Edes Foundation Prize supports emerging artist poised for transformation

When alumna Leigh-Ann Pahapill (MFA'07) is working, it is both a mental and physical process. The Toronto-based visual artist explores concepts of meaning and spatial construct using the tools of sculpture as well as a camera, a microphone, language, drawing, and her body.

"My methods are to scrape, grind, cut, snip, smash, sand, dig, illuminate, highlight and magnify, as I separate and disassemble," Pahapill wrote in her artist statement. "I work to isolate, scrutinize, and present entities and our relations to them."

As the 2010 recipient of the Claire Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists, Pahapill will now expand that work. The $30,000 cash award attached to the honor-made possible through a grant from the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation-will enable the artist to work toward engaging international audiences while doing research in Vienna and exhibiting her work in Brussels. Pahapill also will continue to explore new artistic possibilities through studying film production and continuing discussions with filmmakers, videographers and set designers.

Selected from among a group of 46 graduating students and recent alumni, Pahapill was identified for the intellectual and creative caliber of her work, her proven track record, and potential promise, said Mary Harvey, Associate Provost of Program Development.

"Following the vision of the Edes Foundation, we were looking for a candidate who is poised for transformation, someone who would be able to advance his or her professional practice and potentially add a new voice in the arts world," said Harvey. "We are especially grateful to the foundation for their generosity and the vital role they are playing in committing funding to the development of new artists. Leigh-Ann's conceptual work is characteristic of the boundary-crossing exploration inherent in our arts programs," Harvey added.

"I am humbled - it is a great honor to have been selected from such a competitive and talented field of applicants," said Pahapill. "I really welcomed the occasion to talk about my work with some of the best minds in contemporary creative practice and feel very grateful for the time the jury members invested in engaging with my proposal."

The Edes Foundation aims to jump-start the careers of promising artists by providing sufficient support that allows them to devote a full year to their arts practice. It has provided similar funding for Northwestern University, DePaul University and the School of the Art Institute.

"The University of Chicago has put enormous effort into making the Edes Prize a reality," said Nik B. Edes, President of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation. "The response to this initiative has been extraordinary, the selection process was rigorous, and we have high hopes that this award will enable Ms. Pahapill to move to the next level of her professional and artistic development. We want to join with the university community in wishing her every success."

Pahapill describes her art as a sort of "inverse sculpture," where she attempts to decipher the structure of forms and their situations, as well as illuminate and question how the experience of forms drives meaning. Her installations are layered with complexity and engage with philosophy, psychology, literature, the sciences, and other artistic disciplines, including the writings of the French deconstructionists, 18th-century German Idealist philosophers, and the theory and stage practices of Bertolt Brecht.

"Leigh Ann's art interrogates the communal space that we, and the materials that we engage with, occupy," said Judy Hoffman, Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts and Cinema and Media Studies, at a Monday, May 24 luncheon to honor Pahapill. "She looks at the quotidian, objects used in our daily life and objects used in our work life, from interstices and angles normally unnoticed," added Hoffman.

"My first memory of Leigh Ann was of her, shovel in hand, video camera on tripod, digging an enormous hole in the courtyard of Midway Studios. Incredibly, this excavation is now the site of the new Logan Center. From this hole, Leigh Ann created the cast for a gilded concrete sculpture, which now resides in the lobby of Walker Hall," said Hoffman, one of five jurists who collectively represented the award-eligible disciplines in Music, Theater and Performance Studies, English Language and Literature, and Creative Writing.

"A couple of months ago I was at a meeting there.I heard the sound of singing coming from the lobby and went to see what was going on.Students from a music class surrounded Leigh Ann's sculpture, experimenting with how sound resonated.Her art allows people to engage with it in unexpected ways."