1st Prize: Kathryn Benso
Art, according to the infamous Jackson Pollock, brings us face to face with ourselves. Whether painted, written, sung, or danced by ourselves or by another, art is that media through which we are confronted with ourselves, our journeys, our stories. When expressed by another, we are drawn into conversation with the Other’s story and by dialoguing with our own, we are able to make personal connections to the artwork. Those pieces of art that have impacted us the most are those we have deeply connected to, the ones that meet us in our own experiences. We are able to relate, converse, and expand understanding of our own journeys through the conversation with another’s.
An old proverb I once heard says it this way: ‘those who do not know the village they have come from will never find the village they are looking for.’ Art has the capacity to bring revelation to our experiences, widening our understanding of where we have come from and where we are going. It aids us in self-identity and purpose.
Subsequently, art introduces people together by ‘inviting in’ conversation and relationship. It is the space where the sharing of experience, emotion, thought, etc is made available. Within this space, we learn from the stories of others and are enlightened about our own stories. In this space, community is born.
Whether as viewers or artists, we have the opportunity to enter into our own stories. This opportunity is made possible and richer only when we allow ourselves to be profoundly vulnerable. So often being fearful, secret, ashamed or embarrassed of our stories, we lock them away and try to forget. But our stories and experiences are very much a part of Who we are; a part that, when forgotten, leaves us seeking identity elsewhere.
Yoyo is a painting that explores this idea. Stemming as depiction of my own, vulnerable, story, Yoyo is part of a series that plays with the theme of mask wearing and identity, past experiences, future journeys, and present obstacles. We meet this woman in an extremely vulnerable state of being. She is caught up in a moment of decision, stuck in a place where one action has been taken and another must be chosen. She holds her mask behind her, unsure of the person who lay beneath. We are aware of her symbolic surroundings: a broken glass window, an opened cardboard box, and a yoyo.
Here is where I deviate. Here is where the viewer must dialogue with the work, questioning the meaning behind each object and deciding for oneself, what the rest of her story is. Yes, I know what her story is to me. Tell me then, what is her story to you?
Anytime an artist mixes abstraction with realism in a piece of work they compete for attention, and usually the realism wins because the human brain desperately wants to find something recognizable in whatever it is looking at. I feel like that is a spectacular metaphor for life, which in this case is referred to as your story or my story or even our story. In this case it is my story we are considering. My imagination, represented by the abstract background, often fights for precedence over my sensible realistic self, represented by the more realistic self portraits, and the majority of the time I, like many people out there, let the realistic side win…If I get the urge to leap off of a tall building to see what the wind would feel like going through my hair, my sensible self stops me. That part of my brain tells me that I would probably die and it explains to me that the rush of the free fall and the wind blowing through my hair is not worth the consequence of death. That is often the difference between the sane and the insane (acting on our impulses versus letting them pass when we know they would cause harm). Also, it is often the difference between interesting, adventurous people and boring, overly cautious people; sometimes there is a fine line between interesting and insane. As someone who has studied and loved art extensively, I often find myself pleasantly lost in this adventurous, imaginative side of my brain on any given day. I return to reality periodically and when necessary to perform important tasks and make decisions. I feel that this is a conundrum of life, my life: follow my imagination or adhere to reality. In some situations the two marry to provide me (us?) with some of life’s most spectacular adventures. I paired a powerful abstract background with a confused, realistic foreground to illustrate how a juxtaposition of these competing ideas can sometimes create harmony.
People’s Choice: Elysabeth Bell
Tata means father. This is a painting of my parents when they were young. Tata’s heart is black, foretelling his future demise by a massive heart attack. The two small lost sheep way in the left back corner are me and my brother. But this isn’t just a painting about my own loss. It about loving someone who is broken and hurting.
Painting about my emotions is cathartic for me. It’s like therapy without verbalizing. Expressing feelings without words allows me to elaborate in ways unknown by words. Showing my paintings also has great meaning for me. If a person can relate, and gets an emotional release from one of my painting, then I feel like I have contributed and connected to humankind. It’s like a song that makes you cry, or feel elated. There are songs I play over and over that feel like the writer was in my head living my life, writing my feelings. So I hope my painting can do the same.