This group of artists cull from the experience of looking intently at their immediate surroundings. To make is, in a sense, to know, but also to interrogate. There is a deep sensitivity and vulnerability in the artists chosen as finalists, who draw from memory, grief, and in many instances spirituality as modes of navigating their worlds. The finalists work in painting, installation, sculpture, and photography. The artist chosen for the first prize, Emily Kraus, works both in painting but also in performance, creating pieces inside a metal cubic scaffold around which she stretches a canvas, making paintings within her own enclosed choreographed space. She describes the process as akin to painting with blinders on, relying on her own studied movement and ultimately on what she cannot see. Her process is random, and the series is titled after the idea of the stochastic. This system of making reminds me of Early Modern thinking around vision, and the technologies of this time that combined art with technology and science. Kraus’ work was also compelling to me for its intersection with faith.
Mar Figueroa, chosen as one of the second prize winners, creates joyful paintings that lend sensitivity and grace to the immigrant experience, and speak to her upbringing in her family’s restaurant in Ecuador. Her portrait of a restaurant worker washing dishes was particularly moving and exuded a haunting depth of character. Further, Figueroa’s paintings foreground her Indigenous and ancestral Latin identity and I am left wanting to learn more about her practice. I was also struck by second prize winner Olivia Booth’s distinct and idiosyncratic use of glass and other unusual materials to create sculptural wall works, in particular her use of glass as a “stranger” instead of its usual use as a screen or reflective surface. I found her work to be deeply reflective on a conceptual level.
Simone Krug has been a curator at the Aspen Art Museum since 2018. She is currently working on a group works on paper exhibition centered around the way that artists express interior worlds. Most recently, she was part of the small curatorial team on the major museum-wide time-based media exhibition Mountain / Time and the museum-wide survey exhibition Andy Warhol: Lifetimes. Prior to this, she organized Maren Hassinger: Nature Sweet Nature and Kelly Akashi: Cultivator.
Before joining the AAM she worked at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles and has held numerous positions at museums including the New Museum and SFMOMA, among other institutions. Her writing has appeared in Artforum, Frieze, Art in America, and many other publications. She received her BA from Bard College and her MA in Curatorial Practice from USC.