Cynthia Lahti, Frau (2012) photo Jeff Jahn
Congratulations to Cynthia Lahti who was announced as the latest Bonnie Bronson Fellow today
. Ever since a residency in Germany in 2012 the subseuent work that explores the frisson of photography and sculpture as a kind of visual/material dissonance has been intriguing... akin to surrealist collaboration between Alberto Giacometti and Man Ray... but definitely made by a woman. It has edge and she even has a new show that opens tomorrow at PDX Contemporary.
The Bonnie Bronson award is different than most regional awards in that it primarily goes to mid career female artists (male academicians in traditional media tend to win most other major awards around here) and it is nice that this one is going to an artist who is making the best work of her career. Generally, the Bronson award goes to academics or someone who is extremely visible in the community but Portland needs to turn a corner and reward those who are doing not simply good work but that which has a keen edge and is the strongest of their career.
True, some will complain that so many awards go to a small pool of the same artists (David Eckard unfairly was targeted for angst after he won a Bronson and Hallie Ford in the same year)... and yes Lahti received a Hallie Ford Fellowship in 2013
but I think part of the problem is that may are focused on mid career and often similar juror pools (Bonnie Bronson panelists are supposedly secret... but in a city like Portland it is impossible). Perhaps the real issue is that Portland and the State of Oregon along with it have undergone a revolution in art scene sophistication since 2000-present period, yet almost all of the awards go to those who were already established in the 1990's. There is a sense that the awards aren't dynamic enough to account for those who have made Portland into an interesting internationally noted artist enclave since 2000. Still, I think the Bronson awards are doing a fine job. The focus on mid career women who like Bronson were often active in the community gives these awards a sense of being well tailored... they even choose new media artists where the Hallie Fords seem to avoid them while claiming they award art that, "furthers the conversation of contemporary art in the 21st century."
Overall, I want to bring the discussion back to Lahti's achievement though... her work has a new vigor and it happened before the awards came in. That is what should matter and in this case it does.
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