Bridgeport Art Center’s Third Annual Art Competition award winners were announced at a lively opening reception attended by several hundred people on Saturday evening, February 28. This year’s jury was composed of resident artists at Bridgeport Art Center, Amanda Williams and Monika Wulfers, distinguished artists, teachers, and experienced jurors. Williams is an architect by training, and in addition to her work as a painter, she teaches design and color theory at IIT. She is a 3Arts Awardee, a DCASE Individual Artist Awardee, a Joyce Foundation scholarship recipient, and has received numerous other awards. Wulfers has exhibited widely throughout the Chicago area, and her work has been shown in museums in the US, Austria, England, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Malaysia. Her recent light sculptures, based on mathematical systems she uses working with a computer, were featured as a special project at the 2014 Chicago Expo.
To select this year’s show, the jurors spent two days reviewing over 500 images submitted by 199 artists, then returned another day to award $3,250 in prizes, based on viewing the actual works. The prize-winning works were as varied as the show itself, reflecting the eclectic nature of contemporary art.
The Best of Show award ($1,000) went to Alejandro Zespo Velazquez, 24, of Justice, IL. Alejandro is a graduate of the American Academy of Art, an institution especially well-known for teaching traditional realism. His large self-portrait in oils is a masterful exposition of technical skill, and demonstrates great vitality and freshness. It shows the artist in his studio, in a reclining pose from an unusual point of view that reveals the soles of his shoes. Behind him on the wall is depicted another of his own paintings (which was also submitted to the competition). This kind of work is reminiscent of a traditional nineteen-century practice at European art academies, in which at the end of their studies degree candidates were required to present what was called a “diploma work” – a kind of artistic summing up to demonstrate the skills they had acquired during their studies. Such works were therefore usually very ambitious, as is Alejandro’s self-portrait. This is amazing work for a 24-year-old artist!
Additional prizes included:
Zachary Balousek’s massive found-object sculptural construction made of wooden slats and ceramic “packing peanuts” that won second prize; Jennifer Cronin’s beautifully painted view of city alleys shrouded in a pale blue mist - third prize;
Prizes were also awarded in three specific categories:
3-D work: First place was awarded to Al Ribskis for his neon sculpture, Wavy Blue; Second place went to Doug DeWitt for his heavy wall-piece made of found objects.
Best Representational work: First prize in the Best Representational category went to Amy Babinec’s mixed media painting; Second prize to Grigor Eftimov’s drawing in charcoal.
Best photo or photo-based work: Three Flower Pots by Nate Mathews; second prize for Fred Camper’s large multi-image composite work, Quarry 3: Power Lines.
In addition, jurors awarded Honorable Mention prizes to Daniel Fleming, Katherine Van Drie, Helen Jones Mayer, Kyle Surges and Samantha Haring.
This large show is a rich collection of nearly every style and medium encountered in contemporary art, including traditional realism, various types of abstraction, found object sculptures, highly political work, conceptual work, humorous and whimsical pieces, and work that blurs the boundaries between sculpture and functional art. It would be difficult to imagine a viewer who could not find something of interest in this show. The exhibit continues until April 5.
Lelde Kalmite, curator