EASTON — Plein Air Easton wrapped up its 15th annual, weeklong painting competition with a viewing party and an official announcement of the winners in several categories on Friday, July 19.
The Collectors’ Preview Party was held in Easton at the Academy Art Museum and the Waterfowl Festival Building. Guests were invited to browse and buy the coveted original artworks while indulging in refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.
The night’s featured art was created by 58 juried competition artists who spent a week painting a variety of local outdoor scenes. The painted scenes ranged from sailboats and people’s homes to flowers and sunsets.
The competing artists came from all over the country and the world for this competition, as it has become globally renowned in the art community.
This year’s grand-prize-winner was Aimee Erickson of Portland, Ore., for her painting “Brunch on the Patio.” She also won the 2019 Artists’ Choice award, which, according to the event organizers, has never happened in all of the competition’s 15 years.
Erickson took to Facebook to share her excitement, writing, “So this happened!!! ... I can’t sleep!!”
Tim Kelly of Baltimore won third place in the competition. Charles Newman of Haddon Township, N.J., took second place.
Al Bond, president of the Avalon Foundation, which organizes the competition, said, “At its core, Plein Air Easton is a competition among the nation’s best working outdoor artists.”
“[They’re] all following their passion and striving to produce their personal best work,” Bond wrote in the event’s brochure.
The competition’s judge was David Levy, who served for 19 years as the CEO of the Parsons School of Design and 14 years as the president and director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design. Levy called the competition a “terrific show” and a “really, really good exhibition.”
He said judging the competition was difficult because he had a limited number of awards to give out and everyone was deserving of recognition for their work.
“It’s a hell of a thing to try to judge a show where you really want every single piece that you see to win a prize and they can’t,” Levy said.
Levy said even after he made his decisions on the competition’s winners, he couldn’t help but continue thinking about all the other artworks.
“I was walking through the show and looking at some of the paintings that didn’t get awards, and I thought, ‘Boy, I wish I could’ve given that an award,’” Levy said. “But that’s just how it goes.”
Levy started the awards ceremony giving honorable mention to Debra Huse and Laurie Hendricks. Then he went down the lineup, giving the Best Use of Light award to Nikolay Mikushkin.
Best Painting by a Maryland Artist went to Stewart White. Best Watercolor went to Russell Jewell. Best Nocturne went to Crista Pisano.
The Worthy of the Met award went to Tarryl Gabel. Best New Artist to Plein Air Easton went to Eileen Eder. The Best Architectural award went to Charlie Hunter. Best Marine artwork went to Qiang Huang.
The Best Figurative Painting in a Landscape went to Hiu Lai Chong. The Best Hospitality award went to Elise Phillips. Life on the Farm went to John Caggiano.
Chief financial officer at the Avalon Foundation Jessica Bellis, who was instrumental in organizing the event, said the competition is a way for local residents to revitalize their love for the landscape and natural beauty that surrounds them.
”I think we can all get caught up in our own daily lives, and we don’t really stop and realize how beautiful the landscape is,” Bellis said. “Whether it’s the local maritime scene or the esteemed agricultural community ... really getting to stop and recognize how beautiful it is, I think that’s really important.”