October 29, 2020

Heard County artists shine at Coweta Art Show

Ed Sexton from Newnan looks on at Tuesday's reception as his granddaughter Isabelle enjoys the Kaleidoscope created by local artists R.L. Hughey and Deborah McNeil.

Ed Sexton from Newnan looks on at Tuesday’s reception as his granddaughter Isabelle enjoys the Kaleidoscope created by local artists R.L. Hughey and Deborah McNeil.

(Newnan, GA) — Heard County artists R.L. Hughey and Deborah McNeil once again wowed the crowd Tuesday night at awards reception of the 11th annual Performing Arts Juried Art Show sponsored by the Newnan Coweta Art Association.

The inventive and creative couple were honored with the “Best in Sculpture’ award for their extremely complex and interactive piece called “It’s a Wonderful Whirl.”

The award-winning sculpture is an actual working kaleidoscope that the duo created using their old hot water heater, some antique sewing machine parts, door mirrors, and an old plow.

The complicated working piece also includes some plastic tubing purchased on ebay and some stained glass pieces recycled from some of their former works.

Children and adults alike were lined up during the entire two-hour reception Tuesday night for a chance to enjoy the only interactive piece at the show.

Heard County award-winning artists Deborah McNeil and R.L. Hughey

Heard County award-winning artists Deborah McNeil and R.L. Hughey

The couple have competed at the show for six straight years, and this year’s award follows up on two ‘Best in Show’ awards from 2011 and 2015.

The duo’s extravagant metal sculptures are always a hit at the annual event.

Hughey is a retired mechanical engineer from Southwire and along with McNeil utilize skills they both learned through the local welding program on the Franklin campus of West Georgia Technical College.

Other metal sculptures Hughey an McNeil have entered over the last six years include a large bass fiddle that plays real music, a large fish, and a mammoth chair made exclusively from old tools.

The ‘Best in Show’ sculptures were a life-size horse sculpture they created from a bicycle in 2011 and an awe-inspiring life-size sculpture of a grand piano dubbed “Ain’t Life Grand” that won the highest award in 2015.

“We have kind of surprised even ourselves,” said Hughey at Tuesday night’s reception. “It is so rewarding doing stuff that we enjoy. We had the idea for the kaleidoscope on our list of future projects and then one day we noticed our old hot water heater laying in a ravine behind the house and the idea just took off from there.”

The couple also had another sculpture on display entitled “Ghost Ship.” This piece was designed from a miner’s pick and a boat anchor retrieved from Kaukana, Wisconsin. The couple named the piece after the mascot of the local high school football team in Kaukana, “Galloping Ghosts.”

'That Red Headed Woman' by Deborah McNeil

‘That Red Headed Woman’ by Deborah McNeil

Every piece the duo undertakes always has a story behind it. One of the more interesting stories this year came from painting created by Mcneil dubbed “That Red Headed Woman.”

“My parents were happily married for over 30 years and both passed away during the same year when they were in their 50’s,” says McNeil. “I had never heard them argue — they loved each other so much, but there was one time when I was about 10 years old I did hear them argue. “In that moment my mama told my daddy: ‘Maybe you should have married that red-headed woman.'”

The story becomes even more interesting when McNeil randomly ends up meeting the actual ‘red headed woman’ in real life. “It turns out she is such a sweet woman,” says McNeil. “Believe it or not, we are friends on facebook now.”

McNeil entered another painting of her 4-year-old granddaughter Ada. She sold the painting entitled ‘Ada at the Beach’ to an art enthusiast during the reception.

'Ada at the Beach' by Deborah McNeil

‘Ada at the Beach’ by Deborah McNeil

The couple were appreciative of the local support they received a the reception Tuesday evening.

“We always have many people from Heard County attending the reception each year and we appreciate their support so much,” says McNeil.

The ‘Best in Show’ award Tuesday night went to Eric Strother for a mask sculpture entitled ‘Persona No. III.’

Other top awards included Mark Stewart for ‘Best in Painting,’ and Teresa L Foshee for ‘Best in Photography.’

The reception was held at the Coweta Centre for the Performing Arts and featured over 100 entries by artists from the surrounding areas. The works will remain on display at the Center until June 29, 2016.

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