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Columbia art noted at fair

A creative couple’s work is inspired by travels to Italy.
Sunday, August 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:06 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Joanne Berneche brought a little bit of Italy to the Missouri State Fair in the form of snipped pamphlets, magazine articles, brochures and acrylic paint.

In a pool of about 140 Missouri artists competing in the open professional division at the fair in Sedalia, Joanne took one of seven $200 awards for her multimedia piece “Madonna.” Meanwhile, her husband, Jerry Berneche, earned honorable mention for his drawing “Friend.”

The couple met at Ohio University, where both were studying fine arts. They’ve been married 47 years and say their mutual passion for art keeps their relationship strong.

“My personality is quite laid back,” Jerry said. “I don’t like crowds and confusion. Joanne is much more creative and daring. Me, I play it safe.”

Jerry is a watercolor and drawing professor at MU, and Joanne teaches art at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

Every summer, Jerry leads a community art trip to Florence, Italy, that is sponsored by the MU Department of Art. Joanne accompanies him and finds the trip a good time to create her art because teaching keeps her so busy the rest of the year.

She created “Madonna” with items she collected while in Italy in 2003.

Joanne said she enjoys using printed materials in her art.

“I just love the images I pull from (them),” Joanne said. “I actually cut out hundreds of pieces. It’s like putting a puzzle together.”

With her growing success, Joanne says she plans to spend more time practicing her art in Columbia.

“I’m just going to make more time for it, because as that old saying goes, ‘If you don’t use your gifts, they’re taken away,’ ” she said.

Jerry and Joanne have been competing at the fair for 24 years. Madge Gressley, superintendent of the Fine Arts Department at the fair, sees the Berneches’ work every year. She said judges based their decisions on form, technique and composition.

Jerry, who was a winner in the Top 50 Division in the early 1980s and has consistently placed in the open professional division, said the pool of competition is changing with time. Judges in the Top 50 Division, he said, are becoming more interested in art that is more sensational or that has more shock value.

“I was brought up in the old school,” Jerry said. “So I’m not gonna change the way I paint or draw. I love what I do. If I’m not having fun, why do it?”

The couple’s art will be on display as part of the state fair fine arts display through today at the fairground’s Fine Arts Building.


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