Sam Fox School announces 2018 Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Awards

Ebony G. Patterson and Jill Downen each receive $25,000

Ebony G. Patterson, " they grow up...," installed at "Live Uncertainty," the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, in 2016. Mixed-media, hand-cut Jacquard tapestry with embellishments and toys. (Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.)

Multimedia artist Ebony G. Patterson and sculptor Jill Downen have won the 2018 Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Awards.

Presented by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, the awards are open to all alumni of the Sam Fox School’s Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs (with the exception of full-time Sam Fox School faculty). Recipients are chosen by faculty committee. Winners receive $25,000 to advance their studio practices.

“Ebony and Jill are both tremendously strong and ambitious artists,” said Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. “Ebony’s installations and multimedia projects are conceptually bold, materially complex and emotionally overwhelming. Jill challenges viewers to explore new perspectives and to acknowledge the limits of their own perceptions. We are deeply proud to support their work.”

Heather Corcoran, director of the College & Graduate School of Art, said that “Jill and Ebony are very different artists, yet both are deeply invested in questions of how things are made — and in challenging viewers to really consider the meaning of an aesthetic choice.

“Their thoughtful, elegant works are powerful models for students and young artists,” added Corcoran, the Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professor of Art. “Together, they represent the highest aspirations of the Sam Fox School.”

Ebony G. Patterson, “…love…when they grow up…,” installed at “Live Uncertainty,” the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, in 2016. Mixed-media, hand-cut Jacquard tapestry with embellishments and toys. (Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery)

Ebony G. Patterson, MFA 2006

An associate professor at the University of Kentucky, Patterson has earned an international reputation for large-scale, richly detailed works that explore questions of race, class, gender and identity. Her work has been featured in solo shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, among many others. In fall 2018, the Perez Art Museum in Miami will debut a major traveling survey exhibition, accompanied by her first monographic catalog.

Patterson also has participated in major international group exhibitions such as the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil; “Between the Idea and Experience, 12th Havana Biennial”; and “Jamaica Biennial 2014.” Previous awards include the 2018 USArtist Fellowship and the 2017 Tiffany Foundation Grant, as well as a Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Grant; the Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica; and an Andy Warhol Foundation Grant. She is represented by the Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago.

Patterson will use the award to expand sculptural elements already present in her practice, with the aim of developing immersive, larger-than-life tableaux. Specifically, the award will enable her to explore the possibility of casting a large number of poisonous plants in glass.  She said: “I envision a whole garden of these glass plants — at once fragile and fearsome — as part of a multimedia environment that will envelop the viewer and prompt a visceral engagement.”

Jill Downen, “(dis)Mantle,” hypothetical site rendering. (Courtesy of the artist and Bruno David Gallery)

Jill Downen, MFA 2001

Downen, assistant professor and chair of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, investigates the symbiotic relationship between the human body and architecture. A recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Downen has created site-specific installations for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, American University in Washington, D.C., and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. She is represented by Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis.

Downen will use the award to develop a permanent outdoor reworking of her installation “(dis)Mantle” (2010). Originally created for The Luminary, a St. Louis arts incubator, “(dis)Mantle” consists of a naturally lit space filled with hand-shaped plaster surfaces, the angles of which are subtly askew. A bronze plumb bob hangs from the vaulted ceiling, anchoring the space with one true vertical element. Light from the north windows and an oculus on the façade illuminate the space with a diffuse glow that changes throughout the day.

“The process of reflection, which leads to new perspectives, is not easily learned in contemporary culture,” Downen explained. “A population full of conflict and anxiety is in need of places to slow down to reflect.

“'(dis)Mantle’ engages culture with silence, stillness and a context to alter perception and return to the speed of life with measured focus.”

About the award

The Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Award was created by Nancy Stone DeGuire (1947-2013) and Lawrence R. DeGuire Jr. (1947-2006) via a bequest to the Sam Fox School. It was their desire to help fellow alumni artists advance their own studio practices. The couple, who worked closely together, met and married as undergraduates in the BFA program. Their work frequently investigated alternatives to the traditional picture plane, coalescing around the ties that bind rather than those that separate.

For more information, visit the Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Award page on the school’s website.

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