Topeka Competition 30 purchases

"Tropicana", by Katerina Strakhova, was one of our most popular pieces.

Thanks to the Friends of the Library! Their support of the Topeka Competition 30 lets us add great art to our library’s collection.

For more than 30 years, the Friends of the Library has sponsored the Topeka Competition. This is a national, juried, biennial exhibition, featuring the best in contemporary arts and crafts. It started small, and has grown to be one of our most fun and popular exhibits.

This year, we added two pieces of art to the library’s permanent art collection as Purchase Awards.  One is a glass bowl by Katerina Strakhova, an art student from Russia at Washburn University. Called “Tropicana”, we liked the piece from the first time we saw it – and so did many other people! We liked the way Katerina layered tubes of glass across each other, some translucent and some opaque, so that the colors of glass melded and shifted with light.

A fun - and functional - teapot portrait by Mark Nathan Stafford.

The second piece we added was Mark Nathan Stafford’s teapot called “Ceramic Technician.” The teapot is a portrait, with the collar serving as the handle, and the tea would pour out the left ear. From the top, you can see the lid, and inside that is a ceramic tea strainer. Mark used a clay called “Richard Notkin paper clay”, which is a malleable clay with paper fibers that help the clay hold very fine shape while it’s wet and being formed. This is one of the reasons the facial features and expression look so realistic and natural. 

Top view, showing the lid and tea strainer.

We liked that the portrait wasn’t only accurate in terms of looking like a real person, but that you also get a sense of the guy’s personality.

Since Richard Notkin was our juror this year, we wondered if Mark had studied with him or knew him. Mark said not, but felt that it was important to recognize Notkin’s clay because another artist had developed it. I am grateful to Richard Notkin for serving as our juror this year, and for selecting work that was really strong and interesting!

Even though the exhibit is over, you can still see the pieces in the exhibit at our Flickr archive.

Sherry Best

Our library has a very cool art gallery, and I get to be in charge of it. I started drawing when I was 4 years old, and never stopped making art. I want to do more than show you art, I want to help you understand it, relate to it, and 'get' it. Art lets us share what it is to be human.