To look at the two grand prize winners of ArtPrize Nine is to see a dramatic contrast in how art is done. “A. Lincoln,” seems craft-like in its careful construction with simple material—pennies and glue. “Heartside Community Meal,” is an unexpected, living production that includes real people.
Yet, both artists have lofty and somewhat similar purposes
“A Lincoln,” by Richard Schlatter—Winner of the Public Choice $200,000 Grand Prize (See more at http://www.artprize.org/65175)
I think “A. Lincoln” is a perfect example of the type of art that the public viewer likes best. The subject is easily recognized. It is “safe” in the sense that it is very unlikely to offend. And it is big. “A. Lincoln” is a twelve foot high image of Abraham Lincoln made of about 24,000 pennies. Richard Schlatter carefully chose variously shaded pennies to define facial features and attire, including 1,681 1943 steel pennies for Lincoln’s shirt. Also contributing to the popular appeal of “A. Lincoln,” it is crafted by the artist of tangible materials and is meant to remain largely unchanged over time.
The creator of the work said he chose Lincoln as a subject because he thinks Lincoln was probably America’s best president and he thinks Lincoln resonates with people in this time of political controversy. He says he is using “A. Lincoln” to teach children about Lincoln and his legacy. This is not the first time his work has benefited children. He previously wrote a children’s book about loyalty and respect with his own illustrations.
“Heartside Community Meal,” by Seitu Jones—Winner of the Juried Choice $200,000 Grand Prize (See picture at http://www.artprize.org/66414)
The presentation of “Heartside Community Meal” is dramatically different form of art. A “time based” entry, it was a real meal that was served outdoors to over 250 people in Heartside Park, Grand Rapids. (I guess art experts like big art too!) People of differing backgrounds, including some who lived in expensive condos and some who were homeless, sat across from each other at a 300 foot long table, ate locally grown food, and talked.
What probably makes this art? The project required plenty of creative thinking; it was very relevant to the social environment it was in; and it provoked a lot of discussion, not only among those sitting at the meal, but among ArtPrize visitors and the art jurors. And for those who want to revisit the entry or who didn’t see it (I didn’t—that’s why I have no photo), it has been preserved in video form at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), in Grand Rapids.
“Seitu’s work speaks to some key current issues in America now….Access to food, access to community and people being able to create a space of conversation, exchange and synergy for everyone. He speaks to what is important in the context of the ‘now’ in his practice, not just the ability to paint or draw,” said juror Gaetane Verna. And Kevin Buist, the Exhibitions Director of ArtPrize, says, “Seitu Jones shows us how artists can have an expanded social and political role.”
The ArtPrize grand prize winners are wonderfully different and effective works.Using contrasting skills and methods, both artists hoped to to bring together people —people who themselves may have sharply different views and backgrounds—to create thoughtful dialogue. I believe that biggest winner in both cases is the art-going public and all of us who have been provoked to think more deeply about how to find unity within our differences.by