The exhibition of the 2016 Williams Prize finalists, held at the Silpe Gallery at the Hartford Art School, closed on Sunday, July 24, 2016. Below, view slide shows of the winning & finalist drawings. Click through the link to view a slide show of the exhibition as people were arriving for the opening event, FLASH EKPHRASTIC!
Held on on July 9, 2016, FLASH EKPHRASTIC! was a poetry reading honoring the drawings by the Williams Prize finalists that were hanging in the gallery. Follow this link to view the Poet's Choice drawings, to read the poems inspired by them, and to view the event video.
Eleanor Adam (New York): "I began to paint in 2006 as a way to collaborate with my son Alex who was very ill from cancer. I painted portraits of him, incorporating into the paintings his thoughts about what he was going through and feeling. It was a powerful tool for us to explore difficult and complex questions. After he died, I continued to paint from life. When I stand in front of the model, I am forced to be in the moment, with all my focus and faculties and skill in the present. I feel connected to the universe, and to Alex. It is my hope and desire to bring the people I paint to life - a collaboration of who they are, and what I see in them. If I am doing my job properly, I create a portrait that almost seems to be alive."
Dennis Angel (Nevada): "Because of the demands that the metalpoint process presents, the observational experience is taken to another level, it's heightened and becomes more acute. It feels peculiar to me, sometimes, as I'm working alone in my studio slowly crawling down a drawing with a sharpened metal stylus. I wonder if the nuance, delicacy and tenderness that I feel is so inherent to the metalpoint process, is similar to what the monk or scribe felt working in the Middle Ages? Was the choice to use this ancient process in the 21st century my response to the frantic and many times graceless world that we live in? My statement, a rejoinder of sorts to our culture's insatiable appetite for celebrity and loud spectacle, may be my sanctuary. It is my hope that the discipline, patience and care that I devote to my drawings provides an invitation for you, the viewer, to pause and to consider the spectacular and complex subtleties of the world that are always present around us."
Erica Belkholm (Minnesota): "Beginning February 2015, I launched a new series of large-scale portrait drawings on toned paper. To counterbalance the level of detail and delicacy in the marks, I kept the pieces compositionaly simple, and used only two colors in their creation. They are an exercise in pulling pure symbol or emotion out of an identifiable portrait. Despite the level of detail in their faces, the subjects cease to be individuals and instead become metaphor. This is part of a greater series on mythology, and the creation of cultural legends."
Sue Bryan (New York): "As a native of Ireland, the landscape there has certainly shaped and influenced my own history. Many of my drawings are of places that have a deep personal association for me; an endeavor perhaps to stay connected to my roots. My aim, however, is not only to convey a sense of place and belonging, but also an attempt to capture the ineffable, to evoke a feeling, or a memory, to invite the viewer to look beyond and beneath what they see. My process is one of building up tones and textures using a technique of charcoal and carbon combined. This process yields a wonderful range of blacks and grays that vary in density and transparency as much as in tonality. Much of drawing’s appeal to me lies in its very constraint, in its simplification, in the reduction of nature’s macrocosm to the coal-black char of organic matter. For me, the act of drawing is an end in itself."
Ashley Busby (Texas): "My work begins with the act of separation. Rather than the immediate encounter with landscape, these drawings manifest through detachment and the residues left behind. Each piece emerges from the rift, opening to the liminal, uncertain space that is born from separation. Surface becomes an exploration of the intermediate - the strata of incomplete structures. Surfaces articulate a kind of vacillation, moving between tangible and abstract forms. Marks accumulate and blur boundaries in continual search for the image within these ephemeral and distant spaces. Metaphorically, the landscape has become a basis for questioning how we internalize experience, a fluctuation between clarity and obscurity."
Naomi Centeno (Connecticut): "The phone rang. It was dad, “Naomi?” I immediately felt the pain in his voice, something was terribly wrong. “Something bad has happened to Serena.” Inside, I knew. I knew she was gone. On that sunny afternoon in July, my sister, Serena, 27, took her own life. My family’s world and my world were forever changed. The pain, although lessened over time, will always be there. The guilt and what ifs are always lurking. In these drawings I am longing to be close to her again. I am trying to answer questions that may never really be answered. In these drawings I am trying to make sense of the senseless. In the future I hope to further explore suicide with art as my vehicle, to help shatter the stigma associated with it, and prevent families and individuals from going through what my sister and my family have gone through."
Jody Christian (New York): "How people arrange their domestic spaces speaks to their thinking process and other environmental forces in their lives. I draw interior spaces in order to expose my relationship to these spaces on paper and reveal correlations between perception and memory. By drawing objects in domestic interiors, I locate meaning by revealing the particular psychological characteristics of the places we call home. I want to illuminate the ordinary with an intensely focused way of looking. . . . As I attempt to replicate an aspect of reality, the act of pushing charcoal around on a page becomes meditative, providing a place where I can concentrate and still my mind. The experience of drawing gives me access to my memories of home and to the higher meaning that I attribute to household objects, and my pieces become dense meditations embedded with the act of seeing and sensing."
Jeanne Ciravolo (Connecticut): "I am struck by the deep and boundless mystery of people. The source of my work is the human figure. Drawing is my initial and direct response to the subject. My current work builds on my work as a portraitist and delves into concepts of isolation and individual human experience. The drawings I've submitted are the first steps towards the figurative work I am currently creating in my MFA program."
Emily Clare (North Carolina): "I have always loved nature and the sense of wonderment it brings to me. Trying to sense the emotion and connection between nature and myself. Breaking away parts and abstracting those areas into a combined response between it and myself. In part it excites, increases my imagination, sometimes scares, connects, love of the beyond, freedom, conversation, rejection. It gives me a visual language to share my thoughts and expressions. Taking the object and extracting from it to reach a point to create my visual language in the way I see. Allowing something to come out that otherwise might not."
Taylor Correa (California): "My style and technique have greatly evolved over the years, however I have always favored an emphasis on representing the human figure through drawing and painting. Specifically, I seek to show the mental and physical affects of the subject’s past experiences through their current state of mind or physical appearance. Through medium application, figural pose or surrounding elements, I aim to portray the subject’s inner thoughts, conflicts, emotions, and overall vulnerability. I tend to leave an open narrative regarding the cause of the subject’s disposition, however nostalgia and insomnia have been recurring themes within my work."
Jason Covert (New York): "This drawing, "Limb" is from a series of works entitled, "The Forest Through The Trees". It is an alternative form of the idiomatic expression "to see the forest for the trees". It implies that the viewer is overwhelmed by detail to the point where it obscures the overall situation. On the one hand, the works from this series are simply a collection of extremely detailed graphite drawings on paper; beautifully light and easy to digest, but they are also a comment on the continuing destruction of the world’s natural environment and humankind’s oblivious response.
To view the true detail within the drawings, the viewer must stand very close to the framed works. This encourages them to fall into the drawings and focus solely on the individual pencil marks. This limits the viewer’s field of view and guides them into a relationship that mimics that shared by the human race and Earth’s environment: distracted by what is immediately in front of them and unable to see the larger picture."
Francine Ditton (Florida): "I interpret my world in a visual manner, and over time have developed a visual vocabulary that allows me to define myself and to communicate my intentions within a two dimensional format. I look for patterns, see rhythms, observe the layers of my surrounding environment, and give attention to the overlooked and the obscure. I feel the biggest attribute of being an artist is simply to pay attention. Historical art processes intrigue me, and I enjoy researching and experimenting with these techniques. In keeping with traditional realism techniques, my drawings often begin on silverpoint paper, and I use silver, gold, graphite, and wax pencils to draw with. I feel my work represents a quiet, contemplative, modern minimalist look at select moments in time."
Anzhelika Doliba (New Jersey): "Drawings in the style of realism are what I love to do, to recreate LIFE as we see and know it with just a simple pencil is exciting to say the least. I'm striving for realism in each piece, taking pleasure in capturing every fine detail.
Details are the key to realism so patience is significant, working a small area to near finish before moving on is a personal technique of mine.
Portraiture is always a rewarding challenge due to the vast features and unique personalities."
Zena Fairweather (California): "My portraits of graphite, ink, charcoal, and color pencil, crystallize ordinary moments into an image, transcending time in such a way that they reach out across the ages. This emotional bond of past, present, and future, between subject, artist, and viewer, has always been a fascination for me. Capturing the essence of the sitter is incredibly important to me. The attempt of the artist to faithfully translate a subject's character for posterity is a challenging but exciting task. Whilst I realize that the aesthetic of my work may be described as realism, much like a quilted narrative, I have woven in detail after detail, revising some parts and leaving others, to arrive at this version of reality. In this process of patching and stripping, I seek to maintain a point of focus. My later pieces include subjects where the eyes are cast down rather than making eye contact. This is to impart a sentiment to the viewer through the hands, as the main conduit to express emotion."
Caitlin Fennelly (Washington State): "I work within a linear system to describe the connectivity of space. I draw from a spiritual influence, in which the subjects embody “divine icons” in sacred spaces. The images suggest a solitary empowerment in the quiet details around us. Living in a society wrought with distractions, fast interactions- our sense of patience is disrupted. For me, Drawing is a practice in mindfulness as the process of finding, losing and defining edges and texture takes patience and presence. I create work that offers an opportunity for reflection for viewers to be here, now."
Meghan Flynn (Iowa): "My work is centered on portraiture and identity. I am interested in representing the human figure within the realm of realism. I am continuing a conversation with artists of the past such as Rosalba Carriera and Artemisia Gentileschi, as well as contemporary artists, like Susan Hauptman and Susanna Coffey. Using color and expression to portray feeling and emotion, my work explores ideas of fragility, beauty, melancholy, and sexuality through representation of the human form. The figures represented are reflected in the meticulous and delicate nature of the pastel medium, referencing the sensitivity and vulnerability of human life."
Eric Giles (Maryland): "I make drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations. By referencing romanticism, dark humor and classic children’s book illustrations, it is my goal to amplify the delight and astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate poetic images full of hidden creatures and interactions. My drawings depict moments that only exist in the absence of normal human life, imagine illustrations for books or stories never written in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life. The work often appears to be surreal, dreamlike scenes, inspired by the nineteenth-century Romantic tradition, in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role seducing the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium that still manages to undermine the normal stream of daily events."
Aviva Grossman (New York): "The goal is work that appears beautiful, but has a grotesque quality that is not immediately obvious. I stockpile MRIs and x-rays and photograph the inside of my doctor's office during a checkup. Illness or accidents are constant reminders of mortality, sometimes clouding our ability to appreciate the beauty of nature's mysteries and complexities. I aim to clearly express that my work brings me joy and relief. It's intended not as a distraction from human frailty, but an acknowledgement of it and a celebration of moments fulfilled and our ability to string such moments together. We are tiny presences in a large universe, extremely vulnerable to nature's whims. By juxtaposing environmental images with medical ones, I hope to convey this: though our bodies ultimately fail us, their internal workings are as beautiful as gardens and forests."
Brad Guarino (Connecticut): "My recent work confronts issues of masculinity—the struggles that men face to not only understand their own maleness, but also to connect with one another. The figures in my compositions are derived from photo-based collages made by recombining parts from various images of men. The collage process references how boys form their concept of male roles—by piecing together the perceived characteristics of cultural icons, stereotypes, and influential men in their lives. In the work, the illusionism of representational art serves as a metaphor for the artificiality of gender. Incompletely rendered forms and evidence of erasure, correction, obfuscation, and expressive processes refer to the actual art-making as well as to the mutability of gender constructs and the ordeal boys face in their efforts to forge a masculine identity."
Elana Hagler (Alabama): "Within my work, I try to embody a felt experience that can be communicated to others. I attempt to encounter the visual world in a way that is informed by thousands of years of the creation of art objects and yet, at the same time, is somehow fresh. My main artistic sources of inspiration include the Fayum Portraits, the Pompeian Frescos, the paintings of Velazquez and Chardin, the drawings of Dickinson and Seurat and the work of contemporary artists such as Antonio Lopéz Garcia and Emily Nelligan. Beyond the attempt at an honest response to the motif is the music and poetry of form, color, gesture, and intensity of surface, and the exploration of these elements as metaphors for the human condition. There comes a point when a painting or drawing moves beyond mere competency, when a quickening occurs and an energy snaps to life. This is what I am after."
John Haverty (Massachusetts): "The term non-places, coined by anthropologist and writer Marc Auge, describes places that don't have enough significance to be viewed as places. Augue describes hotel rooms, airports, supermarkets and motorways as fitting examples of the non-places. It is my intention to bring identity to the non-places through my unique perspective as having spent the past ten years inhabiting a non-place as a transient airline employee. Everything relative to my career in the airlines bleeds out through my pens onto the given space of the paper. The methods and craft of how I create are a product of being a traveling nomad. The finished products do not attempt to solve or answer any questions. However, through visual and ambiguous narratives, they are intended to bring light to the voids that we as a society depend on greatly but scarcely notice in our preoccupations."
Charity Henderson (New York): "My work questions issues of emotional connection and transparency. There are psychological realities that we shield from the view of the public, from friends, and even from our own awareness. The figures in my work grapple visually with these unseen fears and desires. They seem to be searching for connection instead, but have not found it. In any case, they all wrestle alone with their questions.
The silence and tone of the images speaks to the experience of solitude itself, that “darkness within” of Henry David Thoreau’s which each of us is afraid to enter."
David Hicks (Indiana): "My current body of work consists of large-scale narrative drawings. In my narratives, I explore opposing concepts of immorality and innocence, power and weakness, or masculinity and femininity. The characters in my narratives are archetypes, representing different portraits of these opposing themes, such as the innocent child or the wild gunman. Using the stage of an epic battle scene as my backdrop, I draw connections between cause and affect, or character and destiny. These connections are most clearly illustrated in the path of a bullet, a thread of string, or a banner of text. They are visual, metaphorical, and literal connectors, tying one character’s action to another character’s receipt of that action, intertwining their roles in the narrative. My work pictures the dynamics of human connection and dysfunction through metaphorical narratives of human relationships."
Richard Chandler Hoff (Pennsylvania): "Architecture and light play key roles in my work and two major influences have had a most profound effect on the use of these elements in my drawings. The first was Edward Hopper, an artist in whose work architecture played a prominent role. Hopper used buildings as well as light to distill the essence of what is American and the success of his work showed me the legitimacy of depicting the urban landscape. The second influence arose when I became familiar with Life magazines from the 1940s. The light in their photos seems ethereal and yet ready to burst off the page with great warmth and an intensity which I have come to associate with that time even though I know it was probably due to more primitive photo materials."
Steven Hughes (Michigan): "Light persuades darkness, Revealing with certainty. Color captivates."
Rachel Kirk (Washington State): "Patterns are a ubiquitous aspect of our universe. They can emerge from chaos or from perfect math, and anywhere in between. A beehive, a galaxy, a turtle shell, an atom, a mold spore - I am fascinated with and influenced by all. My drawing process is guided by inconsistency and imperfection, the very things that make me human. In order to develop a deeper understanding of my surroundings, I strive to mimic those patterns that I find so mystifying. I begin by emulating a specific pattern or concept, employing a system of deliberate mark making that celebrates, and is often guided by, the prospect of chance."
Elizabeth LaBarge (New York): "I explore contemporary topics related to womanhood through the process of reductive drawing techniques and additive soft pastel applications. I strive to create intense theatrical depictions that attract the human eye, while simultaneously incorporating delightfully disturbing undertones. The work offers a glimpse into ambiguous narratives of femininity. The audience is left to contemplate the context in which the characters exist. To quote contemporary artist Wangechi Mutu “The woman is in a constant state of becoming, changing, and surviving.” My most recent work is constructed as a therapeutic art form. Through the drawing process, I visually explore crocheted lace as a means of stitching together feminine themes. The detailed weaving and threading becomes a visual contemplation of the life cycle. Images referencing life and death are acknowledged within a single framework - the image of mummification (death) while simultaneously referencing the image of the sonogram (birth)."
Lauren Lake (Alabama): "My artwork borrows the grammar of botany, garden architecture, and agriculture to create artworks that inspire saudade, a nostalgic longing to be near again to someone or something that has become distant or has been loved and then lost. Autobiographical in origin, my works’ scale, material, and manner of installation establish and maintain an intimacy with the viewer through communitas."
Harriet Livathinos (New York): "I am currently deeply involved in abstract drawing, making compositions using the repetition of interwoven gestural lines and marks. These are my tools for exploration of air, density, and depth—my means for expressing the tangible and intangible, feeling and raw energy. Everywhere I look, particularly in landscape, I see lines forming the skeletons of shapes, and marks providing textures and variety. In general, I’m exploring the use of formal elements to serve expressive purposes, and it is a thrilling journey. My practice thus far involves employing graphite, Conte, pastels, charcoal and mixed colored inks on a variety of surfaces–-pastel and printmaking papers, smooth, rough and handmade, cardboard, graph paper, sandpaper, canvas, burlap, Mylar drafting film, and Yupo plastic paper, using a variety of implements. These particular images originate from a body of work focusing on the energy of mark making, and its use in creating variety and complexity in spatial elements."
Emily Mayo (Michigan): "I find life’s stories extremely fascinating. For this reason, I am also interested in death. Death indicates that a life story is ending. I am interested in the environments in which people die because I believe they serve as a visual conclusion of life. The elderly have the longest life stories and are closest to natural death. I am moved by the way society treats their elderly. Nursing and veteran homes spaces are where I currently derive a lot of my imagery. In my series called 'Home,' I have drawn three life-sized rooms of specific veterans living in the Grand Rapids Veteran’s Home. Walking through the home for the first time, I was struck by the resemblance the building had to a hospital. I found these environments so moving that I felt the need to draw them in a way that evokes the emotion that I feel. All of these rooms are similar. Yet, they are all lived in differently, and are a summary of each person’s life. By drawing these, I strive to tell that person’s story."
AJ Nadel (New York): "The contemporary world tends to blur the distinction between actual and altered images and frequently trivializes the former. It also places the viewer within this world of images and empowers him/her to participate. Geographic space and perspective are obliterated. The viewer can appear on TV or video himself/herself. The viewer can change his/her image with makeup, clothes, tattooing and even surgery. He/she can invent a persona and transmit it by computer throughout the world. It is the artfulness and deceit by which images are created and selected that interests me. By simple processes, rolling or brushing paint, photocopying various images, and transferring the emulsion images from photographs, I wish to demonstrate that personalities can be created from a multitude of sources, real and reproduced, in a context which seems actual. In addition, I can connect the studio to the outside world by mingling images of both as recorded and as remembered."
Lisa Noble (Virginia): "I work to communicate my innermost thoughts through a vocabulary of symbols. This is self portraiture at a far deeper level—showing what exists well beyond the gaze. The resulting narratives are an extension of myself progressively realized to new degrees. They allow me to explore perceived freedoms found in feeling simultaneously alone and yet, never alone. My compositions have a forced perspective, a fictional depth of field. I show the environment as an integral part of a specific moment or memory through imperfections that seem unusual.
I like to work on paper and keep things in the raw. There is something very gratifying about drawing. The way the pencil’s pressure goes through my hand, onto the paper, and is finally reciprocated by the studio wall. It allows line to become the sublime element. I like it when line recedes and projects into space. I like implying form through contours. My art is my proxy. It is the evidence that I existed at all."
Nathan Opp (Oklahoma): "The creation of a well fashioned image is at the root of my work. Whether still-life or figurative subjects, I seek out objects and people that I like observing."
Julie Orsini Shakher (Florida): "I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Miami, Florida. I am of Italian and Cuban Origin. I am a representational artist; my works are delicate and sensitive with a stroke of aggression. My current works are in the medium of silverpoint on gessoed luan board. My goal is to make drawing more permanent and less fragile. Historically, I want to bring this ancient form of drawing back into the contemporary platform. Presently, I am working on a series, titled Entwined. The Entwined series consists of one to two figures in an equally coupled symbiotic embrace. Each image depicts figures in the act of rest and contemplation - sitting, lounging, lost in thought, and gazing."
Joseph Ostraff (Utah): "This drawing is one of a series of drawings that is a collaborative effort, involving nineteen people responding to the same location over a two month period. As a collective, we are exploring ideas of the individual and the group, parts and the whole, and the potential of drawing within a social practice."
Andrea Placer (New Jersey): "I feel a 'perfect fit' using the medium of colored pencil and graphite drawing. Although the process is slow and intensive, it is ultimately very satisfying. I enjoy the blending, layering and detailing that allow me to represent extremes of light and shadow, and the subtle gradations in between. My subjects are varied. I react emotionally to them, strive to evoke their mood, and to share what I believe are universal feelings, such as joy, wonderment, and the pleasure of being alive in nature. My drawings, through their visual language, are another means of communicating with people, something about which I care a lot."
Benjamin Rogers (Colorado):"My work follows in the tradition of figurative painting and drawing, although I am more interested
in accentuating the artifice of paint than adhering to naturalism. My paintings are self-referential contemplations that comment on the intersections of my life with art history, philosophy, culture, obsession, and the implications of what it means to be an artist while critiquing and indulging my own naïve, self-centered ego. I want my work to be amusing and serious, visually striking and conceptually alluring, while commenting on multiple facets of life and the creative process."
Rachel Schwemin (Massachusetts): "I take different and disparate objects and figures and juxtapose them out of time, context, and place, to create the uncanny familiarity of connection to some aspect within the image, without necessarily understanding what is happening in it as a whole. This helps me create my open ended narrative. Though I have my own direct intentions and correlations when creating the imagery, they are usually only a jumping point for me, and it is not necessary for the viewer to see them."
Daniel Starr (Colorado): "I began my art career as a surrealist. Over the years I became fascinated with the human figure. To be able to achieve a drawing that surpasses mimicry and transcends into a beauty that stands on its own is a mark of mastery. This led me to dedicate a year studying the human form at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. There I began to work on this mastery. Part of the elegance of these drawings is the unfinished look. I did this in order to let the technique become an integral part of the finished work. What I like about it is that it opens up a strict technique and allows certain marks and erases to happen and flow with the drawing as it develops. When using graphite I apply several techniques. I develop layers with pencil, then to get a smooth finish I go over the layers with paint brushes. I use the eraser as a drawing tool to decipher sharp edges from soft. The stroke of the pencil is also a great way to add movement to a drawing, even if the subject matter is stagnant."
Simeon Youngmann (New York): "In a generation increasingly alienated from the Church, I make drawings that grapple with faith. Digesting the rich and thorny tradition of Christianity, I assemble figures and symbols into psychological scenes that approach faith with sincerity and scrutiny. Theatrical staging blends with mundane elements of a familiar world, where characters glance at their watch or send a text. Atmospheres of layered graphite grow luminous, and scrubbing and erasing leave palimpsests of redacted figures or altered environments. Building from memories, imagined spaces, biography and a milieu of religious iconography, these images develop out of the soft focus between conviction and doubt."
View all 2016 Williams Prize finalists below. Click on any image to begin the slideshow.
The artist's statements of all finalists are listed on this page, below the gallery of images.
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