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Megan Murphy: A Winner of Northwest Art Awards!

Fri, 02/18/2011

"Portland Art Museum announces winners of Contemporary Northwest Art Awards"
Published: Friday, February 18, 2011, 12:36 PM

The Portland Art Museum has announced the winners of the 2011 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, the museum's biennial exhibit showcasing the artistic talent in the Northwest region. The seven artists chosen for the museum's most anticipated local art show span most of the Northwest territory -- just as Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, the museum's Arlene and Harold Schnitzer curator of Northwest art, promised when she took the job last year.

The winners are: Chris Antemann and Michelle Ross of Oregon; John Buck and Jerry Iverson of Montana; John Grade and Susie Lee of Washington; and Megan Murphy of Idaho. The winners will be featured in a show at the museum in June where each will receive a small cash prize. One of the seven will also be chosen for the $10,000 Arlene Schnitzer Prize, named after the former art dealer and local patron who funded the museum's Northwest art program.

Malcolmson's announcement concludes a several-months-long process that required sorting through 296 nominations solicited from curators, writers and arts professionals across Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. In late January, after months of scrutinizing nominations, Malcolmson selected 28 artists and artist teams as finalists. The curator has spent the weeks since visiting each artist's studio to make Friday's announcement.

Since the process to pick these winners began last year, Malcolmson has intended to strive for a broad representation of talent, geographically and stylistically. She has said that using the show to exclusively argue for a particular kind of art, or discover new talent, or merely reflect the latest trends happening in the region did not interest her.

Rather, Malcolmson's has been the politically safe approach of broad consensus -- a little of this, a little of that.

The seven winners range in age from their mid-30s to early 60s. They include some critically lauded artists well known in the regional art scene, such as Buck, Iverson and Murphy; and some artists relatively unfamiliar to major museums and commercial galleries, including Antemann.

The artists also tackle a broad range of styles and concerns. Painters Ross and Iverson have waged long and winding explorations of the nature of abstract expression. Grade, Murphy and Buck pursue society's relationship to the environment, among many other ideas, but in different ways -- Grade through sculpture, photography and video; Murphy through painting and works made on glass; Buck primarily through sculpture. Antemann is a ceramic sculptor interested in feminism. And Lee, an artist of Asian descent, eludes easy description, but her work for the show in June, Malcolmson says, will involve video portraits of elderly people in a long-term care facility.

Malcolmson says all of the artists share a level of technical expertise.

"There's a level of consummate craft in these artists," she says. "That is something that appeals to me."

Another intention that appealed to Malcolmson was making the awards as representative of the five-state region as possible. Malcolmson, who was born in Seattle and spent several years in Montana, wanted the awards to emphasize the talent residing in the entire Northwest, not just Portland and Seattle, where the region's most famous artists reside.

Between now and June, Malcolmson will be conferring with each artist to select the work they will exhibit at the museum.

- D.K. Row