Aileen Osborn Webb Awards

Aileen Osborn Webb Awards

Published on Friday, September 3, 2010. This article appears in the October/November 2010 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff

Rebecca Medel, The One, knotted cotton, 750 parts stitched together at perpendicular intersections, 8 x 8 x 8 ft.

Named for the American Craft Council's founder, the Aileen Osborn Webb awards honor those who have demonstrated outstanding artistic achievement, leadership and service in the craft field.

Even as the American Craft Council enters a new era on the occasion of its relocation to Minneapolis from New York City, it sustains the venerable tradition of honoring its own. On the following pages, American Craft salutes the 12 recipients of the Aileen Osborn Webb awards for 2010. Named for the Council’s founder, the awards, established in the 1970s, honor those who have demonstrated outstanding artistic achievement, leadership and service in the craft field. The Gold Medal, for consummate craftsmanship, was presented to Albert Paley.

Eight individuals were inducted into the College of Fellows. Since 1975, the Council has conferred the designation Fellow on 276 artists, nominated and elected by a committee of their peers. Those elected have demonstrated remarkable artistic ability and must have worked at least 25 years in the discipline or career for which they are being singled out; nonartists are designated Honorary Fellows.

The Council also bestows an Award of Distinction for Contributions to the Field of Craft, which recognizes an individual, organization, institution or corporation that has made significant contributions to the field with a minimum of 25 years’ service, and the Aileen Osborn Webb Award for Philanthropy honors exceptional support of or contributions to the American Craft Council. We extend our gratitude and congratulations to the 2010 awardees.

Gold Medal
Albert Paley
Like much of his metal sculptures, Albert Paley's stature among craftsmen is monumental. After earning BFA and MFA degrees from Tyler School of Art in his native Philadelphia, Paley (b. 1944) started out as a goldsmith. In 1969 he began teaching at the Rochester Institute of Technology, NY, where he now holds an endowed chair at the School for American Crafts. Over the years, his work-including more than 60 site-specific commissions, from portal gates for the New York State Senate chamber to a 130-foot-long entryway sculpture for the St. Louis Zoo-has evolved in ever more ambitious directions of scale and form. He is represented in major museum collections and is the first metal sculptor to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects. "For me, the foundation of craftsmanship is not based in technical ability but rather is an attitude and sensibilities of perception," Paley says. "Within our disciplines, this reality is made manifest through the tangible nature of material."

Aileen Osborn Webb Award for Philanthropy
Dorothy & George Saxe
As we went to press we learned the sad news that George Saxe died on July 27. He was 89. Since 1980, George and Dorothy Saxe of Menlo Park and San Francisco, ca, were passionate patrons and advocates of studio craft. An honorary trustee of the American Craft Council, Mr. Saxe served on the boards of many arts and charitable organizations, including the American Craft Museum, the California College of the Arts, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Mrs. Saxe is a trustee of the Pilchuck Glass School and the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco, as well as a founding board member of the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass and Friends of Fiber Art International. The couple's collection of contemporary craft, considered one of the finest in the u.s., has been showcased in major exhibitions at the Oakland Museum, the de Young Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art and other prominent venues. "We've loved being part of the studio craft family," the Saxes said. "Lending and donating work from our collection to various museums is an essential part of our philosophy of sharing with others."

Award of Distinction
Corning Incorporated Foundation
Established in 1952, Corning Incorporated Foundation is dedicated to supporting local education, culture and community service programs. Each year a significant portion of Foundation funding is aimed at local and regional visual and performing arts organizations, museums, libraries, arts councils and innovative arts education programs. The Foundation began supporting the endeavors of the American Craft Council in 1965. At the recommendation of a former Foundation chairman and trustee, the late Thomas S. Buechner, early grants helped to support initiatives such as the Council's Museum of Contemporary Crafts, and the Foundations's funding for the Council's education initiatives, such as the 2009 conference, "Creating a New Craft Culture," continues today. "Craft is creativity made evident; it enriches the individual human experience and positively impacts the social, economic and cultural fabric of life," says Kristin A. Swain, president of the Foundation. "We are pleased that the Foundation has been able to assist the American Craft Council's endeavors for more than 40 years, and it is indeed an honor to receive the 2010 Aileen Osborn Webb Award of Distinction."

2010 Fellows
John Garrett
A full-time studio artist living in Albuquerque, nm, John Garrett (b. 1950) has utilized an eclectic range of materials and techniques in the making of his containers and other forms since the 1970s. Educated at Claremont McKenna College, ca (ba), and the University of California, Los Angeles (ma), Garrett taught for many years at colleges and universities in California and continues to teach workshops nationwide on experimental basketry. Frequently using the grid as the underlying geometry, Garrett explores the structuring of works composed of individual elements that can stay two-dimensional or become three-dimensional. A two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship, Garrett is a pioneer in the emergence and development of the "new basketry." He has said, "It is because of the great diversity of meanings that can be built into baskets, from the social and cultural to the personal and intimate, that I enjoy making them."

Ron Ho
Born in Hawaii in 1936 of Chinese descent, Ron Ho, the Seattle-based jeweler and art educator, has been strongly influenced by the contrasts between contemporary American and traditional Chinese culture. Ho, who taught in the Bellevue, wa, school district for over 30 years, reflects in his work the diverse customs he has encountered, both growing up and through his worldwide travels, by including materials enriched by ethnic associations. A student of the noted Northwest artist Ramona Solberg, who pioneered the use of found objects in jewelry, Ho early on in his career employed such materials in unusual and inspired combinations that mirrored East-West multiculturalism. His work has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Bellevue Arts Museum and the Honolulu Art Academy. Assessing his work, the art critic Suzanne Beal has written, "Ho's coming to terms with his past can no doubt be credited with the birth of an altogether personal wearable art."

William Hunter
William Hunter (b. 1947) entered the field of contemporary turned-wood sculpture in its formative era, the 1970s, and found his way as a self-taught artist. A native of Long Beach, CA, he moved to El Portal in 1973. His early forms exploited the expressive potential of various woods and advanced a new direction for the field: away from traditional woodturning practices toward artistic invention. From 1970 to 1990, Hunter created elegantly proportioned vessels on the lathe. In the next decade, he began to explore more open forms, penetrating the surface of the vessel. His work eventually evolved into abstract interlocking forms. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Hunter was a founding director on the boards of the American Association of Woodworkers and the Wood Turning Center. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Collectors of Wood Art in November 2006. The following year, the Long Beach Museum of Art organized a 35-year retrospective of his work, an exhibition that toured nationally. His work is now in the collections of more than 25 museums across the country, and is chronicled in Transforming Vision: The Wood Sculpture of William Hunter 1970-2005. "My motive is to embody an essence of life and growth...without depicting a particular plant, shell, textured shoreline or specific narrative," Hunter says. "By reconstructing various sculptured rhythms, I convey my poetic impressions of the natural world."

Rebecca Medel
Known for her evanescent grid-like installations of knotted threads, Rebecca Medel (b. 1947) explores ideas involving time, space, metaphysics and symbolism. "What I search for," she says, "is a structure on the edge of being physically supportable, a structure of transparent weightlessness." A professor at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Medel earned her BFA from Arizona State University and MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work has been in group exhibitions nationally and abroad, and she has had solo shows at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY, the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks and Browngrotta Gallery in Wilton, ct, among other venues. Her honors include two nea Artist Fellowships, a Bronze Medal from the Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. "I work with images that speak of voids," Medel says, "and the beauty of mathematics through an underlying geometry and use of mathematical principles."

Ginny Ruffner
Ginny Ruffner (b. 1952) is wellknown for exuberant sculptures, primarily of lampworked glass, that explore such themes as the nature of art, the source of creativity and the workings of the mind with sparkling wit and a virtuoso combination of processes. "Beauty is the organizing intelligence," she once wrote about one of her installations. The Atlanta-born artist has an mfa from the University of Georgia (1975) and has lived in Seattle since 1985. Ruffner's work is in major private and public collections, including 39 museums. In recent years she has created major installations and commissions that combine glass and metal, with one scheduled for 2011 in downtown Seattle. Ruffner's many honors include the Libensky Award from the Pilchuck Glass School, an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society and an nea Artist Fellowship. She is the subject of numerous articles as well as A Not So Still Life, a documentary that premiered in June at the Seattle Film Festival.

John and Susanne Stephenson
John and Susanne Stephenson have been artists and educators in Ann Arbor, MI, for over 35 years, exhibiting nationally and internationally since the beginning of their careers. John began teaching ceramics at the University of Michigan, in 1959 after receiving his mfa from Cranbrook Academy of Art. While at Michigan, he received the Catherine B. Heller Distinguished Professorship, an honorary doctorate of arts from Grand Valley State, in Grand Rapids, and also served as interim dean of the School of Art Susanne also completed her mfa at Cranbrook, then began teaching at Eastern Michigan University in 1963. The recent work of both Stephensons explores aspects of nature: John addresses water forms in his clay waves, while Susanne has begun integrating paper pulp and string to add texture to her terra-cotta landscape abstracts. "The clay form for me is a gesture which carries color in the thickly applied slips," Susanne says. "This is the means of my expression."

Honorary Fellow
Janet Koplos
Through her writing and scholarship, Janet Koplos has been a highly influential voice in framing the critical discourse on contemporary craft and has contributed significantly to our knowledge of the field. A graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications with an ma in art history from Illinois State University, Koplos has been writing about art since 1976, publishing more than 2,000 articles, reviews and catalog essays in the u.s., Europe and Japan. She is the author of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (1991), Gyongy Laky (2003) and (with co-author Bruce Metcalf) of the recently published Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, intended as both an important resource for the field and a much-needed collegelevel art history survey. Koplos was senior editor at Art in America (1990-2009) and served as guest editor of American Craft in 2009. She lectures, juries and critiques frequently and is a member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art and the College Art Association. She has taught criticism at the Parsons New School of Design and other schools.