Today 10 women from across the country who paint in the figurative realist style were named finalists for the $50,000 Bennett Prize, the largest art award ever offered solely to women figurative realist painters, and now in its second round of awards.
The 10 were selected from among 674 entrants, a number that surpasses the entrants in 2018, the inaugural year of The Prize. Endowed at The Pittsburgh Foundation by art collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt, The Prize is designed to propel the careers of women artists.
“The response has yet again been incredible – exceeding our best hopes especially when so many women artists have had to contend with additional challenges related to the coronavirus – and the paintings submitted for consideration are stunning,” said Art Martin, director of collections and exhibitions at the Muskegon Museum of Art, where the finalists’ works will be presented from May 20 to September 12, 2021.
The winner of the $50,000 award will be announced at the exhibition opening. An exhibition of the finalists’ works will travel following the Muskegon Museum of Art showing. Stops in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are planned and more venues will be added. Alongside the finalists exhibition, the winner of The Bennett Prize 1.0, Aneka Ingold, will present her solo show.
The 10 finalists, in alphabetical order, are:
Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross, Providence, Rhode Island
Tanmaya Bingham, Portland, Oregon
Chloe Chiasson, Brooklyn, New York
June Glasson, Millbrook, New York
Holly Keogh, Charlotte, North Carolina
Lavely Miller, Baltimore, Maryland
Rebecca Orcutt, North Bend, Washington
Ayana Ross, McDonough, Georgia
Su Su, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Amy Werntz, Dallas, Texas
Find full biographical information, head shots and samples of their work on the website for The Bennett Prize.
A four-member jury, which includes eminent realist painters Alyssa Monks and Katie O’Hagan, director of world-renowned The Andy Warhol Museum, Patrick Moore and Prize co-founder Steven Bennett, selected the finalists.
“As a juror for The Bennett Prize, I was delighted to see the diversity of artists who applied and the range of their approaches to figurative realism. The 10 finalists selected reflect the richness of how female artists choose to depict the most personal of subjects – the body. I also really appreciated that the jurors had a wide range of viewpoints. Viewers will see that this contributed to a rich and varied exhibition,” said Moore.
The winner of The Bennett Prize will receive $25,000 annually for two years to allow her to devote the time necessary to mount a solo exhibition of her work, which will open at the Muskegon Museum of Art in 2023 and then travel the country.
Speaking to the quality of the finalists’ submissions, juror Monks said that, “most impressive to me were those who had a unique and developed vision and voice in their work, who took a solid position and created tension around it, clearly conveying their conviction but allowing the viewer to connect the dots and find multiple meanings. I look forward to following the evolution of these artists.” Juror O’Hagan added, “every finalist’s work is connected by authenticity, a quality that the jury sought. We rarely disagreed on which paintings felt most authentic, even when the work itself wasn’t our top choice.”
The Bennett Prize spotlights women artists who are or seek to become full-time painters, but who have not yet achieved full professional recognition. The Prize is also designed to allow the public to learn more about the creative vision of talented women painters working in the ever popular style of figurative realism.
“Once again, the huge and increasing number of entrants confirmed the need for The Bennett Prize. For the second time, with almost 700 contestants from all across the country, with varying visions and levels of experience, we were privileged to consider the very best of what women figurative realists working today have to offer, “ said Prize co-founder and benefactor Bennett. “The jury is deeply gratified by the quality and variety of the submitted work, which demonstrates the artistic mastery and vision of today’s women figurative realist painters. The Rising Voices 2.0 exhibition is going to be absolutely terrific.”
Bennett and Schmidt, of San Antonio, Texas, endowed a $3 million fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation to ensure The Prize will be awarded every two years in perpetuity. The Prize was announced in 2018 and was developed at the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy, which uses human-centered design principles to help donors define and actualize transformative philanthropic initiatives.
“The Bennett Prize is among the most extensive and visionary projects ever developed at our Center for Philanthropy,” said Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder. “It’s thrilling for our Foundation, which has a long history of amplifying the work of artists who might otherwise be unsung, to work so closely with the Bennetts to elevate the work of these extraordinary women figurative realist painters.”
Schmidt and Bennett are among the country’s foremost collectors of figurative realist art and are committed to seeing that talented women painters receive long-overdue recognition, such as solo exhibitions, higher prices for their work, commissions and inclusion in museum and private collections.
“The number of visionary women painters who submitted exceptional figurative realist work to The Bennett Prize far exceeds the number to be chosen,” said benefactor and co-founder Schmidt. “There should be as many paintings by women as men in museums, commanding the same prices and critical esteem. Our goal is to help make that happen.”
More information about the Bennetts and their art collection is at www.thebennettartcollection.com.