Associate art professor's painting chosen for Missouri Arts Award poster

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A painting done by Naomi Sugino, associate professor of art, has been chosen as the official artwork of the 2009 Missouri Arts Awards. The painting, Alley, depicts an alley in Hermann, and will appear on posters, an invitation to the awards ceremony and other media.

"Honestly, when I first received the message [of the selection], I thought it was some sort of mistake," Sugino says. "I am thrilled to be involved with the Missouri Arts Awards, which I know to be a preeminent honor for Missouri artists and those committed to supporting them."

Sugino is now in her eighth year at Columbia College. She teaches drawing and painting and coordinates the bachelor of fine arts program.

The awards will be presented in the Capitol Building Rotunda, Jefferson City, on Feb. 11.

The Missouri Arts Awards honors Missourians and institutions that have made profound and lasting contributions to the cultural and artistic landscape of the state. Past award recipients include Columbia College professor of art emeritus Sidney Larson, the late governor Mel Carnahan and Senator Jean Carnahan, the City of Columbia, Hallmark Cards, the William Jewell College Fine Arts Program, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association and a host of art museums, symphonies and ballets.

Sugino's work has been exhibited in numerous regional and national exhibitions, and she has become a fixture on the burgeoning Columbia, Mo., arts scene. Alley also won an honorable mention in the September Boone County Art Show.

The universal language

Sugino was 12 when her father's job in electronics took the family from Yokohama, Japan, to Wilmette, Ill. Sugino says she could barely speak English, let alone understand it; but that she discovered no such encumbrance in art or music. Sugino found she could express herself quite ably with the stroke of a brush or beat of a drum. She had discovered the universal language of the arts.

Sugino says she first became acquainted with art through her grandfather in Japan, who invited his granddaughters over for lessons in watercolor and drawing. Though not a professional artist, her grandfather took up painting and drawing in retirement and often entered his work in local art shows, she says.

Her parents returned to Japan in 1992, but Sugino stayed in the United States and received a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in art and music from Eastern Illinois University. She went on to earn a master's of fine art with an emphasis in painting from Wichita State University.

After arriving in Columbia, Sugino immersed herself in the local art scene, working with such artists as Mike Sleadd, Columbia College Art Department chair; Ben Cameron, professor; Sidney Larson, distinguished professor emeritus; Richard Baumann, adjunct instructor; and Tom Watson, professor. She also began exploring the area's diverse and striking urban and rural landscapes.

Sugino says she enjoys exploring cityscapes, which provide viewers with a vertical panoramic view of urban areas – a view one would experience if looking straight down on a city street and then up. Sugino says she first got the idea when she took her students to Chicago, and looked out the window of her 14th floor motel room.

Still, it's the shapes of things that truly capture Sugino's imagination. "It's not necessarily the subject matter that appeals to me," Sugino says, "but how the shapes are organized within the framework of the picture."

In her statement to the Missouri Arts council on Alley, Sugino writes that she was walking down a street in Herman and noticed an alley to her right. "The alley was set on a hill and I was intrigued by the shadows that were cast on the slope," she writes. Sugino says she was then working on a series of paintings exploring various uses of perspective, and the "elevated one-point perspective of the alley was unusual and made for an interesting composition."

"I am excited and honored about the Missouri Arts Council selection. My primary goal as an artist is to strive to continue learning and producing," Sugino says. "As an educator, I firmly believe it is important to practice what I preach to my students: do lots of paintings, make lots of mistakes, experiment with new approaches and enjoy the act of creativity.

For more samples of Sugino's work, visit the Art department web site.

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