The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Betty Bowen Committee, chaired by Gary Glant, announced today the five artists selected as finalists for this year’s Betty Bowen Award: Natalie Ball, Amy Bernstein, Bruce Burris, Deborah Lawrence, and George Rodriguez. The juried award honors a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work. The award was founded in 1977 to honor the legacy of Betty Bowen (1918–1977), who was an avid champion of artists in the Pacific Northwest. Founded by Bowen’s friends, the award is administered by SAM.
The Betty Bowen Committee—comprising Northwest curators, collectors, and artists—reviewed 461 applications from visual artists residing in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. One of this year’s finalists will receive an unrestricted cash award in the amount of $15,000 and will have their work displayed at the Seattle Art Museum. At the discretion of the committee, up to two Special Recognition Awards of $2,500 may be granted.
Last year’s winner was Jono Vaughan, whose work memorializes transgender individuals whose lives were cut short by violence. Her solo exhibition (April 21–August 5, 2018) featured her ongoing series Project 42, in which she creates handmade garments that are then worn in collaborative public performances.
The winner of the 40th Annual Betty Bowen Award will be announced in September 2018. The award will be formally presented in a free and open to the public celebration at the Seattle Art Museum on November 8, 2018. The winner’s solo exhibition will be on view at SAM in spring 2019.
Natalie Ball – Chiloquin, OR
Natalie Ball was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, but has since relocated to her ancestral homelands of Chiloquin. As a multidisciplinary artist, Ball positions her work as a reorientation of conversations that shape Native American identities. Through figurative sculpture and assemblage, Ball makes installations that deconstruct dominant narratives to create new texts, new histories, and new manifestations that add to the discussion of a complex racial narrative.
Amy Bernstein – Portland, OR
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Amy Bernstein is an artist and writer living and working in Portland, Oregon. Bernstein’s abstract paintings encourage the viewer to reposition themselves in relation to who they are, what they see, and where the body exists in time and space. The works vacillate between the histories of philosophies, art, and design, searching for the space in which we will discover new vision and thus new thinking.
Bruce Burris – Corvallis, OR
Bruce Burris has worked at the intersection of art and cultural equity for marginalized groups for over 35 years. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Burris has served as founder, director, or owner of a number of agencies and programs in Kentucky and Oregon noted for creating innovative supports that enable people to assume roles of significance in their communities. Burris’ current work of collage and found objects stems from observations of class and philosophical divides between those who are proponents of dying industries, including coal and logging, and those who are adamant that these industries must adapt.
Deborah Lawrence – Seattle, WA
Deborah Faye Lawrence uses the medium of collage to analyze, categorize, and make meaning. She boldly reports and comments on social, historical, and current events through the process of cutting, manipulating, and composing found information. Her appropriation and re-contextualization of found images, including maps and flags, points to a tradition of politically engaged collage, while satirically and incisively addressing contemporary concerns.
George Rodriguez – Seattle, WA
George Rodriguez was born in El Paso, Texas and currently lives and works in Seattle. As a sculptor, his large-scale ceramics are a celebration of the individual against the backdrop of community and the modern world against the backdrop of the ancient. Through the creation of guardian figures, tomb sculptures, and shrines, Rodriguez depicts his community current and forthcoming. His most recent works explore themes of protection, inclusion, and sanctity using the Chinese Zodiac as framework.
2018 BETTY BOWEN COMMITTEE
Gary Glant (Chair), Mark Calderon, Mike Hess, Denzil Hurley, Sonal Khullar, Isaac Layman, Mark Levine, Catharina Manchanda, Llewelyn Pritchard, Greg Robinson, Norie Sato, Bill True, Maggie Walker, Dan Webb, and Merrill Wright.