The Art in the Libraries Committee and Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz selected Payton Brown, a first-year MFA candidate in painting, and Liuqing Ruth Yang, a senior BFA candidate in painting who graduated in December 2021, to receive the 2021 Dean of the Libraries’ Student Art Award.
Brown received the award for her work, “The Star Theatre,” an oil canvas painting. Brown describes the subjects of her paintings as, “vintage, seemingly outdated scenes of urban life in America” with the goal of perpetuating a “sense of nostalgia and longing amongst viewers.”
“At first glance, the scenes appear warm and inviting, as many images of iconic American culture do. However, there are no people present, or any evidence of life at all, resulting in feelings of loneliness and isolation,” said Brown. “In making this decision to completely eliminate the figure, my goal is to create a juxtaposition between the warm, comforting feelings of nostalgia and the distressed feelings of desperately reconciling with the past being exactly that, the past.”
From left: Liuqing Ruth Yang and Payton Brown stand next to their award winning work.
Brown’s work captures nostalgia through a “reflective and restorative” lens.
“I am comforted by my past, but I also imagine it idealized, thus trapping myself in a state of trying to return to something that never truly existed. While I am acknowledging time passing and happily recalling places or events, I am also expressing the way that many people, including myself, long for a return to the past but are forced to surrender to the relentless passing of time and inevitable change, resulting in feelings of isolation and grief,” Brown wrote in her artist statement.
“My goal for my paintings is to remind my audience of the beauty of God in all of us, the way that European masters paintings did so long ago.” Liuqing Ruth Yang
Yang received the award for her painting, “Self Portrait with a traditional Chinese Fan,” an oil painting on linen canvas. Yang is a portrait painter inspired by Renaissance classical paintings, Neoclassical portraits, and Baroque paintings.
“I believe that learning traditional painting techniques are vital for contemporary painters and the trajectory of the painting discipline in the future. My artwork is greatly informed by the master painters: Raphael and Caravaggio, particularly their religious works, which are great inspiration personally, as a Christian,” said Yang. “My goal for my paintings is to remind my audience of the beauty of God in all of us, the way that European masters paintings did so long ago.”
Both award recipients received $300, and their art exhibited at the Evansdale Library throughout the Spring 2022 semester.
Check out our list list of former students who won this award.