Mixed media artist wins Best of Show award at Art on the Square

News-DemocratMay 18, 2014 

Mixed media artist Eugenie Torgerson is this year's Art on the Square Best of Show winner.

Torgerson, 69, creates her mixed media pieces by layering different elements digitally. She describes her work as a "digital collage."

"I'm gathering elements," Torgerson explained, and "I put them together into something that's plausible -- not surreal or scary."

She lives and works in an old elementary school in southwestern Michigan. "It's sort of like a loft in the middle of a cornfield," said Torgerson, who's originally from Cleveland, Ohio.

One piece on display titled "Walking the Field" incorporates 20 different images Torgerson took of corn. She assembled these images in four different strips to compose the piece.

Despite using photographs in her pieces, Torgerson said, "I'm not a photographer. I'm a painter."

She's able to use her pastel drawings in mixed media works by scanning them, which allows her to manipulate them digitally and layer them with the photos she takes along with other elements like maps and text.

"I create this work that's full of feeling," Torgerson said. "It's evocative."

Torgerson started out as a printmaker and then got into pastels before incorporating technology into her work process.

"I love the way you can manipulate imagery," she said, using computer programs like Adobe Photoshop.

It's often hard to determine when a piece is complete. "You get a sense of it," Torgerson said. "I know very few artists who feel content with their own work. The more you strive, the more possibilities you see."

Torgerson, who is also a bookmaker and sculptor, said she does about 10 art shows every year. This was her first time exhibiting at Art on the Square.

Art on the Square Founder and Executive Director Patty Gregory said attendance has been good at this year's show.

"We have been extremely crowded," she said. "The artists have been extremely complimentary and excited about sales."

Two pieces by sculptor Skeeter Aschinger, the winner of the Ed L. Karasek Illinois Artist Purchase Award, will be donated to the West Belleville Library Branch and displayed in the children's area.

A wooden vessel by John Mascoll, the winner of the Joan Voss Renner Purchase Award, will be donated to the city of the Belleville for the city's art collection.

A piece by Lou Michaels, the winner of the Rotary Club of Belleville Purchase Award, will be donated to Belleville Library's main branch in downtown.

In all, Gregory said Art on the Square has donated 79 pieces of art to the city of Belleville including 34 sculpture pieces and 45 other works for the city's collection.

Three Art on the Square volunteers were recognized with awards at a ceremony Sunday. They were: Carol Bartle, Dede Farquhar and Paula Jones, who have all volunteered at the event since it began 13 years ago.

Volunteers Tom and Diana Barnett were also honored with the Director's Award.

"It's been a rewarding, positive experience for the city, for the artists and for all of us," Gregory said.

Other award winners announced Sunday are as follows:

* Mayor's Choice Purchase Award: Ronna Katz, drawing/printmaking

* Barb King Jewelry Award: Katherine Kaya

Best of Category Awards:

* Clay: Fong Choo

* Digital/Graphic Design: Geoffrey Harris

* Drawing/Printmaking: Michael Bond

* Fine Craft: Robert Farrell

* Glass: Mark Sudduth

* Jewelry: Obayana Ajanaku

* Mixed Media: Yoram Gal

* Oil and Acrylic: Bert Beirne

* Photography: Daniel Powers

* Sculpture: David Bryce

* Watercolor: Scott Hartley

* Wood: Steven Potts

Awards of Excellence (non-specific to category):

* Jerry Brown, drawing/printmaking

* John Herbon, clay

* Shaari Horowitz and Alistair Jones, mixed media

* Alan Klug, photography

* Tim Peters, clay

* Ella Richards, mixed media

* Glen and Gayle Wans, photography

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com. Follow her on Twitter @BND_JForsythe.

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