The motivation for artist Kent Ambler is a noteworthy one. A full-time artist since 1997, Ambler is pledging to donate $10,000 to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) should he win the 2012 ArtPrize top prize for his installation piece. “Dogs have added so much to my life that I feel a need to help. I donate work for auctions to benefit animal groups probably five or six times a year. I always wish I could help animal shelters more than I do,” says Kent. His work is a testament to his admiration for the four-legged friends who often appear as the main subject in his art. His ArtPrize piece “Running Dogs” is a massive expression of this adoration. With more than 100 painted, cut-out dogs captured in different forms of running, the piece spans the whole wall—eight feet high and sixty feet long. Out of South Carolina, Ambler received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ball State University and has appeared in art shows, festivals and galleries throughout the United States.
“Brothers Karamazov” is a piece created by Seattle-born Tom Nakashima during a reading of the novel by the same name. Nakashima is Emeritus Proffessor at The Catholic U. of America and Morris Eminent Scholar Emeritus at Augusta State University. His work is in the permanent collections of over 50 public collections, which includes the Smithsonian American Art Museum. His work has been reviewed or written about in international art magazines and news publications while being reproduced in The Paris Review, Elle, Southern Living, and House Beautiful. As with all of Nakashima’s work, the painting uses recycled paper which relates to his continuing commentary on deforestation of the planet.
“It all began with an invitation to my high school reunion, which they scheduled to coincide with an event called ArtPrize,” explains Jody Cramer, who grew up in Grand Rapids and is currently an artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jody’s artwork, entitled “Tulip Mania Connecting the Dots,” consists of nine 2’ x 2’ individual wooden panels in a diamond configuration comprising nearly 3,000 three-dimensional dots of vibrant acrylic color and a holographic medium, which unite to convey form in a Gestalt of optical illusion. Jody developed her unique style over 30 years ago while completing her Master’s Degree at Indiana University. Her interest in art began at a young age, evolving from childhood classes at the Grand Rapids Art Museum into the pursuit of art as a career. Fond memories of enjoying the Holland Tulip Festival as a child also helped inspire her ArtPrize entry. “ArtPrize is such an innovative format and platform for artists, it will be exciting to participate and see my hometown again,” said Cramer, who will be here for the event.
From Beaufort, South Carolina, Greg Rawls has been creating kiln-formed (fused) glass for the past twelve years, studying extensively with many accomplished glass artists and developing techniques for taking kiln-formed glass in new directions, as with “Sea Glass.” For his direction, Rawls has won numerous awards, such as the Piccolo Spoleto Juried Art Exhibition, while also appearing in several galleries within his state. Rawls’ artist statement states glass is an eternal medium that has been worked, in one form or another, for several thousand years. Fused glass art was found in ancient Egyptian excavations and was a revered art form. The technique was lost and rediscovered about 50 years ago. “I want my work to be simple and expressive, yet convey a sense of color and light in harmony. I have always been inspired by the colors of the Lowcountry. The marsh, ocean and incredible sunsets form my palette.” He pursues glass art full time with his company, specializing in kiln-formed glass for art and architecture.
Lily Lihting Li Kostrzewa is a contemporary artist who specializes in cross-cultural paintings. Born in Taiwan, Kostrzewa studied at National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei before moving to the United States. She utilizes many techniques from both the eastern and western art to enrich her work. Now residing in Michigan, her artwork has been exhibited in Ukraine, Jordan, Taiwan, Austria, Canada, Greece, Italy and many states in the US. Her formal education includes MFA degree in Modern painting, MA degree in Computer Graphics, BFA degree in Chinese Art and Art Education teaching certificate. Lily has taught painting, design and workshops in colleges, public schools and community art centers, including Lake Forest College, IL, Central Michigan University, MI and Marywood University, PA. “Don’t Wait For Tomorrow” has been shown in NYC’s Time Square and has been chosen to be published by Chicago Art Magazine, Open Studio Magazine (Boston) and Review Magazine (Saginaw).
Emmy-nominated filmmaker, artist, author and explorer of the PBS Documentary “In the footsteps of Marco Polo “, New York-bred Francis ODonnell says he was inspired by the Nazi Holocaust and “mankind’s refusal to learn from the past, which has led to other monstrous acts of genocide around the world since the end of WWII.” ODonnell’s piece “Guernica Redux—Holocaust of the Innocents” pays homage to (though he insists is not a copy of) Picasso’s famous antiwar masterpiece, “Guernica.” “I've painted it bold and simply, reminiscent of the propaganda posters of the 1930s/40s. To some extent, this softens the terrible images. To further remove us from reality, I've restricted my palette to the use of three colors—red, white and black with the exception of an old man who sits on his hands on a light blue military helmet. He represents the world and the helmet represents the United Nations knowing [of these acts] but unwilling act,” ODonnell describes.
Christopher Weed grew up in Philadelphia, PA, receiving a BFA degree from the University of Maryland, studied in Europe for several years, and has created over 20 public art commissions since 1998. Participating in last year’s ArtPrize, Weed is now introducing “Spores” to downtown Grand Rapids. Spores simultaneously suggests something playful yet threatening, natural yet out-scaled, organic yet industrial. Accordingly, the forms at-once appear as seed spores, tumbleweeds, thistles, and nautical mines. The sculptures are constructed of powder coated steel spheres with 400, to 475 solid half inch steel stems welded to each sphere. Weed’s entry form last year, “Portal” recently won first place in the 2012 Art on the Streets in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’s also completed projects in Denver, Aurora, Boulder, Fort Collins, Lafayette, Colorado Springs and Superior to name a few. He is represented at A New Leaf Gallery in San Francisco, CA, and Shidoni Foundry, Gallery and Sculpture Gardens in Santa Fe, NM.
Though Haiti is the theme of his Artprize photo exhibit called “The Least of These,” Phil Niekerk is based a little closer to the area. Niekerk, local pastor and photographer from Ada, Michigan is displaying a series of 34 black and white photos surrounded in three frames of steel and metal grating. “Going on mission trips around the world has been one of the highlights of being a pastor. I always take my camera equipment no matter the circumstances. Photography is how I journal what I’m seeing and feeling when I’m in a new place like Haiti,” he says. “I always look for a theme to capture with my camera—something more than the typical vacation shots. It became obvious during my first couple of days in Haiti that faces were [the] theme. My camera gravitated to these beautiful faces I encountered. I think my photos capture a wide continuum of these human emotions; from joy to despair, from anger to contentment, from beauty to brokenness. ”
Dr. Ellen (Messner) Rogers, former wildlife veterinarian in Africa and star of Animal Planet’s docu-drama TV show Great African Wildlife Rescue, presents her animal-inspired artwork, “Darwin Called It Evolution,” for ArtPrize. She is a 2012 MFA graduate from Visual Studies Department at the University at Buffalo, as well as an alumnus of Harvard and Tufts University. She earned her BFA at the Maine College of Art, in Portland, Maine. Through her art practice, Rogers examines ideas about humans, animals, and Nature. Rogers spent years working in Africa hands-on with some of the most endangered, and dangerous wild animals on the planet. Based on her experiences working in wildlife conservation in Africa, Dr. Rogers uses art to explore how humans interact with and understand Nature. She seeks innovative visual methods to ask if people are a part of (or apart from) Nature. Her current artwork embodies hybrids of people and animals, asking how do people affect other beings? How do animals affect people? And ultimately, how do humans affect themselves through the environment? Rogers uses her sculptures to question the human/nature dichotomy.
Artist Read Lockhart is continuing in the visual arts tradition of his father and grandfather. With “The Allegory of the Cave,” Read Lockhart continues to dive into his paintings and drawings layering oils on canvas and graphite on paper to reveal undeniably compelling images. Although the visual arts were far from his mind during his undergraduate career at St. John's College, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Illinois-native soon discovered his love of drawing closer to home at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Lockhart has also studied drawing at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy before his apprenticeship back in the US assisting some of New York’s most established painters. To conclude Lockhart’s studies in New York, he received the Alma Schipiro travel grant and spent seven months making his way through Western Europe entranced by the works of the great masters. After Europe, Lockhart's wealth of experience and knowledge backed by years of study drew him back to New Mexico where he settled in Taos.
In the 2011 installment for ArtPrize, artist Dominic Sansone had a great response to his entry, winning his venue's Best in Show Award from the Michigan ACLU and finishing in the Top 25 in Hillside voting. This year with his piece "Just Short of the Shore,” Dominic is looking to reach a wider audience. Dominic is a native of Chicago and in 1997 received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in sculpture from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before spending two years working for an aerospace company producing fabrication and assembly drawings for satellites, military aircraft, and mobile artillery units. He’s also worked in the tradeshow industry and has overseen worldwide exhibition programs for major multinational corporations. Since receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis in 2010, Dominic has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions around the United States. He is represented by Fulton Market Gallery in Chicago and teaches at the Evanston Art Center.
This is just a small portion of the artists exhibiting their entries at DeVos Place. Stay tuned for information on more artists. Please find a listing of all entries being shown at DeVos Place here.