Goings-On at ArtPrize: A Q&A With Judith Braun

Judith Braun's work in the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Image courtesy the artist, the Museum and ArtPrize.
Judith Braun’s work in the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Image courtesy the artist, the Museum and ArtPrize.

ArtPrize 2015 is the seventh iteration of the annual art competition that features hundreds of artists from all over the world vying for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. It also takes over enough local venues in its host city of Grand Rapids, Michigan—162 spaces are involved, according to this year’s count, within a mere three square miles—that one wonders if it’s possible for much else to go on in the same town at the same time.

At any rate, now that ArtPrize Seven is about halfway through its 19-day duration, and while so many hefty award sums are still up for grabs—winners will be announced on October 9th—we thought it would be a good time to track down a few NYC artists who are over there exhibiting, networking, competing and, most likely, getting very little sleep.

Below is our exchange with Judith Braun. We’ve also chatted with with Diana Shpungin and Tamara Kostianovsky.

How and when did you get involved with ArtPrize 2015?

I heard about ArtPrize a few years ago and basically looked down my nose at it as just a regional contest. Then I happened to be in a show in Sharjah, UAE, with Anila Agha, just before she went on to show, and win, at ArtPrize 2014. Her piece was so great, and she won so much money! That influenced me to look at ArtPrize more seriously for myself.

What were some of the biggest challenges in planning and executing your work for the show? Did you meet your own expectations?

Because I worked with the Grand Rapids Art Museum, everything about producing and presenting my work here was handled professionally. The chief curator, Ron Platt, had chosen me based on my body of work, and once we decided on the large corner walls I would use, he gave me complete latitude to develop my ideas and to work on-site over a period of about 10 days. I was given full technical support and everything I needed to work. To help cover production costs I was fortunate to receive a $2000 grant from the Frey Foundation, as part of ArtPrize.

Yes, I am happy to say I met my own expectations! This is always risky, in a good art-making kind of way, since I really can’t be sure beforehand. The work has to come into existence from out of my imagination, onto the walls, within the allotted time. Of course I have visions, plans, ideas, guidelines even, but it all has to be realized in the moment, and to be both intentional and spontaneous. The Museum gave me a 12′ ladder and I left me alone to work. The actual drawing took me six days.

Can you name some other artists whose work you’ve discovered or come to know better thanks to ArtPrize? Who would be on your short list for an award—aside from yourself, of course!

The truth is, at this writing, I have not had time to get around. With that said, the one artist also showing at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, whom I didn’t know before and now love, is Shannon Plumb. Female video/performance artist. Personal, universal, self aware, humor, aesthetics, imagination, craft, meaningful. Love her.

What has kept you busier at ArtPrize, making your artwork, looking at the artwork of others, networking or answering journalists’ questions (wink)?

As I said, I haven’t been running around to see things. Would like to go to Site Lab though, it looks great, and so I will have to find time. I am not a networker. I just make my work and I like talking. The public here is incredibly interested, curious and inquisitive. So, questions, bring em on! Press, public. Whatever happens, happens.

What do you think about Grand Rapids? Anything you found there that you wish we had back in NYC?

Been eating at Freshii, and there’s none in New York yet. The bus drivers are very friendly. I’m using Public Transportation, which is buses, and it’s working fine for me, but on the weekends they run ONCE AN HOUR! So no, I love New York. It’s also quite interesting to see so many young families with 4-5 kids! It’s the norm here.

What else is on your horizon this year and into 2016? Exhibits, fairs, catalogues?

My solo show, Crazy Bitch, was about to open at Joe Sheftel, LES, on Nov 1, but—News Flash!—I just found out that the gallery is closing! Boo! Meanwhile I’m working on a wall commission for a new flagship store that I am not at liberty to identify, but you can see in late November, NYC, in the flatiron district. Then I’m heading to Beijing for another project that I cannot tell the details about yet either! But I’m busy, which is what I like.

Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.


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