Peruse the Mark Twain Library’s art show virtually from the comfort of your couch

The literary genius Mark Twain surely would have had some biting words for those who refuse to wear a mask and dismiss the COVID-19 pandemic, as this was the man who wrote “No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot” and “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Its gems like those that have cemented Twain and his writings into the hearts of millions, which is why the announcement that the 48th Annual Mark Twain Library Art Show would continue in 2020 is such good news, as it will continue to raise funds for this Redding institution.

The art show is a juried show that draws talent from more than 100 local and regional artists and displays their amazing pieces at the library.

Because of the pandemic, the event will be held virtually for the first time, but that only means even more people will have the chance to see the works of the show. Not only will the gallery be open for in-person, socially distanced viewing from Dec. 6-13, but it will also be available online for anyone to view from their own homes.

This allows for many more art lovers and collectors to both see and buy the artwork that makes it into this juried show.

“As much as possible, we are trying to present the art show in the same ways we have in the past, so we’re moving forward in that direction and we’ll accommodate as needed based on the Governor’s rules,” said Angie Kane, art show exhibition chair. “We’re still hanging the show and have proper safety measures in place.”

One of the things that needed to be eliminated this year sadly, considering it is one of the cornerstones of the Mark Twain Art Show, is the preview reception. In lieu of that, there will be what’s being called “the Art Show Premiere,” an online event on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., through a webinar-type program that requires tickets.

“We created some programming and have three distinct segments, where for the first time our patrons and lovers of the art show will get to see a behind-the-scenes look at what happens and get a more up-close-and-personal peak at some of the artists,” Kane said.

The night will include studio interviews with Redding’s own internationally celebrated artists Babette Bloch, James Grashow, Robert Mars and Marc Mellon.

“We will also have a history of the art show segment, where two of our very long standing artist volunteers (Kathy Anderson and Pamela Reese) will be interviewed by a special guest—yet to be revealed,” Kane said. “They will talk about their decades-long involvement of bringing the art show to the community.”

Another segment will feature artist Tony D’Amico, who is serving as a juror this year, and he will talk about the things he considers during an art show and what goes into analyzing a painting.

After the content is finished, there will be an online silent auction. Once that concludes, the virtual online gallery will open.

The online gallery is for those who don’t want to visit the gallery yet still get the same experience of seeing the show and the chance to purchase the artwork they love.

“This is the most important fundraiser of the year for the Mark Twain Library, which is a cornerstone of our town, founded by Mark Twain himself,” Kane said. “The gala is a standout event typically. Our library is only partially funded by taxpayers in Redding and the lion’s share is from fundraising. It’s a win win win, because we are supporting our artist community, art lovers are getting to buy art they love and we are helping the library.”

Among the artists in the show this year are Thomas Adkins, Kathy Anderson, Serena Bates, Barbara Boeck, Tarryl Gabel, Theresa Hartley, Dorothy Lorenze, Linda Pickwick, Annette Voreyer, George Zipparo and many more.

Gabel will be displaying oil paintings that were all done plein air.

“I will have two paintings I just did last month when I spent a week painting in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and then Cape Cod—I love painting the fall colors,” she said. “This is the first year I am bringing works for the portfolio. Artists are offered the chance to bring a bin that will have 20 unframed 8 x 10-original oil paintings available. My works will all again be painted from life.”

She is hoping that the show will do even better despite Covid and no big reception because people can “really take their time, view and purchase the works more closely and leisurely online.”

Bates will present “Precipice,” a bronze statue of a male figure seated high on a peak clasping his head in anguish and dismay.

“This is how many of us feel right now with all that is going on in the world,” she said. “Some days it is hard to cope and deal with and we all have on our plates, moments when we think we just can't handle one more thing. This piece acknowledges the fear and pain we are all suffering.”

She’s also displaying “Survivor,” a ceramic interpretation of a harbor seal which was barrel fired to give it smoky markings, then broken and put back together in the fashion of Japanese Kintsugi, the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery.

“I was drawn to this show because of its importance supporting the vital programs of the Mark Twain Library for the past 48 years,” Bates said. “COVID-19 has made it difficult for most organizations, especially nonprofits, to stay funded and afloat, so this fundraiser assists with that as well as brings recognition and exposure to many fine artists and their artworks.”

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Keith Loria is a freelance writer.