COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Stories can be told in many different ways. Painting is one of them. At the Columbus State University (CSU) Bo Bartlett Center located in the Corn Center for the Visual Arts, the gallery’s latest exhibition “Big Stories” is on full display.

The exhibition strives to highlight large-scale paintings with narrative elements. According to Bo Bartlett Gallery Coordinator Joshua Newbend, the collection criteria took into account size, realism and storytelling Every work in the gallery also contains human figures.

“What [the curators were] doing with these works is they’re trying to find a really diverse and really exemplary array of contemporary painters in America today,” Newbend said.

“[The chosen artists] have a really good understanding of not only narrative painting, but about what’s going on in the contemporary world,” he continued. “How we can represent stories in out lives and how we can represent our creativity through the images we make for those that are seeking them.”

Paintings in the collection include big-name artists like Carl Dobsky, Michelle Doll, Zoey Frank and more. It also includes works by Columbus-native Amy Sherald and Tim Short. The gallery’s namesake, Bo Bartlett also has a piece in the exhibition.

Sherald’s piece “Planes, rockets, and the spaces in between” features two women painted in grey, dressed in vibrant colors as they watch a rocket launch into a bright blue sky. Short’s work is directly representative of his hometown, commemorating a card game with close family following the death of his sister.

Bartlett’s work features a man being extracted from the belly of a whale in a half-awake, half-asleep state as a girl and boy look on. As a tie to reality in the fiction-based piece, one figure wears a University of Virginia shirt with a bright orange “V” and crossed sabers.  

According to Barlett’s forward in the exhibition booklet, “Big Stories” paintings follow conventions of traditional and contemporary realism. The smallest work in the collection is “Diana and Actaeon” (2018) by artist Adam Miller, an oil painting on a 36 x 50 in. panel.

“It’s extremely important to understand, especially in the crazy, strange, wild climate of the world of politics of our day today, that there are still stories to be told,” said Newbend, giving voice to the goals of the exhibition’s curators, including Bartlett, Dobsky and Noah Buchanan (also featured in “Big Stories”).

Newbend continued, “Artists have shown resilience and being able to keep it moving forward and keeping the momentum of creativity, image-making and just overall, I want to say, ‘zeitgeist’ for life going forward.”

So far, Newbend reported, hundreds of students and community members have visited “Big Stories” since it opened on Friday, Sept. 15. He hopes that more guests will come through in the coming weeks. While the exhibition will be available for viewing during the Bo Barlett Center’s open hours through Dec. 16, there will also be an opportunity to view it during an upcoming community event.

On Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., patrons and curators are invited to explore the exhibition in an open-to-the-public, free reception.