Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Art Prize 2014

Just came back from Art Prize.  I am retired now so I can go early in the morning and leave when the crowds show up.  It was a gorgeous sparkly day and perfect for walking around the venues I haven't ever gotten to before.  If you aren't from Michigan or aren't an artist you might not have heard of Art Prize.  In its sixth year it's a monstrously popular event that draws over a thousand artists from around the world all hoping to be seen, and of course, most vying for the top prizes. The event is huge for the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Hundreds of thousands of people will walk the streets of downtown and travel to the outlying areas to view the work of these artists.

In the past either I've skipped it entirely, tried it one year on a weekend (NEVER again! I don't think Times Square on New Year's Eve is that crowded!!) or stopping at one of the outer venues to peek at some things.  But this year was going to be the year I went to the central city, the more popular venues and saw what everyone was talking about.

Today was the first day for voting.  This event was given to "the people" to decide what they liked.  Using a cell phone you can vote for your favorite piece.  In the past this has been translated into "biggest piece."  The real art people started to complain that we little people didn't know what we were talking about, our choices were plebian and so this year for the first time there will be two top prizes.  The popular vote and the professional vote.  Each vote will award the winner $200,000.  Yes, that many zeroes.

But, for the people, it's just one big event.  For two and a half weeks no matter where you look there's something to see.  You can't possibly see it all.  Estimates are that if you spent 3 minutes looking at each and every piece it would take longer than the event is.  Of course there is an identifying card next to each piece telling you who the artist is, what was used to make the piece and what the artist's vision was.

So, you pick a grid of the city and walk and look.  And you decide if it's art.

This made me smile.  Friend Marilyn has visions of making little paper houses this winter.  I thought of her.

 Some things shimmer
 Some make you smile.  This was completely covered in clocks.

 This one allowed you to turn the front wheel and the skeleton cyclist rode the bike.
 This was completely robotic.  The kids were loving this.  (Lots of schools there on field trips)
 Some made you pause
 This was really beautiful. The water just sparkled in the sun, made me think of the Thursday night sailing club here at home.

 Some just defied description.  This cut paper is a polar bear swimming
 This was stunningly beautiful.  All glass, it's a depiction of the four seasons on the lake.
 And some things just made you stop.

 But this.  This was mesmerizing.  First of all, the artist recently, in just a couple of years, had five brain surgeries and then a stroke.  He created this AFTER that.  As I approached I could only think of men in a concentration camp. The looks on their faces, the grain of the wood mimics striped clothing. 
But I couldn't take my eyes off this man.
Look at that face, the detail, the vein in his temple, the creases in his face, the capillaries on his nose. That look in his eyes.   I expected him to talk. This was the only bust the artist made from a real person.  This man was a cancer patient, elderly.  The artist saw him at a gathering and asked if he could take his picture and the man let him.
I'm telling you, it was the eyes.  Try as I might I couldn't get it close up enough to show you in his left eye, there was a tear.

But the unbelieveable part?  They were carved from styrofoam.