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2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Never a disappointment and always a crowd pleaser, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's 2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibition encourages the viewer to take in a wide variety of styles, concepts, and forms of media as many young artists from around the tri-state region have the opportunity to find an avenue for their unique voices to be heard in a new way.
Because of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, our community can find new artists who are proving themselves to be incredibly gifted in both technical skill and conceptual aptitude, but also do not conform to the ideas of what we come to expect from young artists. With an inordinate number of Gold Key and National Portfolio Awards in 2016, the talent (even relatively raw talent) evident in our community is clear to see. Thankfully, these young artists in our region are receiving an amazing exhibition opportunity, sometimes not even afforded to artists pursuing their bachelor’s degree.
Yet again, the FWMoA staff has outdone themselves, taking their responsibility to the students work to new heights with this exhibition. Because of the time and effort spent by all involved, the FWMoA Scholastic Art and Writing Awards has received a great deal of national recognition, and we are seeing a resurgence of Fort Wayne Community Schools as a contender with a lot more submissions and larger awards. As a result of the years of success through this program, our regional has many great success stories when it comes to young artist's receiving large amounts of scholarships through the Scholastics program, as well as specific attention which has led to amazing opportunities for additional studies as well as internships.
While the 2016 Scholastics has a lot mature work, it still includes the obligatory “I’m a teen, hear me roar” about the world around them and inside of them. This work usually comes out as large and loud political images, or a naive sense of sexuality being explored through figure studies and poorly veiled metaphors. As in past years, Scholastics acts as the boiling point where these young artists learn through successes and failures to speak in truer tones, with honest responses to the human condition, and the best rise to the top. In 2016, like any other year, we find a few true gems that pique our interest and ask us to follow them through a world in which they slowly reveal themselves as more interesting and coming from a fresh standpoint. This year, these young artists include Maddie Foutz, Olivia Groves, Claire MacDonald, Cierra Alonzo, Charlie Lett, Abigail Jones, Amanda Gargac, Garrett Spoeloff, Audrey Ottenweller, Brandon Cardenas.
In the past eight years since this writer has returned to Fort Wayne, Carroll High School’s photography department has dominated the gold keys and portfolio awards, and this year was no different. Claire MacDonald’s “05 Kim Jung Fun” is one of the most interesting pieces in 2016’s exhibition, and it has also received a 2016 National Gold Metal award as well. MacDonald’s photography is evocative in that she tells a story through fragments of information. In “05 Kim Jung Fun”, the viewer is treated to a rich still life of books and ephemera against a gray wall with an image of Kim Jung Ill wearing retro 3D glasses draped across it.
The image is as irreverent as it is thought provoking, portraying a dictator who has committed terrible crimes against humanity in a moment of pure awkwardness, losing his authority, and becoming somehow approachable. Cierra Alonzo’s “We are but a piece of something larger” is another Carroll photography student with a standout image that questions the connections between man and nature in a very peculiar way, portraying a human next in comparison to a fungus growing on the trunk of a tree.
While MacDonald and Alonzo’s pieces are beautiful, and show a strong development of concept and form, it is Carroll student Charlie Lett whose portfolio of work ended up being the most impressive, especially viewed as a whole. Lett’s photographic work questions gender and sexuality in an impressive way, evoking the work of Claude Cahun and other early photographers while not falling into the “Cindy Sherman pit” of derivative imagery. In “Not a Prize”, Lett appears face straight on looking into the camera, confronting the viewer while apparently wearing gold make-up or paint, with a confident gaze. Lett’s work finds a third space in the spectrum of identity works of art, making statements about power and relationship while physically portraying questions about gender and identity. For a teenager to tap into and execute these concepts so effortlessly is a beautiful thing to witness.
Outside of the "Carroll Collective" that typically dominates the awards, other notable artists include Olivia Grove’s “Divided into Light and Dark”, a sculpture portrait made incredibly well with a limited palette and a gravity which pulls the viewer in, and Maddie Foutz, a Whitko High School student from South Whitley whose images, “Rocketeer 2”, “Iron Man”, “Wisdom in a beautiful disguise”, among others are incredibly well composed and constructed paintings of pop cultural icons. Foutz was impressive in last year’s Scholastics competition as well as a sophomore, and it is comforting to see that she is continuing her pursuit as a junior. Garrett Spoelhoff’s “Kinetic Sculpture-Waves in Motion” is one of the most impressive pieces in the 2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards from a formal standpoint, in that it is a functional sculpture with machine components which allow it to move went cranked to produce a beautiful ripple effect.
Ultimately, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art are a key aspect of the development of Northeast Indiana’s arts community, and has been responsible for assisting a majority of the talent produced here to gain recognition of a confident in their craft to really take account of their passions. Over the last decade, FWMoA has taken this program to the next level, gaining national recognition for our region, and building further avenues for the students to carry their pursuits.
For more information:
2016 Scholastics Art and Writing Awards
Now through April 10th, 2016