The ConQuesT 53 Art Show was certainly a “Show full of GoHs.” Perhaps I should unpack that a bit. In fannish circles the acronym “GoH” stands for “Guest of Honor,” and is pronounced “go.” Every science fiction convention invites several headline guests. They appear, generally all- or most-expenses-paid by the convention committee, to attract people to the convention.
In the early years, the GoHs (plural for “GoH,” pronounced “goes”) were nearly all authors. And still today the “Author GoH” usually gets listed first. As conventions and sub-fandoms proliferated, though, we also began to see Media GoHs, Fan GoHs, Special GoHs. And – most important for this post, Artist GoHs.
I arrived at this post’s title when I wandered from display panel to display panel and realized “this really is a show full of GoHs.” I counted five (I apologize if I missed any!), including this year’s Artist Guest, who’ve been Artist Guests of Honor at ConQuesT in recent decades. There were so many, I decided to dedicate a separate blog post to them.
Donato Giancola, 2022
Every few years an illustrator becomes such a master of the craft, and so universally-respected, that he or she becomes generally acknowledged as a grandmaster. Frank Kelly Freas, Michael Whelan, and a handful of others have reached that status. They illustrate their period’s most important books. Their work regularly receives Hugo Awards, Chesley Awards, Spectrum Awards, and more. They eventually tend to branch out into fine art, gallery representation, and their works become the centerpieces of museum gallery shows.
I’d say it’s probable that in recent years Donato Giancola has joined those ranks. A rising talent in fantasy, science fiction, and speculative art since the mid-1990s, he’s currently best known for his J.R.R. Tolkien illustrations in Middle Earth: Journeys in Myth and Legend and his Empathetic Robots Series. Long revered for his wonderful Magic; The Gathering card designs, his work displays a stunning technical expertise, little wonder he’s also a popular online teacher.
Elizabeth Leggett, 2018
The next-most-recent guest whose work I spotted in this “Show of GoHs” is Elizabeth Leggett. I remember the year ConQuesT honored her as a particularly interesting time. That’s partially because I had more chances than usual to catch her panel appearances as well as enjoy her work in the show. It’s also because that’s the year she and my friend Lynette M. Burrows did a “cover reveal” at the convention. She painted the original cover for Lynette’s debut novel, My Soul to Keep (It’s still my favorite of Lynette’s covers, but genre conventions forced her to change it later).
I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth’s work ever since. Her website says “Elizabeth Leggett is a Hugo award-winning illustrator whose work focuses on soulful, human moments-in-time that combine ambiguous interpretation and curiosity with realism. . . . In 2012, she ended a long fallow period by creating a full seventy-eight card tarot in a single year. From there, she transitioned into freelance illustration. Her clients represent a broad range of outlets, from multiple Hugo award winning Lightspeed Magazine to multiple Lambda Literary winner, Lethe Press. She was honored to be chosen to art direct both Women Destroy Fantasy and Queers Destroy Science Fiction, both under the Lightspeed banner.”
Rachael Mayo, 2017
The year before Elizabeth became the Artist GoH, hometown favorite Rachael Mayo received that honor. Rachael is a friend, but even if she wasn’t, I’d have a special place in my heart for her wonderful, often vibrantly-colorful creatures. She persistently self-identifies as an “amateur” artist at sf convention art shows because she has a “day job.” But that has never dented her serious focus on materials, craftsmanship and mastery of skills.
According to Rachael’s Noble Fusion bio, her artful adventures in the publication field include a period when she produced several covers for Hadley Rille Books (including for my friend M. C. Chambers’ Shapers’ Veil), interior illustrations for Tremorworks: Demongate High Monster Manual, and work for now-apparently-inactive (?) Hive, Queen and Country Victorian miniatures. More readily available are Rachael’s beautiful and challenging coloring books.
Peri Charlifu, 2010
Few artists have found better success focusing on science fiction conventions than Peri Charlifu. A master of his craft (he mixes his own glazes, for example), he has normally sent his wonderful pottery creations (in sturdy boxes, nestled in carefully-crafted cradles of pool noodles and bubble-wrap) to some 40-50 shows each year. His entries are the objects of delighted admiration and spirited bidding everywhere they go, as far as I can tell. I don’t recall having ever been to a convention where the art show staff had unsold Charlifu ceramics to send back to him. And as anyone who exhibits their work at sf cons can attest, that’s saying something!
Peri began offering detailed workshops on how to conduct a successful art career, both at conventions and in his home state of Colorado. He and his ever-expanding group of mentees and associates created the Convention Artists Guild. The group had formed before the Pandemic, but it became a port in the storm for working artists then. Its weekly Virtual Art Shows offered a needed outlet when all the normal ways of doing business went on lockdown.
Peri was the Artist GoH at ConQuesT in 2010, but in many ways he’s “Primus” (his Convention Artists Guild title) among artists who exhibit their work at sf conventions. He’s not extremely tall, but even in this “Show full of GoHs,” he’s a towering (though always gentle) figure.
Theresa Mather, 2005
Theresa Mather’s visually-luscious fantasy art is another regular fixture at many sf convention art shows. She normally exhibits her work at more than 70 shows each year. In this “Show full of GoHs” she seems to shine on timelessly.
Theresa earned her place in this post when she was the ConQuesT Artist GoH in 2005 (I still treasure her T-shirt, and I’m not alone). She appreciates the convention art show staffs that handle her work as few other mail-in artists seem to (she never fails to enclose some little gifts for the staff). And her generous spirit shines through her work.
Like Peri Charlifu, she has a large, devoted fan base. Also like him, Theresa never took the more usual sf and fantasy artists’ route of working for book publishers or gaming companies. Instead, she relates directly to her followers. Although paintings and prints on paper are her normal fare, she’s also known for her elaborate paintings on feathers and rocks. Active in the field of antique carousel restoration early in her career, her bio says she has painted “suites of large-scale paintings for the crestings of five antique carousels and decorative paintwork for a sixth” (three of those are currently on public display).
The Force Behind this Show full of GoHs
Before I end this two-part series of posts on the ConQuesT 53 Art Show (see last week’s post for the first in this two-parter), one more salute. I think it’s important to note that none of these artists would have a forum to show their art in a visually stunning and widely- respected art show, were it not for the leadership of Art Show Director Mikah McCullough and his devoted team (most especially including his wife Katarina Gibb, and, yes, his Corgi Renji).
During their tenure Mikah and Kat have modernized the show, improved its efficiency, and promoted it (most notably through the show’s Facebook Page) energetically. They care deeply about fantasy and science fiction art. They make sure the art placed in their care is handled gently, and completely accounted for from receipt through sale or return and payment to artists.
They’re the reason so many artists, including so many past and present Artist Guests of Honor, have found it worthwhile to send or bring their work year after year. They laid the solid groundwork for this “show full of GoHs.” And everyone who saw the show is the richer for their work.
Fair use of copyrighted artwork is always a fraught question with artists profiled in blog posts. For this post, I’ve used only publicly-shared photos and screen-grabs of galleries on the artists’ websites. I hope that they’ll give you a taste of what each artist has to offer. For better, larger views of these wonderful pieces, please click on the URL links. Take some time to enjoy browsing the artists’ websites. Each one offers unique rewards and visual delights.
As noted above, the “Artist Guest of Honor” graphic for Donato Giancola is courtesy of ConQuesT 53. The peek at his website’s range is courtesy of Donato himself, via his website. The gallery-views representing Elizabeth Leggett and Rachael Mayo offer only small glimpses of what you’ll find on their websites.
Mikah McCullough took the photos of Theresa Mather’s ConQuesT 53 display panels. He posted them publicly on the ConQuesT Art Show’s Facebook for sharing, with her blessing. The detail from Peri Charlifu’s Aegean Goods gallery of pottery offers a partial view of his work’s range and sophistication. See much more of both artists’ work via the links.
Mikah also took (and posted) the photos of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show panorama. Ditto with his dog Renji with the mailed-in art boxes. The photo of Mikah himself is from his Twitter profile (photographer uncredited). Many thanks to all! The montages are Jan S. Gephardt’s doing.