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Aileen Osborn Webb Awards 2008
Here American Craft recognizes the 11 recipients of the Aileen Osborn Webb Awards for 2008. Named for the founder of the American Craft Council, the awards honor those who have demonstrated outstanding artistic achievement, leadership and service in the craft field. The Gold Medal, for consummate craftsmanship, was presented to Paul Soldner.
Seven individuals were inducted into the College of Fellows. Since 1974, the Council has bestowed the title of Fellow on 254 artists, nominated and elected by a committee of their peers. Those elected have demonstrated extraordinary artistic ability and must have worked at least 25 years in the discipline or career for which they are being recognized (nonartists may be named Honorary Fellows).
In addition, an Award of Distinction for Contributions to the Field of Craft recognizes an individual, organization, institution or corporation that has made significant contributions to the field with a minimum of 25 years service, and the Award for Philanxropy honors exceptional support of or contribution to the American Craft Council. We extend our gratitude and appreciation to the 2008 honorees. The 2009 awards will be featured in the December/January issue.
It is ironic that Paul Soldner, who is known for developing "American raku" and low-temperature salt firing, never planned to be a potter. Soldner (b. 1921) was pre-med when he was drafted into World War II. After the war Soldner turned to painting and received a BFA from Bluffton College and an MA in art education from the University of Colorado. At age 33 Soldner went to the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design) to become Peter Voulkos's first graduate student. For nearly 40 years Soldner taught at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School in California-he divides his time between California and Colorado, home of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center he founded. Soldner's work is motivated by curiosity. "Pushing boundaries and exploring something new gives me energy," he says.
Known for her woven wall hangings that create optical and impressionistic effects, Adela Akers has explored sculptural concerns in large-scale works that suggest waves through folds and repetition of lines. Akers was born in 1933 in Spain, grew up in Cuba, and came to the U.S. in 1957 to study art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then Cranbrook Academy of Art. Now living in Guerneville, California, she is professor emerita at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, where she taught from 1972 to 1995. Her more recent work is flat and emphasizes rich surface detail. She says, "I am dealing with ideas, but I am also responding to the immediate tactile involvement of doing."
A full-time studio goldsmith in New York City for more than four decades, Glenda Arentzen (b. 1941) has produced jewelry notable for its expressive and sensuous qualities. A graduate of Skidmore College (BS. 1962) and Teachers College, Columbia University (MA 1964), Arentzen also studied metalworking as a Fulbright scholar in Denmark. She has taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, among other places. Her proficiency in many techniques, including casting, marriage-of-metals and gemstone-setting, serves an artistic vision that captures the freshness of drawing and respects the role of the wearer. "My work is a response to a variety of moods and persons and ideas," Arentzen has said. "Life is an adventure, and body ornament can be one record of it."
English-born Tony Hepburn, now based in Chicago, recently retired as head of ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and formerly headed the department of art and design at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hepburn (b. 1942) studied art at Camberwell and London University and first became known in the U.S. by writing for Craft Horizons, the predecessor of American Craft. Hepburn's work, often regarded as conceptual, responded to pottery and rural America during his time at Alfred and to technology and measurement in Michigan. He says, "I have never wanted my work to be visually coherent or stylistically linear; the world changes, so too does my work....The mediating condition that resists confusion is the choice of clay as my... filter through which things pass."
A love of nature, architecture, language and the history of fiber art have shaped the work of Hungarian-born Gyöngy Laky (1944), who lives in San Francisco. The primary material for her constructions, which often form words or convey political messages, has been twigs, "among the most beautiful linear elements in existence," she says. Laky holds a BA and an MA from the University of California, Berkeley, where fiber art pioneer Ed Rossbach was a mentor, and she is professor emerita at University of California, Davis, where she taught fiber art and environmental design for 30 years. Laky's works are at home inside the museum or gallery, but in particular outdoors, in meadows and hillsides in the U.S. and Europe, a testament to her endless experimentation. Exterior installations, she says, "stretch my mind, abilities, ideas, everything."
Innovative, expressive and provocative, Wendy Maruyama (b. 1952) heads the woodworking/furniture design program at San Diego State University, her undergraduate alma mater, where she has taught since 1989. Previously, she held the same position at California College of Arts and Crafts. Maruyama has an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and is the recipient of a Fulbright Grant to England and travel grants to France and Japan, visits abroad that provided her with sources of inspiration. "Her distinctive work," Robert Long once wrote, "sparks the imagination of students, collectors and fellow makers." Profoundly swayed by her family's experience, her new work, Executive Order 9066, refers to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
In 1982 Toots Zynsky (b. 1951) began developing filet-de-verre, a groundbreaking technique in which glass threads are pulled from hot glass canes. Zynsky, who received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence (where she now lives), was also among the founders of the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle and the Experimental Glass Workshop (now UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York). Her luminous vessels have garnered critical acclaim, and she was the first contemporary glass artist to have a piece commissioned by New York's Museum of Modern Art. "The astonishingly iridescent bowls of the glass artist Toots Zynsky evoke a sense of wonder," critic Arthur Danto once said, "in part because of their beauty, in part because of the craft that she so evidently commands."
Aileen Osborn Webb Award for Philanthropy
Robyn & John Horn
National leaders in the support of contemporary crafts in a range of mediums, and notable encouragers of craft scholarship as well, Robyn and John Horn are also involved in creative work of their own. Robyn is a sculptor who works wood with a chainsaw, and John is a letterpress printer who has taught at Penland. They are founding members of the Collectors of Wood Art, and Robyn holds advisory positions with the Arkansas Arts Center, the Wharton Esherick Museum in Pennsylvania and the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design. The Horns have been collecting crafts and sculpture for 25 years; a book, Living with Form: The Horn Collection of Contemporary Crafts, featured their collections and the house near Little Rock that they built to showcase the works.
Award of Distinction for Contributions in the Field of Craft
Helen W. Drutt English
A passionate advocate of the studio craft movement since the 1960s, Helen W. Drutt English has advanced craft through her many roles. These have included founding member/executive director of the Philadelphia Council of Professional Craftsmen; founder/director of the Helen Drutt Gallery (among the first in the nation devoted to craft); and developer of a course in the history of modern craft for the Philadelphia College of Art, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2001. Especially drawn to avant-garde jewelry, she amassed a collection
of some 800 works, acquired in 2002 by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the subject of a touring exhibition and companion book. Acknowledging the Award of Distinction, Drutt says, "I was part of an amazing team not just in the United States but also abroad, united in our conviction that craft could not be denied its fitting place in the history of modern and contemporary art."
Lois Moran was editor in chief of American Craft magazine from 1980 through 2006, when she retired after 43 years of service to the American Craft Council. "I love the act of editing," she said. "I always enjoyed working with artists and trying to deliver the message of their work in an honest way." An honors graduate from Tobe-Coburn School for Fashion Careers, Moran, who lives in New York City, held various positions with the Council including director of regional programming and, from 1988 to 1990, executive director. In 1993 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women in the Craft Arts conference at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She received the Mint Museum of Craft + Design's Founders' Circle Award in 2006. An internationally recognized figure who has helped define the ever-changing world of craft, she continues to serve this constituency as a panelist, juror and consultant.
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