OC photo instructor wins statewide competition

The Texas Photographic Society recently announced that Odessa College photography instructor Gwen Davies won the First Place Award for her entry, “Stitched Memories,” in its 2023 By Hand: Alternative Processes Competition.

The exhibit, consisting of 50 images, opened at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Abilene Dec. 7, 2023, and will run through Feb. 3, 2024.

“It is very special to win this award,” Davies said in a news release. “While I have won awards and recognition in the past, never first place. So, to win it for a project I have put so much time and work into is amazing.”

For the competition, which was open to artists of all levels internationally, “676 images were submitted by 121 artists, which meant the selection process was extremely competitive — around a 7 percent chance of being selected for exhibition,” said Juror Christine Z. Anderson, acclaimed artist, educator writer and editor.

When asked what was her inspiration to create the piece, the OC instructor said, “‘Stitched Memories’ is a contemplation on how our environment, physical, social, political, health, etc. impacts our understanding of our identity. This project grew out of a large project reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting us. Quilting is a memory keeping device, often created to celebrate or commemorate significant life events and these squares are a reflection of that. Each square is made from 1-inch strips cut from one-of-a-kind Lumen prints. They are then pieced and stitched together in the Log Cabin Quilt Pattern. Half of each square is fixed and half is unfixed, meaning it will continue to change over time.”

“Stitched Memories” is a piece in transition which has taken years to create and is not finished, according to the artist. The images used in the squares were created in 2020 and 2021, and she began stitching them in the spring or summer of 2022. Each square takes about 14 hours of labor from piecing to sewing. Currently she has roughly 35 squares completed, of which 25 will be on display at the exhibit in Abilene. She added that she is constantly making additional squares, and she curates a display of squares based on the requirements for each time it is displayed.