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It’s always exciting to discover talented and promising emerging photographers which is one of the reasons I love visiting the very photography-forward Norton Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. They have just awarded their (third) $20,000 Rudin Prize to NY-based photographer Elizabeth Bick, whose work was exhibited with the three other award nominees: Clare Benson, Alexandra Hunts and Wesley Stringer. I just caught this show during its final day on January 15, 2017 and am eager to share the cutting edge work I saw.
The work of each photographer was quite distinctive, but they all shared this: a nuanced visual interpretation of intriguing underlying concepts, from the socio-political relationships revealed in a crowd of pedestrians to explorations of the time/space continuum. Not incidentally, each artist embraced a subject dear to the heart and personal experience, composing his or her point of view with visual freshness. The unique blends of idea and implementation were inspiring.
Elizabeth Bick explores the choreography of crowds in public venues in her series Every God, photographed inside the ancient Pantheon in Rome and Street Ballet, photographed in New York City. Utilizing deeply dramatic, naturally occurring Renaissance light, Bick isolates figures among pedestrians in a visual and psycho-socio-political examination of private and public self, individual gesture and collective movement. Ultimately, her photographs elucidate how the spiritual and profane in each individual grows into the dance of humankind.
With the harsh landscape of her native northern Michigan as a backdrop, Clare Benson venerates the tenacity and fragility of the natural world in her series of self-portraits, The Shepherd’s Daughter. Poignantly recognizing the cycles of life and death, Benson weaves a compositionally spare and spiritually moving narrative tracing her own family traditions, memory and myth in the wilderness. The forces of time and nature flow with poetic symbolism in Benson’s work.
In photographically based, mixed media suites, Alexandra Hunts crafts mind-bending visualizations of the intangible time-space continuum. Parsing commemoration and memory, she explores phenomena such as the evaporation of water in 158 sequential photographs sandwiched into a sumptuously textured compendium. Or she inventively re-conceptualizes measurements and values like a kilo of apples or second in time. Manifesting the contrasts of digital and analog, physical and abstract, visible and invisible, Hunts’ constructions integrate both the handmade and technological. Her imaginative fabrications highlight and challenge recognized conventions with delightful visual and metaphysical revelations.
Wesley Stringer’s contemplative landscapes and intimate nature studies echo and amplify one another as he builds pairs and sequences of harmonious frames on the wall or in handcrafted books and small boxes in his series Little Graces and Box of Birds. Photographs that whisper with congruent patterns, composition or palette reveal the wonder of Stringer’s keen sensibility. He subtly tracks the course of seasonal cycles – abundance, withering, desolation – and creates lyrical visual analogies with constructed and abandoned landscapes. Stringer’s quietly stirring imagery and elegant workmanship earned him the “People’s Choice” award, which was determined by Museum visitor votes.
For this biennial exhibition, the Norton Museum invites four world-renowned artists each to nominate an emerging photographer whose work is on the leading edge of contemporary art and photography. Clare Benson was nominated by Arno Minkkinen, Elizabeth Bick by Shirin Neshat, Alexandra Hunts by Rineke Dijkstra and Wesley Stringer by Michael Kenna. The $20,000 Rudin Prize winner was selected by a panel consisting of the Norton Museum’s Photography Committee, Executive Director Hope Alswang, and Tim B. Wride, the Norton’s William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography. The exhibition and prize are given in honor of the late New York City real estate developer Lewis Rudin, made possible in part through the generosity of his daughter, the avid photography collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. To learn more, go to: http://www.norton.org/news
Feature Image: “Every God XXVII” (detail) by Elizabeth Bick (courtesy of the artist).