Michigan Fine Arts Competition winners on display at BBAC

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 23, 2019

 Ceramist Sue O’Connor had two pieces selected for the Michigan Fine Arts  Competition exhibition, including this  weathered soup can sculpture.

Ceramist Sue O’Connor had two pieces selected for the Michigan Fine Arts Competition exhibition, including this weathered soup can sculpture.

Photo provided by Diane Taylor, of the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center


BIRMINGHAM — Ceramic sculpture artist Sue O’Connor packed her bags last week to head to England and visit her family, a trip she makes fairly regularly.

But this trip might be a standout, since her creative tribute to the family — a sculpture featuring historical photos of her family cast onto tile and tucked into a ceramic box like a kind of humble but enduring scrapbook — is included among the work of 65 other notable local artists during this year’s Michigan Fine Arts Competition exhibition.

“My mother was English, and I’ve always been close to our family there, so I go quite often. Inside this cheese box, I made decals of these old family photos and put them onto clay squares, then fired them,” O’Connor explained. “I wanted to make a keepsake for family photos, and that’s what I came up with. The first photo in the front is me, my brother and my mother.”

The competition is now in its 38th year and welcomes submissions from artists in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Eighty of the works were selected from a pool of 650 as the 2019 winners and will be on display at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center through Aug. 22.

“The Michigan Fine Arts Competition always reflects truly contemporary work because it has to have been created in the last 18 months,” BBAC President and CEO Annie VanGelderen said in a prepared statement. “This year’s juror took a thoughtful and broad approach, including a wide variety of media, from abstract to sculpture to representational. I am again impressed by the high quality of the art, regardless of medium or theme. This exhibition puts an exclamation point for talent in the Great Lakes region.”

The winners were chosen by Jerald Melberg, of the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. While 66 artists were picked to have their submissions displayed in the BBAC exhibit, 13 of those artists were awarded cash prizes totaling $6,500.

O’Connor has two pieces in the exhibition: her cheese box photo sculpture and a weathered-looking Campbell’s soup can crafted from ceramic. She said it’s an honor to be picked as part of the winning lot since the competition is even tougher, being open to all mediums.

And for spectators, the exhibit is an opportunity to see the breadth of talent our little corner of the country has to offer, O’Connor said. Not to mention, it may serve to inspire a few new creative minds.

“I think it’s great that we have something people can enjoy and look at, and maybe take some classes and they could be (in the exhibit) someday,” said O’Connor, a BBAC ceramics instructor.

The free 2019 MFAC exhibition is now open to the public, like all BBAC exhibits. For more information, call (248) 644-0866 or visit bbartcenter.org.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center is located at 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham.