I chose Arab documentary photographer M'hammed Kilito, and his photographic series Before It’s Gone as the $3,500 Awardee. His series points its lens at Moroccan oases to exemplify his “conviction that [they] are exceptional places of life and awaken the awareness of decision-makers and the general public to their undeniable value in order to protect them.” His resultant body of work, while deep in research and historical understandings, are simply poignant compositions that bring together environment, climate change, nomadic culture, and an urgency to sense of place and pride in his home country.
The two $1,000 Awardees I selected are Emily Weiner and Judd Schiffman. Both artists are developing a personal visual language in a serial way that interests me, and both are responding to contexts of the American south, where I am based. Of interest is their mutual use of ceramic as medium (among others) to speak about personal histories and storytelling. Weiner’s oil paintings on linen (often set in ceramic frames), utilize the tropes and symbolism of performance and theatre to speak about ritual, intuition, and her personal histories as a Jewish woman from New York now living in the south. Schiffman’s studio practice is currently informed by his family relationships and dynamics with his daughter and wife—and as a result, the complexities of masculinity and patriarchal systems via his role as a new father. His current ceramics are responding to a mythological figure in West Virginian folklore known as the “MothMan”—and while mostly imagined of as a violent male figure in folklore, Schiffman’s MothMan is instead “clumsy” and “genuine” and reimaged as a healing figure.
I was honored to be chosen as a 2022 Hopper Prize Juror and was incredibly heartened to review and select awardees from an impressive and diverse group of artists—artists whose practices appeared rich in conceptual and cultural contexts, with varied backgrounds and passions, who represented many nations, and a wide range of material and formal approaches. Through this experience, as all good jurying experiences provide, I now have handfuls of new artists to research. My selection of shortlisted artists are ones that I’m going to learn more about and follow as their practices and careers continue to evolve!
Rachel Reese Waldrop is Director and Curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), the first ICA in the state of TN. From 2015-2019, Reese served as Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Telfair Museums in Savannah, GA where she organized over 20 special exhibitions, including the recent retrospective and accompanying catalogue for Suzanne Jackson: Five Decades (Telfair Books, 2019). Reese held prior positions at Atlanta Contemporary in Atlanta where she curated Pratfall Tramps (Atlanta Contemporary, 2015) with accompanying catalogue; Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia; and Deitch Projects, Petzel Gallery and Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York. Reese is an alumni of Independent Curators International; was a former editor of Burnaway magazine in Atlanta, and her writing and artist interviews have appeared in BOMB Daily, Temporary Art Review, TWELV Magazine, and Art Papers; she also published a free newsprint of artists’ writings called Possible Press from 2010–15. Reese has taught at PAFA in Philadelphia and Georgia State University in Atlanta, and currently teaches at UTC in the Department of Art. Reese holds an MFA from City College, CUNY, in New York.