Best in Show (Traditional) – Amy Rattner - "Deer Totem" – watercolor
Painting is a stepping off point into my imagination. Putting brush to paper is a meditation for me - a way to center my thoughts and feelings. Animals of all shapes and sizes have always been my passion and each piece begins with a deep admiration of the unique beauty and character of the creature I am painting. Other sources of inspiration include an animal's mythological or spiritual role in different tribal societies; the visual language associated with animals, cultures or places; a creature's role in the larger ecosystem; and a desire to experiment with different compositional elements. For example, the themes of Native American animal spirits and totems have informed many of my works. The symbolism of powerful animals such as the bear, owl, and eagle frequently helps me tell a larger story in my work. My primary goal with each piece is to capture the unique spirit and personality of an animal using a combination of color, line, patterns, symbols and texture. My finished pieces reflect my own interpretations of cultural and artistic styles that inspire me.
Best in Show (Photography & Digital) - Shelley Benjamin – “Metamorphosis" – digital photography
Shelley Benjamin, a resident of southeast Florida, is an award winning digital artist. She has been published in “Living the Photo Artistic Life”, Somerset Digital Studio and “Awake Photography magazines. Her work has received Best in Show, and top 10 in the “Fusion Art” online gallery and top 10, Honorable, Mention and Special Merit in the Light Space and Time Gallery. She has exhibited in group shows at the Louvre, the Cornell Museum, and Grounds for Sculpture.
Shelley received a BS in Textile Design from Cornell University. After a career as a textile designer and weaver, she became interested in mixed media, and ultimately, photography. Shelley’s experimentation and involvement with digital photography began after she purchased her first DSLR camera. During the learning process, she joined an international group of digital artists. With the advanced training she was able to develop her skills, which has allowed her to transform her images to reflect her vision. The inspiration from the group opened up the possibilities of taking photos into a new realm.
She is motivated by the art she sees in museums and galleries. From the time she was young she has always been an avid museum visitor. Her background in weaving exposed her to the art of fine crafts and the masters in those fields. Shelley uses her photos as the foundation for a digital painterly approach, utilizing modern technology to enhance and transform the original image.
Drawing upon her textile design background, she imparts a tactile feeling to her work. She is inspired by color, reflections, light, the changing seasons, nature and architectural elements. Shelley is always searching for extraordinary visual imagery in very ordinary environments. Shelley states that her goal is to share the beauty around her and impart the uplifting feelings to the viewer that are the source of her inspiration.
Best in Show (3 Dimensional) - Brian Mark - “Gray Mist” – Picasso marble
Brian Mark Biography: Born in Schenectady, New York, raised in Washington, D.C., I have been intrigued by art of all kinds for most of my life. By the time I entered college I, not knowing what I wanted to do, thought, and quickly abandoned, dentistry. Literature appealed to me and ultimately, I earned a PhD in English and taught English literature at university. While I was doing scholarly work on English literature, I began to feel a tug toward doing, not just intellectualizing about art.
My first artistic foray was in woodworking. After a while, I could not shake the impact Dylan Thomas’ poem, “In My Craft or Sullen Art” had on me. I kept feeling I was doing craft, not art, and I wanted more. A friend urged me to look seriously at stone sculpture as my art focus. I eventually went to his sculpting class, and as soon as I set foot in the studio and looked at the work the students were doing, I was hooked. That was 20 years ago. I have been joyfully doing stone sculpting from that date to now. Sculpting is something I simply cannot NOT do. It is a passion.
I create abstract sculptures. I do not strive to make statements with my art. Rather, I try to bring beauty into this world, and at the same time soothe my soul by fulfilling the creative process. I have been in several shows and look forward to continuing my love/work in stone.
Brian Mark Artist’s Statement: Nature is raw. Art is practiced. Each stone has its own language and I work to understand that language. Some of the learning comes from striving to listen to what each stone is saying. Each has a color, a shape, and a hidden beauty. While valuing that uniqueness, I strive to let my imagination fly free, in order build upon nature’s creation: blending raw nature with understanding the language of this stone. And, so begins the conversation between stone and sculptor.
When a stone selects me, I cannot know what striations, hues, density, faults, lie under the surface. As I begin chiseling and grinding, the stone talks to me, saying, “I have this special colored line running through me: preserve it.” Or, “slightly shift the angle of this or that curve.” Or, “work with me: together we can bring forth that special surprise, that new beauty never before seen.” The conversation continues until nature’s stone and my imagination marry and together say, “stop – our work is done.”
For me that conversation must lead to a sculpture that has movement, movement, movement. That movement is stone brought to life in a way never before seen.
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