Michael Dodson Jr. decided against removing a ladybug ensnared in the polyurethane coat he’d applied to his portrait of the late Josefina Niggli. Instead, the bug stayed where it landed on the portrait’s frame.
“I left it on there for good luck,” said Dodson, a WCU junior majoring in fine art with a concentration in sculpture.
It must have worked. His portrait of Niggli, an author, actress and former WCU drama instructor, earned top prize in a competition sponsored by the Josefina Niggli Celebration Committee and the Fine Art Museum. Dodson netted a $500 purchase award from the College of Fine and Performing Arts; his portrait becomes a part of that college’s permanent collection and will hang in the Niggli Theatre lobby.
Dodson was announced as the winner April 7 during a joint reception for exhibits of the Niggli portraits and work from the Art Students’ League juried show. One of his pieces in the latter show, “Twelve steps and everything in between,” a mixed-media sculpture, won a $150 Best of Show award for three-dimensional work.
Dodson’s large-scale, mixed-media portrait features Niggli’s likeness in black and white oil paint over pages from her book of short stories “Mexican Village.”
Based on the strength of previous work, six graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Art and Design were invited to create portraits of Niggli, whom the university is honoring with a yearlong series of events. These finalists were encouraged to create portraits that, while highly expressive, would reflect a “recognizable characterization” of Niggli and faithfully express her “dynamic persona,” according to competition guidelines.
Mike Polomik, a master’s degree student in fine art, and Traci Pierce, a fine art undergraduate, earned second and third places respectively in the competition, each winning a digital camera.
The five-member committee of WCU faculty and staff that selected Dodson winner “was quite taken with his work,” said Martin DeWitt, museum director and a member of the selection committee.
“We were very excited to see he’d taken the initiative to search out the ‘Mexican Village’ text,” DeWitt said. “It served to make the piece historically connected.”
Dodson bought the book in a fourth edition on eBay. “I read the first four stories, and then I was running out of time so I cut it up,” he said.
Dodson is the son of Michael and Elizabeth Dodson of Raleigh and the husband of Sara Cabe Dodson, a student in the fish and wildlife management technology program at Haywood Community College. He plans to graduate May 2011 and would like to earn a master’s degree in fine art with a goal of one day teaching or having a working studio.
Both student exhibits remain on display at the Fine Art Museum through May 5. The Niggli portraits are hanging in Gallery 130, adjacent to the Fine Art Museum’s Star Lobby. The ASL works are in galleries within the Fine Art Museum.