amway grand hotel

artprize afterglow

The votes have been cast, winners announced, and entries are being deinstalled. ArtPrize 2012 is over, save for what appears to be a walking tour of the finalists and related activities. Love this LA Times article about the first prize winner, Adonna Khare.

With the perspective that time and reflection bring, my mixed feelings about the experience have clarified into something much more positive. The brilliance of it all is that I've really had to embrace exactly what my entry preached: living in shades of gray (e.g., finding more subtle rewards from being there). As my friend Mandy would say, the Universe has a sense of humor.

Mandy Gordon in front of "Bridging Humanity" by Edward CasagrandeThe biggest surprise turned out to be how upside-down I got with my priorities, once onsite. Fear of facing the public's reaction to my entry drove a lot of small-mindedness that I didn't realize was lurking inside of me. There's a certain vulnerability to witnessing thousands of people react to one's work. It's one thing to send something off to a gallery for display, or receive a rejection letter by mail. Quite another to interact directly with those responses.

The range of unfiltered, unedited human response was daunting. Ninety-five percent of people appeared to really enjoy my entry, and many were delighted. Sadly, as I focused on those whose cup of tea is not an extremely feminine paper swan ballerina, my generosity of spirit went missing. The irony is how generous people have been to help get me to Grand Rapids, and support the project once we were there. Heck, there are still people there lending a hand to help with deinstallation.

Thomas the awesomely helpful bellman at The Amway Grand Hotel

So, while I'm not proud of some of my response, the experience has been well worth it. Among many things, I've learned an important paradox: artists must have thick skins, while remaining exquisitely sensitive to the impact one's work can have on others. And that people are entitled to their experiences of the art, regardless of the reactions it fosters. Previously, this knowledge was somewhat theoretical. Now it feels very real.

Another big lesson is how important it is to get back to the work. Instinctively, one of the first things I did upon returning to Germany was focus on my next pieces for an exhibition in November here in Frankfurt. Julia Cameron talks about "keeping the drama on the page," shorthand for advising artists to focus on the work instead of fabricating trouble elsewhere because we're avoiding something difficult.

This is not the last of ArtPrize. There are people to properly thank and contributors to gift with handmade goodies. So while the remainder of 2012 is happily packed with projects and deadlines, the afterglow of ArtPrize will remain.

artprize recap (so far)

Now that I'm back in Germany post-ArtPrize install, I'm trying to gain some perspective on what's happened so far. On balance, I'm happy with the experience, regardless of how far out of my comfort zone most of it has been.

They're in the thick of voting for the top crowd pleasers in Grand Rapids. My entry did not make the first cut, about which I have mixed feelings. My admittedly competitive streak wants to be IN, of course. Who wouldn't want some form of recognition, crazy crowdsourcing and all? There's some terrific company in the Top 100 and I'd like to be one of them.

What would really matter to me is a nod from the jury. The time has passed for that - the five short lists have been selected and announced, with no chance of alteration. The voting for crowd picks continues through this Saturday.

I am genuinely happy for some of the contenders that have received the crowd's nod so far. With others, I'm scratching my head. Big time. I knew going into this that I'd be exposing myself to lord-knows-what, but in the thick of it, it's challenging to sit with.

So I go back to an excerpt from my artist's statement for my entry, Shades of Gray:

The irony of entering an art competition is not lost on me. Is this another act of extremism? Or is it simply having the courage to face something I fear and allow myself to be, regardless of the outcome?

Time will tell. For now, I'm sitting with the discomfort and seeing what happens next.

"I wish I was that swan"

Crowds of people, from groups of school kids to the elderly Amway founder himself Mr. DeVos, have been gathering around my paper sculpture at ArtPrize. It's been fun to witness the range of responses. People have been enthusiastic, curious, fascinated, and a few perplexed. My favorite comment so far was from a young girl who said, "I wish I was that swan." My work is done here.

Many thanks to photographer Terry Johnston who shot my piece yesterday. He's got a great eye and is ArtPrize's guy on the street, capturing some great moments out there.


I leave to return to Germany tomorrow with mixed feelings. Part of me wants to stay and play, immersed in the art stew that is Grand Rapids for the next two weeks. I haven't seen nearly all of the entries, but have some early favorites including It's Not My Fault by Andrew Hawkes, Adonna Khare's Elephants, Motivation by Anne Gates, Norwood Viviano's Cities Departures and Deviation, Sojourn by Andrea Kowch, and Flora Metamorphicae.

Voting continues through September 29. This coming Monday, September 24, the five categories juries (2-D, 3-D, Urban Space, Time/Performance and Venue) will each announce a short list of their top 5. That same night, will reveal the dynamic list of artist in the public vote top 25, 50 and 100.

If you happen to be in or near Grand Rapids and can vote, please cast a vote my way!

Vote Code 53118

artprize voting opens

We finished installation for my ArtPrize entry, Shades of Gray, with an hour to spare before the opening deadline. The fun kicked off at 12 noon yesterday as official exhibition centers opened their doors for people to register and start voting for art.

People here in Grand Rapids sure are friendly. The staff at the Amway Grand Hotel have been wonderful, responsive to our every need. From the minute we arrived on Sunday, the Front Office, Banquet Services, and Engineering staff have been terrific.

Massive relief when my shipping crate for ArtPrize arrived from Germany (photo: Donna O'Brien)

They effortlessly moved into place and opened my 200-pound shipping crate. And didn’t blink when we asked for lock cutters and two strong guys to do some last-minute adjustments to the metal armature for my sculpture.

Shades of Gray has been given a perfect location beneath a couple of nice spotlights. Like a dancer on stage, the piece practically glows as you catch a glimpse of it down the length of the Amway’s Pearl Street lobby.

People stopping by to see the work have been kind, expressing interest and asking lots of questions. Here are some my answers:

8,000 paper flower petals

2,000 paper flowers

1,000 paper feathers

600 hours of work

Thank you to WZZM reporter Stacia Kalikoski for including me in her ArtPrize story on last night’s news.