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Truth is Optional: Facts, Fictions & Lies Challenges Artists to Narrate Their Work


Luckily for many storytellers, the maxim "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" doesn't apply to works of art typed, penned or painted. That accepted ambiguity, along with an interest in exploring different media, sparked Treasure Valley Artists' Alliance Exhibition Chair Theresa Burkes to organize Facts, Fictions & Lies, a contest-turned-exhibition that challenged artists to pair their visual works with written stories.

"I just love stories, and I wanted the artists to not only tell a story visually, but with their writing," said Burkes, who writes and works in encaustics, printmaking and collage. "...The whole idea was that we wanted a story—we didn't care if it was fact, fiction or an outright lie."

Ashley Quick's "Selene" won second place. - COURTESY ASHLEY QUICK
  • Courtesy Ashley Quick
  • Ashley Quick's "Selene" won second place.

Local artists rose to the challenge, submitting work in a variety of media (oil, chalk pastel and watercolor to name a few) with accompanying stories that ranged from funny (Melissa Maxey's "Pirates of the Caribbean") to heart-wrenching (Becka Watkins' first place-winning "My Father's Death"). For many of the artists, it was their first time writing fiction or personal essays, and TVAA partnered with Idaho Writer-in-Residence Christian Winn to help those with the strongest stories polish up their pieces in group workshops before the final judging.

"I basically had a criteria of creativity, character building, arc of story if it was a short story, lack of cliches and all that," Winn said. "...Some were less comfortable with it at first—for some people it was kind of like pulling teeth a little bit. Some jumped right in and had plenty to say."

For the last round of judging, Winn chose the best stories, Burkes chose the best art pieces, and they combined the scores they'd given each piece to choose the winners.

Those winners and the other top submissions were celebrated Dec. 4, when voice actor Marley Snow-King, previously of Sun Valley's Company of Fools, read a selection of stories out loud at an opening reception for the exhibition at Boise State University. The 21 paired pieces will be on display there in the Student Union Fine Arts Gallery, as well as online at, through Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.