This is not what I want to write about. What I want to write about is Mel Ziegler and Daniel Adame and Kara Hearn and Stephen Vitiello, but I’m backed up.
So here is what I think about the Hunting Prize*:
I wasn’t able to attend the party this year, but I gather it was a sort of Palm-Beach-meets-Caligula throwdown with bronzed men in gold Speedos (again) and the awesome buffet that has become this party’s signature. I’m all for wild, excessive parties (though some part of me naggingly suspects it’s in questionable taste when the price of food/fuel is driving millions both at home and abroad into desperate circumstances, but then again I’m as much of a comfortable capitalist as the next person and I don’t want to get into the Stuffed and Starved politics of it at the moment). So it’s a big wild party, and that’s just fine.
I think the Hunting people think that the best way to support artists in an egalitarian way is to have a large list of finalists for their generous prize. They believe this approach achieves “diversity” because painters from all walks of life, geographic locations, etc. are included.
They are wrong. It only makes the finalist list meaningless. More importantly, an art prize of $50,000 should have nothing to do with making sure everyone gets a psychological "I did my best" ribbon. It should be about one thing only: rewarding outstanding talent, which is a great and worthy endeavor.
There aren’t enough outstanding painters in Texas to fill an annual list of 120+ people. And so by trying to be something to everyone, the list ends up being a gray mish-mash that’s weighed down by lousy artists who have no business being there. If I were a Hunting Prize finalist, I wouldn’t include this information on my resume.
Until this critical aspect of the prize is changed, and the finalists are whittled down to 10 (or ideally 5) individuals, the Hunting Prize will never be what it could, and should be. And the art world will rightly pay little attention.
I did a studio visit with the winner, Wendy Wagner, after she won. I didn’t see any of her paintings, but I did see some works on paper with little ceramic shapes attached. They were her first stabs at a new medium and were very nice. Wagner is self-taught ceramicist and I think she has a real gift with it, and also with drawing and watercolor. I’m glad for her.
That’s it. As for the rest of it, the graphic design and the getting artists to hawk their wares at the party and the whole premise of giving a prize to painting in the first place… well, what can I say, except there’s room for improvement?
*(And if you want to read more on the subject, Bill Davenport did a blog about it as well!)
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– the management
also by Rainey Knudson
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