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TC Students Win Awards at 24th Annual National Arts Club Exhibition

Carrying on a tradition, Pamela Harris Lawton and William Grant, two doctoral students (Art and Art Education program) in the Department of Arts and Humanities, won awards at the National Arts Club Annual Student Exhibition. Lawton won the Bernard Hans Hessel Memorial Award and Grant won the Samuel Tilden Award. Last year, two other TC students, Maria Richa and Sean Riorden were award winners.

Lawton received her B.A. in studio art and sociology at the University of Virginia and an M.F.A. in printmaking at Howard University. A native of Washington, DC, Lawton is currently on a two-year leave from Northwestern High School in Prince George's County, Maryland, where she taught art and exhibited her woodcuts and linocuts at a wide variety of galleries in Washington, DC and Maryland.

Lawton is drawn to print-making "for some of the same reasons many artists dislike it, it is very precise and methodical, like science, and I have always been interested in science."

Working with wood is something of a family tradition: Her great-grandfather built doll houses that were rich in detail and are now exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the Washington Historical Society. "There's just something about wood," Lawton said, who also does etchings, silkscreens, and lithography. "The wood forces itself into your work."

According to the artist, her work portrays her family and the positive achievements of African-Americans, particularly those of black women like herself.

Traditionally," she said, "the artistic representation of the female has been limited to her role as wife, mother, and sex object. Only in recent years with the changes in sex roles and social mores regarding women and their importance in other arenas…have we seen her portrayed as a major contributor to society in terms of her intelligence, accomplishments and talents. It is this more positive imagery in tandem with the traditional nurturing images that compels me to create art."

The award was for two of her wood engraving and letter press prints. One, titled "Bathing Beauties" is of her great-grandmother in an old-fashioned beach costume sitting on a beach with a friend. The other is called "Twin Oaks," the Annapolis home of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist. Lawton had grown up as a young girl in a beach community near the home.

Asked about how she felt about being both the secretary and a doctoral student in her department, Lawton said, "It's great to work in a department with the people that you're in class with. I've gotten to know everyone in the program very well."

Was Lawton surprised when she learned of the award?

"I was ecstatic because my work is very traditional. My work is the type that craftsmen used to do to illustrate books back in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It's the kind of the thing that died and is sort of coming back as an art form. I suppose I am continuing my great-grandfather's art but in a different format."

William Grant, who won his award from the National Arts Club for a six-foot-by-four-foot photo etching of an angel, has taken an unusual route in pursuing his Ed.D. in the College Teaching of Art program. From the success and fame of the world of commercial art, Grant turned to studio art and the art of being an educator.

"I had enough of the corporate jet," said Grant. "I was the Manager of Corporate Advertising Design at NBC and I wanted to pursue a career in the field of fine arts. I was seeking that sense of flow, a sense of recognition, a sense of my own self. I felt that the commercial art field paid the bills but there was no reward there."

Speaking about the subject of his award, Grant said, "It could be an angel or it could be someone's daydream of something sacred. There are so many different ideas I've bounced off it. What's important is what's received by the viewer as opposed to what I see about it," said Grant.

Grant is against titling his pieces. He explains that, "I don't title my pieces because I don't want to provoke anything. What I'd like is someone to just enjoy it and find in it their own sense of reality or their own sense of enjoyment."

He has exhibited in a wide variety of galleries from the Brooklyn Museum to the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After leaving NBC he received three academic degrees in four years.

Grant likes to point out that art education has an important impact on the intellectual education of American College students. "Everybody stresses that we should offer art education to our younger students, but we're neglecting our older students. I feel when students come to us at the college level they're confused about what is art and what defines art. So it's up to us to clarify that," he said.

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