MARYVILLE, Mo. — Three Nodaway County artists took part in the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art’s 2021 Membership Exhibition on Jan. 15, and two walked away placing in various categories.
Local artists Lana Cease, Jeff Foster and LeDonna McIntosh all had art featured in the exhibition and many of their pieces placed.
Cease, a Maryville photographer and painter, typically works within her main wheelhouse, which she describes as “hyper-realistic watercolor,” but this year took a class at the AKMA and with another member, Wanda Taylor, and submitted a piece in another format: colored pencil.
“Colored pencils is really one of those things that you don’t really need anything special,” Cease said. “... I went right up against Wanda herself. That’s pretty good for not having done it for very long.”
While her watercolor painting, “Well-Played,” placed first, she was almost as happy placing third with “Flamboyance,” just after her teacher’s two pieces that tied for second place, “Pomegranate and Teapot” and “Red and White Placemat.”
But it’s her love of watercolor that has driven Cease to seek out more places to share her signature watercolor look and feel. She joined the AKMA around 2014 having actually learned to paint there. While having always considered herself an artist and creating art her whole life, it wasn’t until that class that she found her signature watercolor look.
“Probably being a member of the Albrecht-Kemper was the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “It opens doors to meet other people in the art industry. I like to support the museum.”
In 2019, Cease took Best in Show at the AKMA Membership Exhibition with her piece called “Confectionary,” a 30-inch by 20-inch watercolor scene of a candy shop window.
Now working on a series of paintings featuring children’s toys, Cease said she’s made a point to focus on how a child would play with their toys.
Her pieces showcase a scene as “ if you would capture it just as they stepped away from their toys for a moment,” she told The Forum on Tuesday.
Cease’s family were heavy equipment operators or “dozer-work,” as she put it and because of that gained an affinity for old toy trucks, marbles and more.
“I literally play with them and try to think how they (children) would play,” she said.
Once inspired with a particular scene, Cease’s process to create at her signature hyper-realistic look involves photographing the scene and then painting from that photograph.
Cease, who is no stranger to judging, also has been invited this year to participate in the 154th American Watercolor Society International Exhibition.
“You’re basically competing against everyone in the world,” she said. “You’re competing against the best.”
The annual exhibition presents an estimated $50,000 in cash and medal awards and for those artists who have been invited to participate in three shows, may also apply for “Signature Membership Status,” in the American Watercolor Society, the oldest watercolor society in the nation.
“It’s kind of like you get to be famous, but you still get to go to the grocery store,” Cease said.
She explained that it can take 25 years for someone to be invited three times. This will be her first.
With regard to the National Watercolor Society, which has featured the works of watercolor artists for 100 years, Cease was invited in 2019 and 2020. A third would allow her the signature status and to sign all her paintings with the “NWS” tag, reserved for elite watercolorists worldwide.
“I have a good feeling about this year,” she said.
Though the awards are a great benefit and she enjoys the recognition, Cease said that’s not what drives her to spend 30 to 40 hours on a painting. She enjoys creating something that people respond to, and feel joy while viewing.
She does have a couple of “scary” paintings in her head, but Cease said she’d much rather paint something with high contrast and a lot of color.
“I don’t want to paint things that make me sad generally,” she said.
Cease, who enjoys viewing and collecting brightly colored illustrations, recently realized that all the pieces in her most recent series have made her feel happy.
“I want other people to feel happy,” she said. “If it gives somebody joy when they look at it then its worked,” she said.
“Well-played,” shows toy trucks and marbles on top of an antique quilt.
“What if you were at grandma’s house, you had a few toys and were playing at grandma’s house,” she said.
Apparently, the piece resurrected some nostalgic feelings in the judges who selected it for first place.
Maryville artist Foster has placed in previous AKMA exhibitions, but this year his 2D mixed media piece, “2020,” tied for second place. It’s a combination of photography and digital manipulation. Utilizing Adobe Photoshop and other software, he creates his artwork using his computer.
Foster became a member of the AKMA in 2010 and has been taking part in the membership exhibitions each year.
“I like the competition,” he said. “It sharpens your edge.”
While it’s always nice to receive recognition by placing he noted that the museum works with artists to set up solo shows and it’s a good first step for artists to start meeting with other artists and even begin selling their work.
He held a solo show several years ago at the AKMA, but said he likes to get his art out to other locations.
“I don’t let myself stay in one place,” Foster said.
He’s had art displayed at various museums and galleries in Kansas City, Atchison, Kansas, and other places in Missouri.
In March, Foster is scheduled for a solo show at the Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery, 424 Locust St. in Chillicothe, Missouri.
While McIntosh’s artwork didn’t place this year, she was glad to be a part of the competition and looks forward to more opportunities at the AKMA.
Relatively new as a member, joining within the last few years, McIntosh said it’s offered her a lot of opportunities to connect with other artists.
It was Cease who encouraged her to become a member and share her artwork through the AKMA exhibitions.
With undergraduate and graduate degrees in art education, McIntosh is no stranger to the art world. She taught art for 35 years. She started in schools south of Kansas City, but spent the bulk of her career in the Nodaway-Holt school district. She then finished up her career at Northwest Missouri State University.
McIntosh, of Conception Junction, is an oil painter with a love for the plein air style, which is the act of painting outdoors.
“I really love painting on location,” she said. “I like to do some still live, but I really like to do landscape on location.”
For this competition she entered two pieces she painted during a camping trip at Lake Anita in Iowa.
“They’re just loosely painted,” she said. “They’re very impressionistic.”
McIntosh noted the paintings were created from her viewpoint from where she was standing and the light during those days.
“It was really nice because the fall colors were really coming on, a real variety of color adds dimension to the landscapes,” she said.
She does plan to “get the art out where people can see it,” in future competitions and exhibitions and suggests other artists do the same.
“I would suggest they become a member, especially with COVID, the art museums really need our support, because they haven’t had the people coming in,” McIntosh said. “Any chance you can support a local museum or gallery its a win-win.”
She noted that the museum wins because of the membership, but the artist wins because of the exposure they receive.