April 24, 2012

Three students share Rickert-Ziebold art award

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three winners will split the $15,000 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award for 2012 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

This year’s winners are: Andrew D. Jensen (Milwaukee, Wis.), metalsmithing; Kat Mannel (Beaver Dam, Wis.), painting; and Jason Wonnell (Joliet), printmaking and communication design.

The three artists are graduating seniors who entered the competitive Rickert-Ziebold exhibit for a chance at the prestigious scholarship and cash award.  Eligible students submit representations of their art; the 12 finalists use space in the Surplus Gallery in the Glove Factory art facility (432 S Washington Ave., Carbondale) to create a display of their art that not only showcases what they can do, but also how they can present it.  The artists typically represent a variety of the media in which students can specialize in the SIU Carbondale School of Art and Design.

Jensen’s entry included a series of small metal sculptures, many of them accompanied by detailed drawings of the original design.  Jensen said it is no surprise the design on paper and the finished product don’t always look exactly the same; his creation process is organic, changing and becoming more refined as he works.

His eye for detail dates to early childhood, he said.  His grandmother, a botanist, taught him to look at things, not just to see them, and to pay attention not just to detail but to how details contribute to overall design and function and the need to discover for himself.  His work also shows the influence of his lifelong appreciation for science fiction, an interest that took on a new visual meaning for him when he spent a year in Iraq during his five-year service to the military. 

“I’ve never seen stars like that,” he said, remarking on the darkness of the sky owing to a lack of metropolitan areas and a lights-out policy at the base.

Jensen said his studio time has been intense in preparation for the Rickert-Ziebold competition -- and studio time has to compete with an off-campus job.  Consequently, he’s looking forward to room to breathe, and he may take a year off before graduate school to refine his goals.  Graduate school is on the horizon, though, he said.  He’s been working in metals since high school; much like his own creations, he refines and redefines as he goes.

Mannel said she works best under pressure.  She participated in other art shows as she prepared for the Rickert-Ziebold competition, and was involved in other campus projects as well.  In order to complete her art for Rickert-Ziebold, she nearly lived in her paint.  It’s not just that nearly everything she owns has at some time had a brush with paint, it’s also that she had approximately a month to complete three 9 1/2 foot tall paintings for the exhibit.  That made for some long studio hours.

“I wanted to create something that would make a big impact,” she said.  “As a painter, that often literally means big.  So when I knew where my space for the exhibit was, I came in here and measured the wall.  It’s 10 feet tall.  I knew I wanted a little space at the top and bottom, so I made my canvasses 9 1/2 feet tall.”

Mannel wasn’t intimidated by 9 1/2 feet of raw canvas.  What was difficult, she said, was creating the canvas frames.  She had to make a canvas that would be sturdy enough to paint on, to hang, and to stay hung.  Her father loaned her his craftsmanship skill to help her create the canvas.

Her paintings celebrate the human body and its inner workings.  Mannel said she wants her art to transcend the initial repulsion many people feel at images of a body’s insides, and to express instead the transformative properties of the body, and the beauty of design.  She plans to continue her study of painting and art history.

Wonnell’s work combined printmaking and communication design to highlight “consumer culture.”  Wonnell stressed that his art does not “talk down” to consumerism, but rather describes it.  He used a series of layered and detailed stencils showing a line of humanoid figures as consumers, and he placed them in various sites in Carbondale.  For his Rickert-Ziebold exhibit, he created a façade of a brick wall to hold true to the urbanism that is central to the vision of this piece of his art.

“My first thought was to spray paint directly onto the wall, but there are gallery rules against that,” he said.  “So I created my own brick wall.”

His exhibit included a slide show of some of the additional sites where he displayed not only his line of consumers but other consumer-related images as well.  He noted he had permission to display his art at the various sites in Carbondale, including a stairwell near the restaurant Fat Patties on South Illinois Avenue, and Tropicana Vintage Clothing on North Washington Street.

“Carbondale is a great community for giving artists opportunities,” he said.  “The city is very supportive of the arts.  I was very pleased to learn how open the community was to what I was doing.”

Wonnell said he’ll take a brief time away from formal schooling, and then enter graduate school to continue refining and honing his art skills.

The annual Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award honors the late Joseph Rickert, a prominent lawyer and former state senator from Waterloo, who loved the arts and appreciated SIU Carbondale’s place in the cultural life of the Southern Illinois region. His family established the award in 1974, and it is the most prestigious award offered by the School of Art and Design.

The Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award exhibition, featuring entries from all 12 finalists, will remain on display all week in the Surplus Gallery.  A reception is set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. on April 27 in the gallery.