'Winter' Artwork by Professor Laura Terry Selected for Delta Cultural Center Exhibit
"Plow the Good Earth (Winter)" was selected for an exhibit that will be on display Feb. 9 through June 12 at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A burgundy barn rests near the snow-covered ground, with rows of decayed plants showing through. A quilted square of bright hues — orange, red, blues and white — pops against the barn's side. Elsewhere in the painting, there are silhouettes of three farm mules, muted color blocks against a pale blue sky, and a simple, pink square outline.
This is a piece that remains from the larger "Plow the Good Earth," which Laura Terry painted a few years ago. This "Winter" panel has been selected for an exhibit at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, called "The Painted Delta: Artistic Expressions of the Alluvial Plain," which is on display Feb. 9 through June 12.
An opening reception will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the center, 141 Cherry St., in Helena. Admission is free.
Terry is an associate professor of architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, where she has taught since 1998.
The full piece originated when Terry and other artists from six states were asked to create artwork for "Ballad of the Farm: Then, Now, Tomorrow," a 2015 collaborative art exhibition at the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, Nebraska. Each artist drew inspiration from historic farm photographs from the early to mid-1900s.
An image showing an aerial view of a farm prompted Terry to create a four-panel piece, each showing an individual scene — each of the four seasons — while still an integral part of the whole. Each of the four panels measured 38 by 18 inches, for a total width of 72 inches.
Terry said she has always been fascinated by the seasons and how the landscape changes over the course of a year. When she was making the piece originally for the Nebraska show, the artists were encouraged by the curator of that exhibit to interview farmers about life on the farm.
"When I asked them what winter was like, their answers were different than I expected. I thought winter would be a time of rest, but the farmers described a period of intense activity — preparing the ground, repairing equipment, ordering seeds," Terry said. "They all admitted that, while the time wasn't as intense as planting or harvesting, they were still quite busy. So the barn in this scene is a physical reference to the 'work' that happens in the winter. I also thought it was important to reference what was left of the harvested crops peeking out from the snow. It is a reference to the other seasons, and what is left behind."
For this exhibit in Helena, the "Winter" panel stands on its own. And that burgundy barn, the brightly colored quilt - those show who Terry was then as an artist. That piece, however, doesn't reveal who she is now. In a way, it documents the artist she's left behind.
When she looks at "Winter" now, Terry finds she was "too aggressive" with those colors.
"The landscape is much more subtle," she said.
In the work shown in her most recent exhibit of drawings and prints, in early 2018, she employed a more natural, understated color palette than is found in "Winter."
"Looking at this piece now is very uncomfortable because the colors are so saturated, and hard-edge in their geometries," she said. "But I think also it proves that I have grown as an artist. I don't want to keep making the same work over and over again. So looking at the piece now, while a bit awkward, is worth it because I know I am maturing."
Terry learned about the Helena exhibit through a notice from the Arkansas Arts Council, which asked for work to be sent to the center's curator, Drew Ulrich. She had recently been to Wilson, traveling through the landscape of that east Arkansas region, and she thought the farming focus of the piece was well suited for this exhibit.
After submitting the original piece, Ulrich contacted her and asked if she'd considered separating its panels and showing only one or two of them.
"When I made the piece, I resolved each panel compositionally as a standalone piece that would also work with the others holistically, so I didn't mind," she said.
Following this exhibit, Terry's "Winter" piece will remain as part of the Delta Cultural Center's permanent collection.
The Delta Cultural Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
For more information about the exhibit, contact Drew Ulrich, the center's curator, at 870-338-4350.
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