Sculptor Shane Ward receives 2013 Edes Prize for emerging artists

“I think that behind every emerging artist there is a little self-doubt,” admits Shane Ward, MFA’12.

The young sculptor can take heart: Ward, whose work explores themes of war, romance, masculinity and violence, has been awarded the Clare Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists.

“A prize like this is definitely affirming,” Ward says. “At some level, that’s what every artist hopes for.”

The $30,000 prize, made possible by a grant from the Clare Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation, will allow Ward to spend the next year on an ambitious new project. It will begin with field research at Civil War battlefields, and culminate in a series of works created in an unlikely medium—lead.

In civil wars, “what’s being fought for is identity, and what’s being fought over are conditions of unity,” Ward wrote in his proposal. “I’m interested in the intimacy and radical stakes of these conflicts. With this in mind, I want to play off of both the material qualities of lead and conceptual weight it bears, making large sculptural works that interrogate our myths and tropes of victory: on the battlefield, in the marketplace, and elsewhere.”

Through the Edes Prize, the Edes Foundation aims to nurture talented early career artists at UChicago by allowing them to spend a full year focused solely on their practice. The foundation also has provided funding for prizes at Northwestern University, DePaul University and the School of the Art Institute.

Ward, who received his BFA from the University of Kentucky before enrolling in UChicago’s MFA program, said he was especially grateful for the “gift of time.”

“Receiving 12 months of time to incubate ideas and produce a large body of work is without a doubt the premium yield of this prize,” he said.

Geof Oppenheimer, who served on the committee that selected Ward, said the nuance and thoughtfulness of Ward’s work set him apart. “Shane’s work deals with how layers of cultural information are accrued in materials…There’s a kind of alchemy that occurs where he turns base material like wood and lead into [social commentary],” said Oppenheimer, associate professor of Practice in the Arts. “I think the committee could see the implicit intelligence he brings to bear in his practice.”

The committee also identified three finalists from the 39 applicants: composer Simon Fink, PhD’10, writer Debbie Hu, AB’10, and performance-based artist Marilyn Volkman, MFA’09. Each finalist will receive $1500.

Ward is the fifth Edes Prize recipient since the University of Chicago began conferring the annual honor. The prize was previously awarded to sculptor Leigh-Ann Pahapill, MFA’07 and documentarian Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman, AB’09; filmmakers David Brent, AB’09, and Jack Mayer, AB’10, shared the 2012 prize.

“Each of our Edes Prize winners has shown extraordinary vision and potential to contribute to the art world with their work, and Shane Ward is no exception,” said Mary J. Harvey, associate provost for program development. “We are eager to watch his practice deepen and flourish in the coming year as we’ve witnessed with our other Edes Prize winners. We are exceedingly grateful to the Edes Foundation for its support of artists like Shane.”

“The Foundation is delighted to welcome Shane Ward to the ranks of those who have been awarded the Edes Prize and we hope that he will be able to use this opportunity to make great strides in the evolution of his work,” said Nik Edes, president of the Edes Foundation. “This unique initiative has proven to make a significant difference in the lives of the emerging artists who have been recipients in prior years and we have every expectation that Shane will have similar success.”