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The Pastel Society of America (PSA), the oldest pastel society in America, just concluded its 42nd Annual Exhibition, “Enduring Brilliance.” The exhibition was on display from September 2nd through the 27th in the Grand Gallery of the historic National Arts Club, which also houses the offices for the PSA, in the historic district of New York City’s Gramercy Park. No matter how many times one enters the historic club, it’s always a thrill to know that you are walking through the same doors as artists Robert Henri, Frederic Remington, William Merit Chase and Cecilia Beaux. The club’s membership has also included three U.S. Presidents and a long list of other notables. For more history about the club and its historic location, visit www.nationalartsclub.org.
Ascending the stairs and entering the doorway into the Grand Gallery, a visitor was first greeted by a display of stunning works by this year’s PSA Hall of Fame honoree, Rae Smith. Each year the society selects an outstanding pastel artist to honor. The list now includes 39 inductees of which 21 are living artists. Rae joins a list of honorees that includes Daniel Greene, Harvey Dinnerstein, Duane Wakeham, Sally Stand, William Merritt Chase and Mary Cassatt. A few steps beyond the entrance was a stunning, award-winning, pastel painting by Janet Cook (see photo above) as well as 180 additional paintings selected from approximately 1,200 submissions that were anonymously juried by a panel of three Master Pastelists of the Pastel Society of America. Marjorie Shelly, a distinguished authority on pastels and the conservator in charge of the Sherman Fairfield Center for Works on Paper and Photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City acted as the juror of awards, which included prizes that totaled more than $25,000 in cash and materials.
This year’s top award, the PSA Founder’s Award of $5,000, given by The Flora B. Giffuni Foundation, went to artist Brian Bailey for his painting Unity (see below). Other top awards went to artists Diane Rosen, Deborah Quinn-Munson, Teresa DeSeve, Sigmund Abeles, Rhoda Needlman, Mike Beeman, Bev Lee, Nan Ping Yun, Glen Maxion, Brenda Hash, Brenda Boylan and Judy Evans.
The elevation to the status of PSA Master Pastelist is earned after an artist wins three awards in the annual exhibition. This year, artists Brian Bailey, Anatoly Dverin, David Francis, Karen Israel, Michael McGurk, Nancie King Metz, Bonnie Paruch, and Kari Tirrell earned the title.
Traditionally, the third weekend of the exhibition opens with a Friday night gallery tour and reception. This year, the gallery tour was lead by Liz Haywood-Sullivan, a signature member of PSA and President of the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). It was standing room only as Liz shared her insights and wisdom while walking around the exhibition. On the following day, pastel enthusiasts found delight at the PSA Materials Fair, a room filled with pastel vendors and demonstrations. Sunday provided a chance for artists to dress up and attend the Awards Ceremony and Annual Dinner to cheer and toast the recipients of honors. The events concluded on Saturday, September 27, with a fabulous demonstration from master artist Ellen Eagle in the Grand Gallery.
The dates have been set for next year’s PSA festivities. Mark your calendars for September 18 to 20 and plan to attend. Believe me, even if you don’t get into the exhibit, it’s worth attending and having a chance to partake in the best annual pastel party there is!
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