Friday, October 7, 2016

The Surprises of ArtPrize

Copyright © Edward Riojas
"Bright Maples" by Martha Fieber

ArtPrize never fails to surprise me. No, I wasn't surprised by the final pieces that were put there by popular vote. Neither was I surprised by the juror’s picks, nor was I surprised by the hooey that came out of their pie-holes when it was time to justify themselves. I wasn't surprised by the number of people who claimed they “can’t even draw a stick figure.” I wasn't surprised by folks who used their smart phones to photograph ... photographs. I wasn't even surprised by those who gushed over my use of color – this, while wearing sunglasses.
Detail of "Bright Maples"

I WAS surprised by the gems that went unnoticed, and by the gems that DID get noticed. Out of three of my personal favorites, one was a finalist and another was a short-lived contender. The last piece didn’t show up on anyone’s radar screen.

“Bright Maples,” by Martha Fieber, didn’t have one of those snazzy titles or an artist statement to wow the jurors. The tiny fiber piece was hard pressed to gather notice – until viewers took a much closer look and realized every leaf in the piece was a French knot. ‘Maples’ was, indeed, a delicate surprise.
"Morning Sun" by John Hubbard

Another favorite of mine was “Morning Sun,” by John Hubbard. Another lack-luster title, but immense skill showed through economy of brush strokes that harkened to Canada’s Group of Seven. It was small, but very fresh, and that was a nice surprise.

One of my favorites that did make it to the finals was “Moan,” a fiber piece by Katarzyna and Monika Gwiazdowska. The Polish twins took the lowly craft of Stitchy McYarn Pants and surprisingly elevated it above the stratosphere. Never mind the amount of work involved, or the distance covered to simply ship the piece, or the fact that the twins didn’t kill each other in the process – the real achievement was taking something so convolutedly complex and restraining it within elegant simplicity.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of ArtPrize was meeting like-minded artists from vastly different backgrounds. There was the Ukrainian artist who approached me again this year. We chatted like old friends, and kidded each other about flaws in our pieces. There was the interior designer-turned-artist; the model-turned-artist; the mathematician-turned-artist; the scientific illustrator-turned-artist. The common link we shared was the passion for our work and the striving to improve technique while visually communicating.
“Moan,” by Katarzyna and Monika Gwiazdowska

Next year’s ArtPrize, of course, will have surprises of its own. There will be new art and new faces. For my part, I will be bringing something new to the event, but I’m not about to tell you just yet. I don’t want to spoil that surprise.

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