Local gallery owner competing in Meridian show|[03/29/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lesley Silver calls herself an “art junkie.” And, like many junkies, she never really intended to get hooked.

“My mother was a wonderful artist and, really, she was so good that I kind of avoided it when I was younger, even though I could look at her art books for hours and hours,” says Silver. “I’ve always been surrounded by art — and if you hang around it long enough, it becomes really infectious.”

She opened the Attic Gallery in Vicksburg in 1971, but even then Silver didn’t take her own creations too seriously. It was not until more than a decade later that her mother and inspiration, Klara Coock, convinced her to start submitting what Silver considered her “closet art” — paintings, photographs, collages and other works — for competitions and exhibitions.

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“She kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to get it out there; they’ll probably reject almost everything, but you’ve got to try.'”

Her mother was both right and wrong. Silver did need to submit her art and, eventually, she did — but she rarely got a rejection letter.

“I think the first three or four submissions I sent out were accepted — which kind of blew me away,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting anything but rejection letters.”

Since then, her work has been featured in dozens of galleries, competitions and exhibits, including pieces in the permanent collections of both Mississippi College and Hinds Community College.

Her latest achievement is acceptance into the Meridian Museum of Art’s 2008 Bi-State Art Competition and exhibit, the oldest juried art contest in the region. Silver has two pieces in the exhibit, which runs through April 12. The awards reception is tonight at the Meridian Museum of Art.

The event is highly competitive, and designed to showcase the top contemporary artists in Mississippi and Alabama.

From nearly 250 works entered in this year’s competition, 68 pieces from 47 artists have been accepted. Silver is the only Vicksburg artist featured in the event.

“I didn’t expect it,” Silver says of her acceptance into the competition. “It’s a real honor. I mean, some of these artists in the competition are college art professors. I didn’t even go to college for art studies.”

It is the second time Silver has been accepted into the competition, the first in 2006.

Three awards will be presented tonight, but for Silver, attending the reception isn’t about that.

“Really, just being accepted is the award,” she says. “It’s very difficult to get in. This year, one of my good friends and an artist whom I really admire had called me and said she didn’t get accepted, so I really didn’t think I had a chance.”

Silver’s two works entered in the contest are “Tribal Voices” and “Shared Vision.” Both are mixed media collages and paintings, just one of the many and varied mediums Silver regularly works with — she even makes mini “shrines” from used Altoids tins and various objects.

“I’ve always believed you have to stretch yourself into unfamiliar places,” she says, “and make whatever it is you’re doing your own — give it your own voice.”

If you goWinners of the Meridian Museum of Art’s 2008 Bi-State Art Competition will be announced at a 6 o’clock reception tonight at the downtown museum, 628 25th Ave. The works will be on display through April 12. For information, visit www.meridianmuseum.org or call 601-693-1501.