By Martha Nodar

Professional artists and art enthusiasts alike recently gathered at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art for the opening of the Southeastern Pastel Society’s 16th International Juried Exhibition, now showing through June 22.

Buckhead resident Melissa Saulsbury stopped in contemplation at Margaret Dyer’s “Rosza Resting,” one of the largest pieces in the exhibit depicting a female figure.

Cathryn Budd, left, and Melissa Saulsbury, right, share their thoughts on the exhibition.
Cathryn Budd, left, and Melissa Saulsbury, right, share their thoughts on the exhibition.

“This is a very unique style for figure painting,” she said. “It has a lot of color, and the light invokes a sense of peace.”

Art student Sekari Smith noticed the abstract effect of the brushstrokes.

“There is a sense of harmony achieved through the use of colors,” Smith said. “It seems to be glowing and leading to a feeling of early morning.”

While this was Smith’s first visit to the Oglethorpe museum, many local patrons look forward to the society’s international juried exhibits, which are held at Oglethorpe every two years, and bring people from all over the Southeast and the North. These international exhibits give society members an opportunity to reconnect with each other.

That was the case with Atlanta artist and society member Marsha Savage, who ran into Liz Haywood-Sullivan, the president of the International Association of Pastel Societies who traveled from Boston to be one of the exhibition’s jurors.

“I have known Liz for several years,” Savage said. “It was good to talk to her after she gave me a big hug.”

Savage offered her interpretation of her fellow artist’s winning composition. This year the jurors awarded Margaret Dyer’s “Dejeuner” with the Best of Show.

“The mark of an exceptional artist is to display a confident use of color, value and edges, which usually intrigues the viewer to linger and discover more,” Savage said. “The painting tells a story with just an impression of the actual details without being photo realistic.”

Second place went to Karen Margulis for “North Garden in Winter,” while Nancy Nowak placed third for her “Afternoon Splendor.” Terry Powers, Nanybel Salazar, Mikki Root Dillon and Susan Smith took home the Merit Awards.

Fellow Atlanta artist Lisa Stockdell said she was impressed by the amazing job the jurists had done this year selecting from a wide variety of compositions covering a plethora of subject matter, “which shows what you can do with pastel.”

Pastels may come in different forms, such as sticks or pencils, and they are known for their richness in color. The pastel society, whose members meet monthly in Dunwoody, was originally established 26 years ago, and strives to promote pastel as an art medium as well as to contribute to its members’ artistic professional development.

“It is encouraging to see people of all ages and from all walks of life at this reception being interested in pastel,” Stockdell said.