Thursday, February 18, 2010


MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship, Undergraduate Division, Second Place Award Winner is CHRIS WILLCOX

The Second Place MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship 2009, undergraduate division, award goes to Chris Willcox, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He will receive a $2,000 cash award from

Chris Willcox's philosophical contemplation of his artistic ideals about politics and corporate lobbying takes the viewer through his diabolical journey in search of “The American Dream.”

See more of his artwork on

The clashes of conflicting worlds in Chris’s paintings bring about an uncomfortable feeling of duality.

Questions and Answers:

Q. How does it feel to win Second place in the MYARTSPACE ART Scholarship?

A. I'm excited and humbled. It's an honor to have my work shown alongside the other winners, from both this and previous years. I remember entering the competition last year and not being selected; after that I set it as a goal, and to have achieved that goal is really a remarkable feeling. Positive reinforcement is often left out of art school. The talking points in critiques are more often about what isn't working than what is. In light of that, this recognition is quite a nice breath of fresh air. Yet, critical feedback is a necessary part of any artistic education; a lot of what goes into becoming a better artist is learning from your mistakes, so one of the things I hope to get out the exposure generated by this award is more feedback from members who aren't necessarily art students, to hear how my work is seen in a larger context.

I'm very grateful to Catherine McCormack-Skiba and Brian Skiba for establishing and sponsoring such a remarkable scholarship that attracts applicants from all over the world, and I am honored to receive an award of such a prestige.

Q. Your creative images are so original what inspires you?

A. I'm constantly pillaging images from where ever I can find them. Anytime I go somewhere new I try to soak up the visual material around me, which I then squeeze back into the paintings. I relate to the Francis Bacon, where he talks about how everything he sees gets ground up very fine and mixed into his paint, and as a result it's impossible to tell where the images in his paintings come from. So while I employ a number of found images in my process, the paintings I create are always original. I think what's most important about using photographs as source material is that the work is honest, that the painting doesn't pretend to be something it isn't. It seems inappropriate to call Richter's Baader-Meinhof paintings plagiarism, but that's not the case with everything that's derived from photos – there's a real difference between a painted facsimile of a recognizable photograph and one-off out of a fashion magazine. Like Richter, I often overtly reference other images, but that reference is part of the work itself. Right now I'm working on a series based on the images from the Abu Ghraib prison controversy, but I would never claim those images to be my own. In fact the series is based on the very assumption that the viewer will be able to recognize these images, and the awkward tension that results from their recount extalization.

Not all of my images reference photographs sometimes the roots are found images as well, usually several. If I'm going to claim what I produce as my own, however; it's crucial that there be some essential difference between the source and the painting, some contextual or formal severing from the root to the fruit. So while aspects of my paintings often rely on appropriated images, the end result is always original.

Q. Can we talk about the piece “How Much Does Jesus Love You?”

A. What drove me to make this painting is a line of questions surrounding a personal struggle to remain optimistic.
If you read the newspaper, every day you're put face to face with an inconceivable amount of tragedy; more news of victims, more news of environmental crisis, of political corruption, of recession, of misguided fundamentalism. At a certain point I stopped asking questions about fixing injustice, and started asking about whether justice was even viable to begin with? In spite of all these horrific pictures, people keep moving through their lives more or less uninterrupted. I'm interested in what exactly it means to do that, what it takes to do that. If we are to accept tragedy writ large, what sort of value changes do we need to make to our worldview in order to keep optimism afloat? What sorts of attitudes are necessary to inoculate these painful and ubiquitous images pervading our daily media? How can we get over it?

Something about this painting, I want to mention, that doesn't come across in the digital image is how every inch of the canvas is covered in glitter, three different kinds of glitter. I direct a very strong light toward the painting, and as a result the glitter, which is this thing we think of as fun and cute, becomes abrasive textural visual sandpaper, as alluring as it is painful. So the whole image is wrought with this fierce anxiety, both formally and conceptually, which is very exciting to me.

Q. What is the foundation for the work “Golden Jenna?”

A. My generation is the first to grow up with the internet, and as a result the first to grow up with direct and unrestricted access to internet pornography. As much as we might not want to talk about our influences, images like “Golden Jenna” have been a pervasive feature throughout our journey through the awkward teenage years into adulthood. Even if we don't watch porn, the sheer accessibility and quantity of it has had a visible impact on a lot of what may be described as the “cultural norms” we've grown into, which is mirrored by the increasing presence of pornographic tropes across television, film, music, and almost any other facet of pop culture.
What I'm trying to do with this painting is raise a question. I think a lot of guys my age are asking themselves: why are images like this the norm and what does it mean to be a spectator of them? Figures like Jenna Jameson, whom the painting is based on, are simultaneously worshiped and defaced, putting them in a very complex moral space which I want to investigate. What does it mean to have these two seemingly mutually exclusive attitudes towards someone? And how did we become so comfortable with this sort of depiction? What does it mean when this sort of practice becomes orthodox? Ultimately I feel very uneasy with the ubiquity of these images, and this painting is an investigation into the cultural norms that bring about that discomfort.

Q. Can you give us a little insight to the painting “oneadays?”

A. I can never decide which I think is more interesting: medicine that looks like candy or candy that looks like medicine. I heard that the machines used to make the first Lifesavers candy were originally used to press pills. It's this terrific analogy, something as wholesome and banal as candy being placed alongside something with serious life and death consequences like medicine. At the time, I was looking critically at the images the pharmaceutical industry was putting out in advertising, and the promises they were making, so I thought I'd try and make a painting about it. I wanted the pills to be everything these ads present them as: wholesome, tasty, bright, full of the promise of a healthier, happier, medicated life. So I put the paint on like I was applying frosting to a cupcake, I used these great bright colors; I let the background take on all of the luscious qualities of a Gainsborough skyline. And, at the time, part of me really believed in this image; the box on the far left of the image was a box of Tamiflu, which I had just taken to get over Swine Flu and honestly believed was God's gift to humanity. At the same time, I knew a lot of the drugs people take every day are shown to be ineffective, often toxic. Antidepressants are a good example of this. I read that the placebos out-performed the drugs in over half of the clinical trials used to approve the six leading antidepressants. And yet people continue to take them, once a day, hoping that there might really be something to the lofty promises made by drug companies. Are they good? Are they bad? I'm not sure it's really clear, and that ambiguity is expressed in the painting.

Q Does “Saturday in the park” reflect a specific event?

A. I've got a big collection of airline safety cards. I think they're the most fascinating objects; perfect examples of how the right type of design can take one of our most ineffable fears and re brand it as something ordinary, logical, and even friendly. “In case of a water evacuation, please remove the floatation device stored underneath your seat and proceed to the nearest exit.” And it's as simple as that, as harmless as that. I suppose that's the power of images, how you can change what color shirt you're wearing and feel completely different about yourself. This is also more of an autobiographical picture than the others in the gallery. Just prior to its making I was on a plane that nearly crashed over Pittsburgh, which was the second time in under a year I'd been involved in that type of experience. So the fear is a very real thing to me, and as I made this image I was trying, rather earnestly, to figure out exactly what those fear meant why it existed, and how it is dealt with?

I've got a lot of questions about the ways difficult images are made more palatable, what sort of pictorial devices artists and designers employ to do that, and what contexts these devices can exist in.

Q. What sort of duality does “But not forgotten” depict?
A. This one of the earliest paintings we've looked at. When I made it I was just beginning to explore working with a combined sense of attraction and repulsion.

Q: To me part of my interpretation of the title leads me to say “gone.”

A. Titles are something I think a lot about, and I think this is a good example of that. The title, like the painting, has a lot of implications that are left up to the viewer; the fact that the first half of the title is only implied begins to call into question whether or not the figure really is “gone,” or whether the new, shorter phrase means something entirely new. What exactly is it that's not forgotten? What is gone? I'm not sure I've got it fully figured out.

Q. Are you a Conceptual Artist?

A. What the phrase Conceptual Art means to me is a particular movement from the 1970s centered on Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari and others. I look at a lot of these artists with a great deal of respect, even admiration, but while my work may have similar ends in mind, I don't share their reactionary hostility towards images, emotions, or sentimentality; rather, these are the very sorts’ devices I use to arrive at the concepts I want to discuss. I don't want to put any restrictions on what types of objects bring the viewer to the idea, even if that means making a figurative oil painting. One of the things Conceptual Art seemed to be after was to replace art-for-art's-sake with art-for-ideology's sake, and while this may have been a noble gesture at the time, I'm unable to commit myself to either way of making.

Q: So you’re at Washington University in St. Louis, how’s that working out for you?

A. Washington University is one of the few universities in the country that has both a top 25 liberal arts school and a top 25 arts school. The two of these coalesce into a unique interdisciplinary experience. As research is a pretty big part of my studio practice, having a great liberal arts college at my fingertips has allowed me to investigate a number of different fields at a close range, the results of which are then filtered back into my painting. I am working on a double major, Bachelor’s of Arts in Fine Art and one in Philosophy. I have studied psychology, neuroscience, creative writing, and a smattering of other liberal arts topics. I've been a bit of Nietzsche fan since high school, so being able to study his writing in an academic setting has been a huge influences on me and in turn my art.

The painting department has a pretty rich history as well; previous members of the faculty include figures like Max Beckmann and Phillip Guston. Wash U is also unique in the university world in how it's made its art school a high priority focusing on Fine Art. We've just got a new dean, Buzz Spector, who is a progressive educator and seems to be moving the school in a good direction. I think ultimately what I'm most grateful for was the flexibility the school has, I was able to study a variety of subjects, get a second major, and create my own study abroad program at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, all while still getting out in four years. This sort of education is a real luxury that isn't available to a lot of young artists, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had it, and I'm grateful for scholarships like this one from that help lessen the financial burden.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Place MYARTSPACE Art Undergraduate Scholarship Award Winner

First Place
Undergraduate Scholarship 2009
goes to Aaron Dunn.

He is studying painting, printmaking and Art History at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Aaron will receive a $5,000 cash award from

The fine detail in Aaron Dunn’s paintings are not just brush strokes, they are an orchestra of color, texture and depth; seldom seen in an artist this young. Aaron’s gripping, but beautiful body of work can be seen on

These illuminating paintings stand as juxtaposition on human nature with technology in a psychological frenzy which challenges, what Aaron calls “our artificial world.”

Questions and Answers:

Q. You’ve won First Place in the MYARTSPACE ART Scholarship; how does it feel?

Aaron Dunn: First off, I feel extremely honored to be presented with this scholarship, and I am especially excited to receive more financial backing to support my painting practice. I’ve been setting up for a semester to study abroad, and this award gives me the freedom to pursue that. I’m so glad that a painting professor of mine, Michael Weiss, tipped me off to your website and the scholarship competition last year.

Q: You’re a sophomore but your work is so accomplished for your age; skill displayed in your work is quite impressive.

A: I’ve found that the most important part of creating good work is really spending time with it, no matter what your media of preference, so I try to be in the studio as often and as long as I can. The idea of individual craft and subjectivity is key to my practice. I’ve found a great niche at the Maryland Institute College of Art, because we are all a hardworking bunch, and my peers really inspire me to take my work further.

Q. Can you tell me about the painting “Marshes?”

A: This work contemplates the psychology of the modern suburban human, how he or she relates to the natural world. This series of multimedia work created this year centers on a hypothetical situation, in which the suburbs and malls disappear, and the suburbanites have to go out into the cold and wet; I wondered if they would just freeze, or return to a more primitive state of being, or hallucinate like someone wandering in the desert and pretend nothing had happened at all. The girls in “Marshes” seem to be having a hard time coping, while the landscape and trees have physically entered the human subject of “Girl.” Also, “Ruins” describes the kind of mirage-like hallucination I mentioned before.

Q: How do you find the content for your work?

A: I read a lot of books and I sketch and think a lot. The pieces in this body of work were developed over a longer period of time, so they incorporated a considerable amount of sketches, smaller studies from life, and photographic references. The end result is the product of a lot of addition and reduction over time.

Q: Your pieces are very big and now you’re working on panels eight feet tall. Are you planning on creating larger paintings?

A: I’ve found that my working style gets large very easily, so I’m going to keep pushing the size of my work until I can’t carry these things around anymore. Next I want to paint finished pieces that are very small.

Q: What are your professors trying to get you to connect to?

A: I’ve been very fortunate to have professors that have pushed me from the beginning to find out what my own work is about and connect with making art as a way of life, not a fad or a hobby. I am especially grateful to MICA professors Sangram Majumdar and Lani Irwin for supporting me in this way.

Q: Do you have a mission right now or are your working through your instincts?

A: As people move farther and farther into, so called, “civilization” I like to point out the ways we are still unpredictable, still a part of something bigger, still human. There’s a real need to hold on to the world of nature and personal value -- things that can’t be bought, sold or quantified. It’s not about living right off the land, it’s respecting that connection so that the decisions we make and the courses we set will keep us closer to it. That’s both the message behind my work and the life that I try to live as an artist.

Q: What is the art piece “Overflow” about?

A: At that time I was doing a series of paintings about how one psychologically perceives space, not as a collection of separate objects but as a holistic experience. It was about not “naming” anything in the room and yet conveying the experience of it.

Q: That reminds me of the book by Jill Bolt Taylor “My Stroke Of Insight” where she talks about being in the right side of her brain, seeing things and people in forms of energy, and being in an essence of feeling. What are your thoughts on that?

A: For me that’s the real joy of making art or involving oneself in any craft, it’s really getting into that meditative zone of being, seeing, doing. We all need that form of nonobjective concentration.

Q: Your painting “Spills” looks so tactile. Did you use layers and layers of paint to give such a rich texture to this painting and others?

A: I think of paint and color as symptomatic of a piece's subject, so I really let loose when handling the scene of drunken debauchery in "Spills" -- the handling matches the content. But yes I am very interested in the surface quality of my pieces, and mine are often gloppy, smooth and crusty all at once. In "Overflow", for example, I was making marks on top of marks and both reducing and adding information. Each piece develops a life, a history; it's like reading craters on the surface of the moon.

Q: I noticed, in your work “Arctic Man” a touch of Cubism. Did certain painters influence you?

A: I am shamelessly influenced by all sorts of artists -- I try to take inspiration wherever I can find it, and not only from art. The painting "Spills" is my take on Titian's "Bacchanal", a moral painting about the balance between self-control versus self-indulgence. I think most inspiration works its way in subliminally over time. Right now I am looking at Picasso's still lifes, tapestries from the cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum, Irish artist Hughie O'Donoghue, and the painter Tintoretto.

Q: After seeing your work online I really want to see up close. Please describe one of your pieces in terms of size, medium etc…?

A: I really enjoyed making "Sleepers" (the lightbox) because it involved such a different media approach; I was just making it up as I went along. I was thinking about how a Photoshop image is built out of transparent layers, so I did this ink and acrylic painting on several layers of Plexiglas, with a couple real lights shining through it. I had to take all these different media and my own imagery into account and get them into some kind of new equilibrium.

Q: What regional influences do you have?

A: I was raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, and my parents really taught me to value hard work. My dad is a hunter and we used to butt heads about that when I was younger, but now I'm glad he'd made me come with him to northern Michigan to spend time in the woods and fields, because it has probably informed my personality quite a bit! We have a beautiful piece of woods in northern Michigan that I really like to spend time in with my siblings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Third Place MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship Award Winner Natan Dvir

Third Place
Graduate Division,
Art Scholarship Award Winner Natan Dvir

The Third Place MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship 2009, Graduate division award goes to Natan Dvir, Graduate student from The School of Visual Arts in New York, NY. Natan will receive a $1,000 cash award from

Natan Dvir, an already acclaimed, exhibiting artist from Israel, presents a dramatic and compelling body of work on called:


His photographs captures deeply saturated spiritual feelings from different religious events.

Questions & Answers:

Q: The image "AMONA" looks like you have used a special camera it looks as if it may be 3D!

A: No, that's taken with a SLR 35mm.

Q: It also looks staged it's so amazing, how you could get so many people to cooperate with such a situation?

A: As a documentary artist it is important to me not to stage my work. A situation where people are staging themselves seeing me photographing is problematic as well and I will not select such imagery for my work. The picture "Amona" was taken during a day of fighting between hundreds of Israeli border policemen and thousands of Jewish settlers over the destruction of nine illegal houses in the settlement. The buildings were destroyed, but not before 200 people were injured on both sides. The picture itself shows the scene as the policemen enter the settlement and are confronted by the settlers wishing to prevent them from destroying the houses.

Q: You mentioned another photographer who won a journalistic prize for his photograph, can you talk about how your image borders both journalism and fine art?

A: Oded Balilty, a photographer of the Associated Press, took a photographed more or less at the very exact time as I took mine that showed a young Jewish female settler opposing a line of policemen. That picture titles "The Power of One" won almost every possible journalistic prize including the Pulitzer. I see myself as a photographer combining journalistic work with art making. Though many like to separate these two worlds and the photography associated with them, I see them complimenting each other and I am interested in imagery that is interesting both for readers of magazines as well as museum visitors and stands the test of both.

Q: Talk to us about the theme of your work in "BELIEF." I find all of your images extremely interesting and almost surreal. What is the story behind the image the "Samaritans Passover?"

A: The series "Belief" examines how people practice their beliefs and the duality of such practice reflecting in the places it brings them to and the scenes in which they take part. I am fascinated and sometimes frightened by the extreme situations people reach either pursuing or defending their beliefs. On-the-other-hand, I am moved by the way individuals drive strength out of their belief, having a sense of belonging, and security. The various ways of looking and understanding the world lead to different concepts of right and wrong – can different beliefs coexist or are they destined to cause conflict?

The photographs in this series present a direct look at the public, as a whole, and also is the focus of specific individuals and their own experiences. While each image is important by itself, my interest is in the dialogue between the works in terms of content and visual merits.

The picture "Samaritans Passover" presents a group of Samaritan men placing slaughtered sheep into an oven dug in the ground. The Samaritans community is very small and consists of about 800 people living in places in Israel. They see themselves as the "true Jews" and practice their rituals as in the times of the bible.

Q: Do you have favorite works of your art?

A: I like the photo "Prayer" depicting a woman praying amongst reaching hands. One can not tell which religion she practices which I see as an interesting comment about the similarity of monotheistic religions. The picture itself was taken in the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem during the Holy Fire Ceremony.

Q: What is your main interest as an artist?

A: As many artist and photographers I wish for my art to make a difference. I try to, at least, invite people to reflect on various issues not to say take action trying to change the current status. I give great emphasis to the aesthetic aspects of my photography, but I am interested in it being engaging and thought provoking. Most of my work is a result of my fascination with culture, society, and interests in humanitarian issues.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My current body of work explores the Arab society in Israel. While Israel is defined as the Jewish state, over a fifth of its population is Arab a fragmented society that experiences an identity crisis and has been somewhat forgotten amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I focus on young Arab men and women as they turn 18 years old — the age at which they graduate from school, become legal adults, and gain the right to vote as Israeli citizens. Unlike their Jewish peers, most do not join the military. As they start their mature life in Israel many face the dilemma of striking a balance between their relatively traditional culture and a modern way of life. Many have strong political awareness and express concerns about being able to study, find work, and attain financial stability in a country they feel is discriminatory.

I prefer to walk away from imagery of conflict and adopt a personal and intimate approach hoping to promote understanding and dialogue. As a Jewish Israeli man I am aware my subjects might regard me as their “enemy." Sensitive encounters, in which the subjects take an active role in shaping their representation and influencing their relationship with the photographer, form the framework for this multilayered body of work.

Q: Can you describe how you felt entering the competition and your reaction to finding out that you had won third place?

A: I am very thankful for the opportunity to share my work using the platform and was happy to hear about the opportunity of receiving a scholarship. I am very grateful for the honor of being selected to receive the scholarship given the fact the expenses on my tuition and projects are quite considerable.

Q: In your opinion, how is the internet changing the landscape of the art world, obviously artists today have more opportunities than they had before the advent of the world-wide-web. What are your thoughts on this?

A: The internet is changing the art world (as well as other fields) in multiple ways, some of which I am not sure we understand or can see forecast the result of. Artists are considerably more capable of distributing their work to a larger audience. The internet is also changing the way we see art and allows new type of art to be created. I see this as one of the more interesting and important changes on the art world today.

MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship Award Winner Sofia Ruzi

Second Place MYARTSPACE Art Graduate Division Scholarship Award Winner Sofia Ruzi

The Second Place MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship 2009, Graduate division award goes to Sofia Ruzi, Graduate student from Universidad De Costa Rica, Costa Rica. Sofia will receive a $2,000 cash award from

The young but prolific artist, Sofia Ruzi displays beautiful but disturbing paintings portraying an autobiographical body of artwork seen on called:

"Asuntos de familia" ( Family Matters )

This profound and satirical study of individual identity relates the feelings from childhood memories with current social values.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Can you describe how you felt entering the competition and your reaction to finding out that you had won second place in the MYARTSPACE ART SCHOLARSHIP?

Sofia Ruzi: For me the competition was a great opportunity, some times it can be very difficult to show my art out there, especially being a young artist and living in small country such as Costa Rica, so this contest opens a great opportunity. When I found out I won second place I felt shocked, extremely happy and very motivated to keep working on my art.

With an education in Chemical Engineering, Philosophy and Art -- appears to be an exceptional combination of development to use as a basis for expressing your ideas and feelings.

Q: Have you chosen to pursue your art full time?

A: I’m dedicated one hundred percent to my art and I try to bond all the things that I love, my background in philosophy is definitely a big influence in my art, the definitions of beauty and the symbolism and representation that I use came from that. I am always drawn to chemistry which it is a great complement in my printmaking and painting techniques.

Q: According to your biography your work is very personal and is about the formation of individual identity from familiar surroundings, with topics of interest related to psychoanalysis and memories of your past. Looking at the images of the children in your paintings, you often portray deep contextual situations that portrayed disturbing facial expressions. Sympathy, universal empathy and striking pain come through in your subjects eyes. Is there a sense of understanding you’d like the viewer to come away with?

A: Art is a lie that show us a true -- so I want to show a true. As an artist I see my art as a psychological space to show a duality; who I am for myself, and who I am for others.

In my case, my art came from my life experiences. It is inward-looking and it has autobiographical elements. I try to show them with transparency: however, some elements are hidden and can only be seen when the viewer notices what lies beyond the apparent normality of the characters.

The images suggest that families are not so pretty or perfect as they seem; just like life, but they are fundamental in the constitution of the individual identity. I like to show a gaze of the imperfect, the incomplete, to show the beauty behind it, and also play with the ideals and question stereotypes. Hopefully the viewer will deepen the mystery rather than solve it.

Q: You have a wonderful combination of intricate, articulate fine work, combined with luscious, broad paint strokes that appear quick and gestural. Do you see your work straddling these expressive techniques or getting more abstract or realistic?

A: I am inspired by contradictions and duality. I try to maintain a balance between those sensations, the quick, gestural and chaotic with the calm or tranquility. This should show a contradiction between feelings and emotions and how life and people can be like that, calm and messy and confusing at the same time; however, right now, I am in a road in where I think is going to be more sculptural and more gestural every time.

Q: The painting: “MADRE AUSENTE (ABSENT MOTHER) is particularly moving, I’m mesmerized by this young girl and another part of self in the background. Color, use of space and technique draws me to her eyes. Can you share with us more about this painting?

A: This painting "Madre Ausente" (Absent Mother) is about a personal memory I had of my mother. It represent how l felt, because she was absent at some point of my childhood when she was sick and she couldn't remember me as her daughter, so I wanted to show that feeling of loneliness, and how I was searching for my identity at that time, who I was for my self and who I was for others. We define ourselves through others and the first others that we meet is our family so what happens if your family does not recognize you, who are you then? Since identity begins with the physical sensation of the limits of our own body in terms of its location in space, so as an artist, I‘m always sanity and insanity, one has no face it is absent and the other is angry and sad at the same time they can be different people or it can be the same.

Q: You mentioned a couple of master artists: Hugo Sanchez and Rafael Cauduro, psychology legends such as Freud and Lacan, that have been influential with your development, what about other influences?

A: I am inspired greatly by, Goya, Bacon, Edvard Munch, Ensor, and the list goes on, but I get influences also from the culture of my country and also everything that is old or has a history, inspired me.

Q: In your opinion, how is the Internet changing the landscape of the art world, obviously artists today have more opportunities than they had before the advent of the world wide web. What are your thoughts on this?

A: Living in Costa Rica we don't have access to the big museums, or big galleries, so the Internet has expanded our artistic landscape in a huge way. You can have access to artist all over the world like with you have access to exhibits, contest and online galleries. For an artist like me it is a very important tool. Any art form, be it visual, performance or written, will benefit from the use of the Internet. The Internet can provide all artists with further resources blending technological advancements with art, and also creating new marketing and production opportunities.

Q: What are your future thoughts as far as your art is concerned?

A: I am working on a new body of work which is more sculptural and gestural, and I will keep working on my painting every day. I will try to show my art. Right now I am in graduate school to further my education so I will see what happens after that.

Q: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

A: I would just like to thank you for the wonderful competition. I am extremely happy and very motivated to keep working.

MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship Award Winner Damon Mohl

First Place MYARTSPACE Graduate Division Art Scholarship Award Winner:

Damon Mohl

Graduate student from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Damon, will receive a $5,000 cash award from

Frenetic energy is apparent in, Damon Mohl’s haunting installation depicted in the photos of his project on called:

"The Dust Machine"

The Photographs of this work are enigmatic; but stand on their own as a continuance of the installation's narrative. The details expressed in Damon's work serve as a metaphor of the decaying physical world with the mythical landscape of the mind.

Questions and Answers:

Q: Can you tell me what aspect of your art you’re working on these days?

Damon Mohl: I’m in the midst of working on my graduate thesis project, which has two parts. One part is a group of physical objects, theatrical installations, mechanical sculptures and paintings created for an experimental art film titled, The Dust Machine. And, the other part, or experience, is the movie itself. I’ll be exhibiting the objects for my thesis exhibition this April and then working all summer to finish the movie.

Overall, I’ve been working on the project for two years now and it has included filming underwater, footage shot from a airplane window and manipulated to look like one were floating on the edge of the atmosphere, as well as building a small six wheeled remote control listening machine inspired by NASA’s moon rover. I recently spent two weeks filming the remote control machine in the Mohave Desert and other various desolate locations in Nevada, Utah and Northern California.

Q: While in the Mohave did you go out every day?

A: Yes, a friend of mine flew out from Los Angeles and then we slowly made our way from Boulder, Colorado back to his place in Venice Beach. It was a great trip. We camped out every night and drove around filming all day long. They were often long and tiring days because setting up and filming in any location requires a lot of hard work especially when it's over a hundred degrees out and you’re going on four hours of sleep because a pack of yelping coyotes woke you up at four in the morning. But it was also really exhilarating to be out there. It always is, I absolutely love the desert, the emptiness and expansiveness of the landscape. It’s a landscape that I have mythologized in much of my work especially in my painting and writing.

One other thing about that trip, it was interesting because I often had very specific places in mind in terms of where I wanted to shoot but I always got sidetracked and ended up somewhere else. Instead of going into a national park we would end up in an abandoned motel or burned out trailer along the highway. One afternoon we took a wrong turn and ended up shooting a junkyard of rusted jalopies in Nevada for half the day. It was great because most of the locations we found where much better than what I had in my head. That was kind of what I was hoping would happen. I’ve taken enough trips to know that you never know what you are going to find out in the desert. You just have to get out there and discover it . . . old bank vaults sitting in the middle of a field, trees covered in shoes, pretend Mars research stations, abandoned resorts with rooms filled with green water, you name it . . . it’s out there.

Q: Could you talk a bit about the work in the gallery you submitted to

A: The work I submitted consists of some of the objects I built for my thesis project, specifically, the two main life-sized installation rooms as well as a few of the mechanical sculptures including a working miniature conveyer belt and a dust collection machine. For this project I also made paintings with moving mechanical parts and a number of miniature sets, all of which have their own internal lighting, movement and sound. That’s what I really enjoy about working this way. There are so many directions one can go and so many aspects to consider from set design, to costumes, to lighting and sound. At every stage there are numerous details to address and those details are extremely important because it’s their accumulation that creates a real sense of place.

Q: If you were a contractor you’d be doing 20 jobs.

A: Yeah, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. If I try to think of everything the project involves at once I feel a bit like my head is going to explode. It’s best to compartmentalize, finish one thing at a time, and chip away at it a little each day. I guess I have a lot of patience these days and I’m at a place where I really enjoy the type of complexity where each individual piece is somehow interconnected to the next to form a larger structure. I don’t just want to make the picture that hangs on the wall. I want to make the actual wall and I want to know about the room where that wall is located and I want to know about the person that goes into the room to look at the picture. I want to follow them outside and see the landscape that surrounds the room, see what the weather is like and what type of birds are sitting on the power lines.

Q: You mentioned having patience, how long does it typically take you to finish your pieces?

A: It varies greatly although I tend to like to sink into an idea. For instance the thought process I employed in The Dust Machine could be related to the opening narrative structure of Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland. A rabbit hole in the ground leads to a tunnel, a tunnel leads to a small room with a tiny door, etc. With my thesis project I wanted to set up the conditions necessary for a chain reaction of ideas to occur over a long period of time.

In one of the life sized installation sets there are alarms that go off which then cause dirt to pour out of tubes built into the walls. After building this I suddenly had all these questions like where does the dirt come from? Who collects it? What do they do with it? Soon I had made these doorways, small passages in the room

and I got to discover where they went. It felt a little like building a house in reverse, starting from one room and moving out.

I think I enjoy working this way because of the creative complexity that can occur when ideas bega

n to build on top of, inform and complement one another. By living in, or in another sense, inhabiting

an idea one can arrive at a place creatively that they could have never reached merely by investigating the surface of an initial idea and then after that idea is materialized, moving on to another initial idea.

Instead, each completed work informs and is part of a greater structure, which usually takes the form of some type of narrative in my work. The narrative of the piece, whether it is literal, symbolic or extremely abstract and dream-like, becomes the catalyst holding and linking each work into an overall sequential order.

At the end of the day, I’m really interested in making the work that’s transportive, that takes the viewer on some sort of imaginative journey. I think that’s why I’ve been so drawn to representational painting, writing and movie making, because they all deal with creating visual illusions and telling stories.

Q: I’m curious when these pieces are done what kind of sound will they have?

A: The physical pieces all have their own internal sound built into them, from humming motors and fans to fish bubblers and squeaking gears. The soundtrack for the short film is another story. That’s something I’m really excited about, when I get to that stage of editing when I’m able to merge image with sound. I’ve been collecting sound for over a year now and I’ve done all sorts of things, like attaching a microphone to a telephone pole in the desert to record the electrical vibrations of the wires or recording dirt and rocks falling through empty tubes.

I’m not a musician but I think I have a good ear and I know exactly what types of sound will help sculpt and create the mood that I am after. I’m really interested in dislocated sound or sound that you wouldn’t normally expect to hear in a specific environment, but that somehow works in a really beautiful way to heighten the mood and feeling of a place. I’ve always messed around with electric guitars, wind chimes, Korg synthesizers, music boxes and old organs. Actually, just recently, I found a full sized Wurlitzer organ by a dumpster and hauled it off to my studio. I recorded over two hours of sound from it that I will definitely be using in my soundtrack somehow.

Q: What are your plans after the movie part of the project is finished?

A: I hope to enter it in a number of film festivals. Probably as many as I can find that look like they would be worthwhile. Basically anywhere I think there is a potential for an audience to see the work. I think you have to be careful though, film festivals are a dime a dozen these days and there is a lot of independent work being shown to empty theaters.

Q: Could you talk a bit about your MFA program? How has it been to get input from your professors?

A: I have really enjoyed my time at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I’ve worked with great artists like Francoise Dureese, Melanie Walker, Chuck Forsman and Alvin Gregorio who have really supported me and always looked out for my best interests. I’ve been fortunate in terms of getting funding to create my work through the university. In truth, my time in graduate school has just flown by because I’ve been really engaged in what I’m doing. Graduate school is not like the real world, it’s a protective bubble where an artist can really research and produce work without having to deal with many of the drudgeries that life can often present.

On another note, the entire art department just moved into an amazing new visual arts complex, so it’s great having the new studio space to work in during my last semesters, as the opportunity to be the first graduating class to exhibit in the university’s new museum.

Q: How about a bit of your background before graduate school. Was art always a part of your life?

A: In a sense, there are artists on both sides of my family. I was always drawing or building something as a kid. I grew up in northwest Pennsylvania and my father was a self-employed potter. He invented and built a number of machines in order to mass produce oil lamps and when I think back on my childhood a lot of my memories involve being in the workshop part of his studio and looking through countless boxes of stuff that he had collected, boxes of door knobs, rubber gloves, light switches, shoe laces, etc.

I remember building a three-foot tall wooden robot with a tape recorder in its chest, so that when you pushed down on a dowel rod in the shoulder it would activate the tape recorder and the robot would talk. I also remember making a mechanical hand in which each finger was comprised of springs, ropes and a motor. When a button was pressed each finger would move independently.

When I got a bit older I couldn’t really wrap my head around doing anything else except making art. I did my undergraduate work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and studied with artists like Bruce Samuelson, Sidney Goodman and Anthony Visco. That was an invaluable experience for me because I was exposed to such a high level of work. The Academy was the first art school established in this country so there is a really long lineage of artists that have studied and taught there. David Lynch studied there for awhile; he’s always been a creative force that has deeply inspired me.

Q: Did you have a job before attending graduate school?

A: Yeah, odd jobs here and there to pay my rent. I usually only worked a few days a week, just enough to pay my bills. I tried to live as simply as possible so that I would have a lot of time to devote to making my work. There were a number of years that I didn’t have a car and used a bicycle to get around. Early on, I wasn’t so concerned with starting a career or trying to earn lots of money. As long as I could buy materials and spend at least four or more days a week making the work I wanted to make. I was pretty content.

I think it’s really important for a young artist to work as much as possible so they can discover what they like and what they don’t like and start to develop a voice. What an artist needs more than anything else is time and there are a lot of distractions, a lot of things in this life that will try to take that time away from you if you let them. I’ve always been fiercely guarded and protective of my time. I think all artists have to be a bit selfish in that sense.

Another thing about life before grad school, my first love was painting and drawing but then in my mid twenties I got bit by the writing bug pretty bad and wrote over twenty fictional stories as well as a novella. In a sense, that was great research for me, like mapping out the lay of the imaginative landscape in my head. A painting is a frozen moment in time but in a written story you get to see what happens before and after that specific moment. There are hundreds and hundreds of images in a story. This really helped in terms of discovering the type of pictures and narratives I was interested in depicting.

Q: After you graduate do you have any short or long terms plans?

A: My wife and I are planning to stay in the Colorado for at least a year while we figure out what’s next. I will be applying for teaching positions in the area and I think I am going to have to be a little less picky about where we live in the future if I really want to teach. I know if nothing opens up I am considering looking into a PhD degree program in studio art. Those are starting to appear around the country as well as in Canada and Europe. That would give me time to focus on another large project and the job climate might look a little different when I am done. What I really want is a small warehouse so I can build a thirty-foot miniature forest, but I think I’m going to have to wait on that one for a while.

Q: So your wife is also an artist?

A: Yes, her primary focus is small metals. She does a lot of drawing and printmaking as well. She already has her MFA and is currently teaching two drawing classes at the university here, which has really helped us out.

Q: So there’s no particular place you’re thinking of moving to?

A: No, but we are definitely mobile right now since we don’t own a house or have any children. I have been so focused on my current studio work I really haven’t given it much thought yet. I know one thing; we are going to have to move out of Boulder, Colorado if we want to have some studio space to work next year. The rent here is extremely expensive for college students; we could be renting a house in one of the surrounding towns for what we are paying for an apartment here.

Q: It’s kind of interesting how artists are continuing to disperse themselves from expensive city areas to more spacious, lower cost of living spaces while the Internet is growing and allowing artists to connect and represent themselves online.

A: Yes, I think the Internet is a really important tool for artists these days in terms of getting one’s work seen. Of course there is no substitute for experiencing the actual work itself but the fact someone can mention an artist’s name and you can look them up online and see their work in a matter of minutes is great, like one giant virtual gallery. definitely exemplifies that idea.

Q: Great, anything else you would like to add?

A: Well, while we are on the subject of I would really like to thank you and everyone else who put together, juried and sponsored the scholarship competition. I know there are many extremely gifted and talented artists on your site and I feel deeply honored and humbled that my work was chosen. The life of an artist can be a pretty fragile thing. So much depends on one’s life situation and circumstances in terms of being able to produce work, so awards, grants and institutional scholarships that provide funding can be tremendously helpful to an artist and affect their lives in a really big way. So thank you!

What is the MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship?

What is the Scholarship? is the premier online venue for the contemporary fine art world. The community includes established, emerging and aspiring artists, collectors, curators, teachers, galleries, patrons and art lovers.

The MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship

Both Undergraduate and Graduate winners receive:

1st Place $5,000

2nd Place $2,000

3rd Place $1,000

The annual MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship, now in its third year, awards $16,000 in cash and online representation to six selected artists currently matriculated in either an Undergraduate or Graduate university degree program for visual art. The scholarship is open to students worldwide.

The MYARTSPACE Art scholarship committee gives international university art students an opportunity that is unparalleled in today's art scene. Awards are based on artistic merit, with considerations for inspired originality and dedication to articulating their message.

The MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship encourages artists to apply from any geographic location as well as any economic, cultural and identity background. The 2009 MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship attracted submissions from more than 3,000 art programs in over 75 countries. The website lends itself to a rich and diverse collection of international talent. The website is a free and open community based on access to the internet where students can freely display their work. This site provides a means in which artists can reach out to millions of art appreciators every day. It also provides ongoing opportunities, including the MYARTSPACE Art Scholarship, competitions juried by world class curators, networking, powerful tools for visual presentation and a platform for a professional experience. community is a free web-based community that give artists a place to show their work without gallery fees. Art lovers everywhere are able to see art with ease, comfort and accessibility. The web offers a powerful freeway to access the MYARTSPACE platform where anyone can browse through unlimited selected and open reservoirs of some of the most brilliant, current contemporary art. Because of this freedom of access for web users, artists do not feel bound to traditional industry constraints imposed by the gallery and museum structures.

The twenty-first-century's art movement is about the use of technology. Artist are now free to leverage powerful technological tools through the internet and use unbridled creative energy to reach an unlimited audience with their message. is a place where freedom of expression truly begins. is one of the largest fine art communities with over 100,000 members in over 125 countries.