"Treasure Hunting" by Matthew Bird of Maryland.

Kenosha Public Museum hosting watercolor exhibit through Aug. 7

Juried show is the Transparent Watercolor Society of America's 46th annual exhibit

By Bill RobbinsKENOSHA.COM

Robbins is a semi-retired journalist whose stories and photographs have appeared extensively in publications including USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the Milwaukee Journal. He is a former, award-winning Kenosha News reporter and a Vietnam-era U.S. Army veteran. Robbins is also a musician who performs with local groups including the Fugitives and the Grateful Deadliners.

An exquisite display of watercolor paintings by the most gifted artists in that medium is up at the Kenosha Public Museum through Aug. 7.

It’s the Transparent Watercolor Society of America’s 46th annual national exhibit, and for the 13th straight year is being hosted by the Kenosha museum, which it now calls home.

The juried show features works by artists from across the country.

A number of cash awards have been presented to artists in the show. Also, the public is welcome to vote for a People’s Choice Award at the museum. The winning piece will be announced at the exhibit’s end.

The objective of the Chicago-based society is to advance transparent watercolor as a significant medium, said its president, Julie Skoda. The group stresses a major distinction between transparent watercolors and other water-based media.

The white that viewers see in these paintings is actually the white of the paper. White pigments, paints and acrylics can’t be utilized — nothing with a white base, Skoda said.

The transparent watercolor process essentially requires artists to work in reverse, visualizing portions of the painting that will be white when the piece is complete.

“You have to do a lot of pre-planning before you play,” said Skoda, herself an artist who works in the transparent watercolor medium.

“It’s really kind of exciting because you never quite know what you’ll end up with,” she said. “It’s an unpredictable medium. At least it is for me.”

The watercolors employed are transparent — lending a radiant quality to the pieces as the white paper exudes from the foundation.

The exhibit features 80 paintings selected from among more than 700 submissions by jurors Linda Kemp and Andy Evanson.

“They have very distinctive styles themselves, so their choices — what they are attracted to — represent a kind of balance,” Skoda said.

The pieces in the show reflect work by the “best of the best,” she said.

Subjects include portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, nature and nautical scenes, and abstracts. The exhibit features a wide variety of styles and technical approaches, from impressionistic to photo-realistic, Skoda said.

Also, the scale of the pieces is diverse, with very large pieces among smaller ones. Many of the paintings are for sale, ranging from $550 to $15,000, with the average in the $1,000 to 5,000 bracket.

Museum officials say the exhibit is highly popular.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the museum,” Skoda said. “It’s such a beautiful location, and a nice gallery space for the art. They showcase it wonderfully. We love the collaboration with the Kenosha Public Museum.”

The exhibit is up for three months, giving visitors ample time to relish the masterful artwork during multiple trips to the gallery, if they choose.

“You can spend a lot of time taking in and appreciating these paintings,” Skoda said.

Several activities associated with the show are scheduled. Dates and times are available on the society’s website at watercolors.org.

The Kenosha Public Museum is located at 5500 First Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Donations are accepted at the door. For more information visit kenoshapublicmuseum.org or call 262 653-4140.

“Salt Valley” by Jessica Bryant