New Biggs Museum exhibit a potpourri of the arts

Artist Diane Lorio of Dover stands with a few of her Pattern Paintings at the Biggs Museum of American Art. An exhibit showcasing the work of Delaware’s Individual Artist Fellows will be at the museum through Oct. 23.   (Delaware State News photo/Marc Clery)

Artist Diane Lorio of Dover stands with a few of her Pattern Paintings at the Biggs Museum of American Art. An exhibit showcasing the work of Delaware’s Individual Artist Fellows will be at the museum through Oct. 23. (Delaware State News photo/Marc Clery)

DOVER –– For the 16th year, the Biggs Museum of American Art is partnering with the Delaware Division of the Arts to exhibit the work of Delaware’s Individual Artist Fellows.

Sixteen fellowships were awarded this year in disciplines ranging from painting to playwriting –– all of which are on display at the Biggs.

“Most exhibits at galleries or museums focus on visual arts so this is interesting in that it includes not only visual arts but literary and performing arts too,” Ryan Grover, curator at the Biggs Museum said.

So not only are the museum’s third floor walls covered in framed pieces, literary excerpts are available to flip through and monitors are out to show film winners.

“One of the things that makes the Division’s Fellowship program unique is that we offer 18 artistic disciplines each year. Some states rotate the artistic disciplines from year to year. Additionally, Delaware’s program offers three categories of Fellowships — emerging professional, established professional, and the masters. This structure gives artists the opportunity to be supported as their careers advance and it helps foster a long-term relationship between the Division and Delaware’s artists,” said Roxanne Stanulis, program officer for the Division of Arts’ Artist Programs and Services department.

This year’s master fellow was Ramona DeFelice Long of Newark for her work in literary fiction.

“Only one master fellow is selected each year,” Ms. Stanulis said. “The master must have won an established professional award at least seven years ago so they are awarded based on the consistency of high quality work over a period of time and the influence their art has had both in Delaware and out of state.”

Painter Diane Lorio of Dover was one of 10 artists to be awarded the established professional fellowship.

“When I was young, I was always making things and was kind of a weird kid,” she said. “But then I took an art class in high school and I felt right at home. It was a place where I could breathe and be myself.”

Ms. Lorio started submitting work for juried shows in her early-20s, always going for shows where she knew the judges were tough.

“I didn’t try for local shows, I wanted to show where there were judges from New York and places like that who would thoroughly judge my work,” she said.

After winning her first few awards, she was hooked and ended up pursuing a career in painting not only selling artwork and painting commissioned pieces but teaching as well.

“I was amazed with the first awards I received and I’m still amazed and humbled even now,” Ms. Lorio said. “It constantly pushed you to do your best work and you have higher standards for yourself as time goes by. I want to bring the best I have to the art world and share it with other talented artists who do the same.”

Ms. Lorio refers to her work as pattern paintings, all based on one particular theme.

“I’m really inspired with how the world is built –– from atoms to cells to the patterns you see in leaves to the abstract patterns in the clouds,” she said. “That’s where I get these pattern ideas from and the small details, the small circles I use are also drawn from that idea.”

Ms. Lorio starts with a simple design or matrix that serves as a “coat hanger” on which she hangs the paint.

“You start with this simple shape or concept and as you go, the painting is always changing and evolving. Sometimes it takes unexpected turns, but a lot of times, those turns bring you an outcome better than what you were initially expecting,” she said.

This fall will be a busy one for Ms. Lorio as she will also have work on display at the Division of Arts’ Mezzanine Gallery Solo Exhibition on Sept. 8 and at Delaware State University beginning Sept. 15.

She is also hosting two workshops at the Biggs Museum in October –– a teen workshop on the 8th and one for beginning and intermediate artists on the 15th.

Ms. Lorio and the 15 other winners were selected from a pool of 119 applications, each of which was judged by an expert in the artists’ respective discipline.

“We work with the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation to choose judges, all of which are from out of state so there is no bias during the scoring process,” Ms. Stanulis said.

And the out-of-state criteria is very important because each applicant is required to be a Delaware resident.

“It’s a great testament to the talent we have right here in our own backyard,” Mr. Grover said. “The competition is always tough because there is never a lack of artistic talent here.”

Each level of fellowship comes with a monetary award –– $10,000 for the master fellow, $6,000 for the established professional and $3,000 for the emerging professional –– allowing many of the winners to fund their own work.

“All of mine has gone straight into framing, crating and supplies,” Ms. Lorio said. “All of it can be very expensive so it’s important to have help with the funding to keep art going.”

Ms. Lorio said professional framing can run upwards of $500 per painting, so she has resorted to creating her own custom frames for her pieces, but buying the materials and spending the time to make the frames still adds up.

Other artists also use the monetary award to continue their training or to fulfill other needs to further their careers like entering in or traveling to exhibits for their work (international travel is excluded in the award’s rules).

The 16 fellowship winners will be formally recognized on Oct. 1 at a reception at the Biggs Museum. The reception is from 2 to 4 p.m. and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The exhibit will be on display at the Biggs Museum, 406 Federal St., until Oct. 23. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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