40 Under 40: Generation Y’s artistic perspective

by Karen Phillips


Igot a Facebook event invite for the NC Nouveau 40 Under 40 art exhibit on Aug. 2 from a family friend, Trish Oxford. She had been chosen among the top artists for her age group in North Carolina. I parked about a block and a half down the street from the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts building in Winston- Salem, and as I walked up the steps, I was surprised to see such a large gathering at the top of the staircase. I had assumed this was going to be a small, intimate setting. The event invite on Facebook said just six people were going.

Before I could go into the Womble Carlyle Gallery, I registered at the front table and put on my nametag. I went through the front room and grabbed a cube of cheese and a glass of white wine before moving on.

As I entered the crowded room, I looked for a familiar face and found Trish standing in the far left corner. Surprised and happy to see me, she introduced me to her parents and showed me one of her pieces — a digital installation of a dream she had regarding the stereotype that sorority members snort cocaine. “Elision” shows Trish looking into a mirror, applying facial powder. The scene then cuts to lines of cocaine spread across a sorority composite photograph, cocaine remnants on a mirror and sprinkling down a pair of dangling female legs, collecting on the feet and falling to the floor.

Trish explains the installation touches on the idea that we all came from powder, we are comprised of powder and we will return to powder in the end. But more significantly it plays on the role of conformity through her college years.

“My parents don’t get it,” Trish jokes. My favorite piece, receiving Third Place from a panel of judges of the Art Nouveau Society, was Brian Kubecki’s “1001 Figure.” It caught my attention even before the judging. This unique portrait of a man painted with deep hues of reds, yellows and browns, with his raised eyebrow and fixated stare, scanning the room for subjects immediately draws the viewer in. Brian received $250 for his efforts, but unfortunately he wasn’t there to discuss his work or to accept his award.

The Second Place winner, Clayton Oxford, is Trish’s husband. He works for the Phillips Collection in High Point, with my husband. Their motto: every piece a conversation, and his spalted maple-burl “Austin Desk” with carbonized steel base is surely a conversation starter. The raw, yet intricate slab of wood atop the sleek steel lines is a perfect juxtaposition. Since it was Furniture Market week in Las Vegas, Clayton was not able to receive his $500 prize, so Trish modestly and humbly accepted his praise while promoting his “Austin Desk.”

Nancy Hilliard Joyce won the First Place prize of $750 with her remarkable representation “Sacagawea.” Her choice of vibrant colors and abstract imagery makes this painting hard to walk away from. Sacagawea glows and radiates among all of the other paintings, and her beautiful face peering through the background mesmerizes.

None of the three winners were there to converse with their fans or accept their winnings. Maybe they didn’t get the Facebook invite.