedication grew, and when her husband got a job back in the area, she took the opportunity to pull together her portfolio and returned to BGSU to study for an MFA in painting.
She’s in her first year of her graduate studies. Coincidentally she’s the assistant in a class taught by Briggs.
“He was always welcoming and helpful,” she said of her fellow painter.
As is usual, BGSU faculty, students and graduates were well represented in the exhibit and among the award winners.
“Another good year,” said Katerina Ray, director of the School of Art.
Among the others winning awards at the Friday ceremony were:
• Monica Edgerton-Sperry, Perrysburg with an MFA from BGSU, honorable mention for “Self Portrait.”
• Natalie McChessney, Bowling Green, a BGSU graduate in drawing student, honorable mention for “Tea Bags.”
• Susan Krueger, Bowling Green, the University of Toledo Art Department Award for “Guilt Quilt.”
• Amber Whitenburg, Bowling Green, an undergraduate 3D major, the Athena Art Society Award for “Tear Catcher.”
• Andrew Kuebeck, Bowling Green, a BGSU instructor in metals who also received his BFA from the university, Lourdes University Art Department Award, for a necklace “We Barely Held It Together” and the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award, for an espresso server “Nightly Life Saver.”
• Janna Wheeler, Bowling Green, a BGSU graduate student in painting, the Roulet Medal for “Parrhasius Tricked Zeuxis.
• Jane Vanden Eynden, Bowling Green, a photography instructor and a graduate of the School of Art, for “Opera House.”
The exhibition features 94 works by 76 artists selected by jurors artist Joe Fig and Kate Nesin, a Mellon Fellow at the museum, from 642 works submitted.
Winning images online
Images of the paintings by Brandon Briggs and Jessica Summers and other winning art at the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition are available for viewing at: