When I was a kid growing up, we saw ourselves as “conquering” outer space. And ground zero for that endeavor was “the jet propulsion laboratory,” the arm of NASA charged with figuring out planetary spacecraft and how to use them in interplanetary travel. In context, the word “propulsion” was a double-entendre: rockets propelled people into space and they propelled us, as a people and a culture, into the future. The rockets were the instruments by which we saw ourselves entering a new future and they signified not just a new technology, but a new era of discovery. We were entering a new age of exploration that built on the shoulders of Marco Polo, Shackleton and others. A new age was dawning. Whether is was the “Age of Aquarius,” as the popular song of the era suggested, it was exciting, uncharted and destined to be different.

It was in that spirit that the Doc and I decided that a tagline for The Bennett Prize would be “propelling the careers of women figurative realist painters.” Our goal has been to harness the emerging talent of women figurists and enable them indeed, catalyze them, to go forward, boldly, without apology. In a second sense, we also have sought to propel figurative realism as a form, enabling it to come again into its own. These efforts were not the result of idle musings or mere happenstance. We were and are seeking these outcomes with intention. While much in life can be unintended, there is nothing accidental about this.

Paradoxically, however, our “propulsion” effort has as much to do with inner space as it does with outer. The efforts of artists to find their way and speak their voices is as much an inner voyage as an outer one. What finds its way onto canvas is invariably an illustration of the artist’s inner frontiers as much as it is the scene one sees outwardly. So, as everyone of our artist friends stands before a blank canvas, we say onward, upward, outward, skyward. Only you can make the art you are destined to make and only you can say the things you are destined to say. So, make it, say it, do it!


Header Image: by Kathrin Longhurst, “Pilot Girl Revisited VII”