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MARTIN, Tenn. – Jason Stout stood innocently in the museum gallery as students viewed his work and the work of other college students from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.
He never said a word. He never introduced himself as the artist. He listened, and he liked what he heard.

“Most of the students, about seven out of 10, said they liked my work,” Stout said. “I enjoyed the peer appreciation.”

The juror also liked Stout’s oil painting, titled Woman with a Knife. The abstract oil won first place in the two-dimensional category in the “Artists of the 21st Century” juried art exhibition. The exhibition runs through May 5 in the University Museum in the Holland McCombs Center on the UT Martin campus.

“I didn’t expect this piece to get picked,” Stout said. “But the juror said it had everything in place. He really liked the presentation.”

For Stout having a painting selected for the exhibition was half the challenge. This is the third juried show for the Weakley Countian. He has participated in two other shows at Murray State University. “Usually it’s hard enough getting in the show. Winning is a whole different thing … I think it depends on your presentation.”

Kristine Buchanan, assistant art professor at UT Martin, said Stout’s Woman with a Knife is a fine study in composition and color. “It explores art historical influences of Surrealism and Cubism in a new fusion of form.”

Like Stout, Sam Mavity doesn’t make a practice of entering juried art shows. During her
four-year college tenure she has entered two contests.

She was required to enter her first show while a student at Chattanooga State Community College. In her second show, at UT Martin, she won two awards for an earthenware piece titled Cinderella Complex.

“Sam Mavity’s ceramic piece, Cinderella Complex, is a clay relief with glaze which explores the role or ‘fit’ of women in contemporary society,” Buchanan said.

“I was surprised,” Mavity said. “So many people entered both shows, I didn’t think I had a chance to make the exhibit pieces.”

Mavity, a senior at UT Martin from Chattanooga, claimed second place in the three dimensional category and also won the Mid-South Clay Opulance Ceramics Award in the “Artists of the 21st Century” art exhibition.

“A show like this gives young people the opportunity to compete against talented artists around the region,” said Doug Cook, chair and professor of art, dance and theatre at UT Martin. “Students learn and can assess what their own talent may be, compared to equally talented students in the region. We instructors at the university can also make assessments of how well we are meeting objectives and developing competencies in our students.”

Students from five states entered 82 pieces in the show and 20 pieces from three states (Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia) were selected by Dan Carver, director of the Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, Ky., from the university museum exhibit.

“I was very impressed by the works,” Carver said. “The universities and the faculty should be complemented on the quality of works.”

He explained that the exhibition was limited to 20 pieces because of space restrictions in the University Museum.

The exhibition also is the first juried show on campus.

“An art competition and exhibit like this also gives students motivation to work,” Cook said. “Students see what others can do and that gives them an incentive to do more themselves.”

The idea for the juried show was created by the faculty of art at UT Martin. “We wanted to promote young artists on this campus and in the region,” Cook said. “It was an idea that the UT Martin Arts Council was responsive to and, so, decided to sponsor the event. The community gets the opportunity to see the work of the best promising young artists from UT Martin and the region.”

“The reason I wanted the university to sponsor a competition of this nature is because our students are so isolated from other artistic influences at both the professional and student levels,” Buchanan said. “Seeing work done by other students at other universities helps them get a notion of how their work stacks up – what the competition for entering graduate school or the job market might be. It offers the same opportunity to students from other universities and the community.”