Friday, May 27, 2016
Reflections on an Award
I was so honored to receive the Philip J. and Maria Stern Memorial Award for Work in Sculpture at the 19th Annual Newburyport Art Association Regional Juried Show. This is Spirit Book #82: Soaring Serenity, which I completed in the winter of 2015. I never have a sketch or a plan for a Spirit Book and the way they come together is always a bit of a surprise. In this case, it was a most pleasant surprise. I had been disappointed in the Tsasho paper from Bhutan that I ordered from New York Central as it was much lighter than the swatch, but it turned out to be just perfect for this book. The cradle was a gift from Anne Mulvey and Donna O'Neill, a butterfly bush root and stem dug from Donna's garden. The book and the cradle seem like they were destined for each other.
The juror was Karen E. Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Part of her task, in addition to choosing the works for the exhibit and awarding the prizes, was to write commentary about each of the award-winning pieces. Here's what she said about mine:
This inventive sculpture combines several natural and artist-made elements in companionable and harmonious ways. The found piece of driftwood acts as an elegant support for the handmade book, which is embellished with what could be fallen stars, and together they form a fairy tale-like arrangement of disparate textures and forms.
When I spoke to her at the reception, she was wonderfully open. Her first words were that she hoped I wasn't uncomfortable with her connecting the piece to fairy tales. She said she had been working a lot with fairy tale imagery in photographs. I told her that I was totally comfortable with people interpreting them any way they want. I've heard references to fairies, elves, and the Lord of the Rings as well. The only time I bristle is when I am asked if I intend for people to write in them. I was surprised that she was concerned about my reaction. As an artist, I tend to feel that I am the one taking risks in exhibiting the work. It's good to be reminded that I am not the only one. She also said that it took her some time to come around to accept its categorization as a sculpture but that the more time she spent with it, the more she saw it as such. I feel that the Spirit Books are both artist's book and sculpture and it was especially gratifying to have it awarded as such.
The exhibition at the Newburyport Art Association in Newburyport, MA continues until June 4. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11-5 and Sunday 1-5. You can read see all the award-winning pieces and read Karen Haas' commentary here.