I took a printmaking class from the 2015 Texas Artist of the Year, back when I lived in Houston. When my friend, Kat, posted this on her Facebook this morning, I felt very happy and proud. Congratulations, Amy!
2015 Texas Artist of the Year
Art League Houston proudly announces the selections of Amy Blakemore as the 2015 Texas Artist of the Year, Forrest Prince as the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts recipient, and the Honorable Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, as the 2015 Texas Patron of the Year. Each year, Art League Houston pays tribute to those whose work or patronage has had a significant and positive impact on contemporary visual art in Texas.
“We at Art League Houston are thrilled with this year’s Honorees,” says Aaron Reimer, President, Board of Directors. “Artists Amy Blakemore and Forrest Prince are two of Houston’s most beloved treasures and both have long, distinguished and idiosyncratic careers. Each is uniquely talented. Our 2015 Patron of the Year, Houston’s Honorable Mayor Annise Parker, has done more for the arts than any mayor in Houston’s history. She has been an incredible patron by definition; ‘someone who supports, protects and champions,’ and we want to honor Mayor Parker for this work.”
In 1983, Art League Houston created the Texas Artist of the Year award as a dynamic annual project documenting Texas art history. Art League Houston was the first organization in the state to develop such an award. To date, thirty-one artists have been honored. Past recipients include Havel Ruck Project, Rachel Hecker, Aaron Parazette, Mary McCleary, Joseph Havel, Melissa Miller, Al Souza, The Art Guys, Luis Jim??nez, Bert L. Long, Jr., Jes??s Moroles, James Surls, and Dr. John Biggers,among others.
In 1989, Art League Houston expanded the award to include patrons with its Texas Patron of the Year award for extraordinary individuals whose efforts have helped advance the work of Texas artists. Past patron honorees include Stephanie Smither, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Judy and Scott Nyquist, Victoria and Marshal Lightman, Leslie and Brad Bucher, Anne and James Harithas, Gus Kopriva,and Clint Willour, among others.
In 2013, Art League Houston celebrated its 65th Anniversary as an arts organization and the 30th Anniversary of its Texas Artist of the Year award. In recognition of this occasion, Art League Houston established the biennial Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts for artists whose career has spanned more than forty years, and who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of visual art in Texas and beyond. The first recipient was Kermit Oliver.
Amy Blakemore, Planter, 2012, chromogenic Print Ed. of 10, 12 x 12 inches
2015 Texas Artist of the Year: Amy Blakemore
Amy Blakemore (b. 1958) is a Houston-based artist renowned for her deceptively simple photographs of friends, family, and local landscapes, which create intimate and emotional narratives from everyday situations and mundane gestures. Often capturing candid moments of complete strangers, the Tulsa-born artist has the unique power of taking the unfamiliar and making it completely personal. Blakemore’s photographs are all hand-developed and printed from color film in the artist’s wet darkroom. Since the early 1980s, she has focused on working with Diana cameras, inexpensive plastic box cameras that first appeared in the 1960s as prizes at raffles, carnivals or even in cereal boxes.
“Blakemore has worked for the past twenty years with low-tech, medium-format Diana cameras, known for flaws that produce a flattened perspective, color shifts, vignetting, and blurriness. Blakemore manipulates these flaws to capture the way memory simultaneously records and distorts visual information, creating photographs that are familiar and mysterious-both documents of the present and suggestions of times past.” – Alison de Lima Greene, Contemporary Art and Special Projects at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
In 2011, Blakemore also started working with a 1953 Robot Royal camera, a very well made and rugged German camera, which takes square photographs on normal 35mm film. This camera was introduced in Germany in the 1930’s, and was often used during wartime for military research and record work.
“I started using this camera because I really like the square format, and it gives me more flexibility to shoot closer and under poor light,” says the artist. “Another reason for choosing this camera is that I wanted to challenge myself with making different types of pictures. I wanted to know if I could make photos without using a Diana Camera, and I can. Both cameras have their own idiosyncrasies,” she said, “which has forced and challenged me to figure out and solve the problems that they both present, which is something I quite enjoy.”
Born in Tulsa, OK, Amy Blakemore lives and works in Houston, TX. She received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Art from Drury College (now Drury University), Springfield, MO, and an M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. From 1985-87 she was an artist resident at the Core Residency Program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Blakemore has exhibited her photographs throughout Texas and internationally for the last thirty years, including participating in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Day for Night, curated by Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, and solo presentations at Inman Gallery (2014, 2012), James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA (2010) and the 2005 Pingyao International Festival for Photography in Pingyao, P.R. China. A twenty-year retrospective of the artist’s work, Amy Blakemore: Photographs 1988-2008, was organized by Alison de Lima Greene at the MFAH (2009), and traveled to the Seattle Art Museum (2010) and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (2011). She is head of the Photography Department at the Glassell School, MFAH where she has taught for the past 30 years. Blakemore is represented by Inman Gallery, Houston TX.
HX8 [Houston Times Eight], 2012, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston TX
Image courtesy of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Michael Stravato
2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts: Forrest Prince
For more than 40 years, Houston artist Forrest Prince (b. 1935) has created some of the region’s most compelling, religious-inspired artwork. His sculpture, assemblages, and installations, in the shape of hearts, crosses and text, reflect his spirituality and ardent commitment to a life of compassion, as well as explore his strong feelings about food consumption and government corruption. Unlike many other artists who are interested primarily in self-expression, Prince is didactic in his art. He means first and foremost, to get a message across. He is perhaps best known for his mirrored mosaic wall sculptures, a material the artist uses to highlight the importance of self-reflection. Working with no formal art education, Prince is an exquisitely skilled craftsman whose artwork not only embodies a unique aesthetic that is both traditional and contemporary, but also reflects a powerful and engaging sense of peace and beauty.
“If the work you are doing is not contributing to peace on earth and the health and welfare of all the creatures who reside here, you are wasting your life and everyone’s time.” – Forrest Prince
Born is 1935 in Houston’s East End, Forrest Prince began living on the streets around Navigation Blvd and Wayside Drive when he was thirteen. He joined the Marines when he turned 17 and was honorably discharged three years later. After a troubled early life of drug and sex addiction, crime, jail, and multiple suicide attempts, Prince found art and God at about the same time in 1969. His spiritual conversion came when he was lying on a bathroom floor with blood running from holes in his arms and legs and a needle full of amphetamines stuck in the back of one leg. He couldn’t find a vein.
In the more than four decades since then, Prince has led an ascetic life of service. His religious beliefs are based on the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed to be the earliest form of the Bible. Considering his body to be a temple to God, the artist stopped eating meat or any other cooked food, and began fasting on Sundays. Although his beliefs take the form of fundamentalism, he doesn’t proselytize as some fundamentalist do. He applies his rules only to himself. He is an artist with a true sense of humility and without false pride.
“Forrest has been fearless in the issues that he tackles in his work. He has been living at the edge of our culture in every sense, financially, spiritually, and this has allowed him to see the truth. He has never compromised. Looking at his work, we not only see ourselves, but we also see our own truths. The work is challenging on every level.” – Susie Kalil, Independent Art Critic and Curator
Prince’s trials in overcoming addiction, as well as his life of sobriety, self-imposed poverty, and compassion for people in dire need has helped inform his practice and give him the knowledge and the inner strength to make authentically spiritual works of art. One of the first people to recognize his artistic talent and introduce him to local gallery owners was George Feurmann, a local historian and the editor for the Houston Post from 1971 to 1983. Feurmann and Prince connected over some old City of Houston tax rolls that the artist found while looking for stuff to make art. When Prince was in trouble, Feurmann gave him a place to stay in the country to get clean, and work on his art.
In 1976, Prince was offered his first solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston by the Museum’s then Director Jim Harithas. Since then he has participated in solo shows at The Station Museum (2013) and DiverseWorks (1991), as well as many group exhibitions in museums and galleries including The Art Car Museum (2014, 2010, 2007, 2001), Zoya Tommy Contemporary (2012), The Station Museum (2010, 2005), Lawndale Art Center (The Big Show: 2008, 2007, 2004, 1995, 1994), The Menil Collection (2005), San Antonio Museum of Fine Arts (1991), DiverseWorks (1987), Hooks-Epstein Gallery (1989), Midtown Art Center (1983), and the Lawndale Annex (1982). His work is in the permanent collections of the University of Houston and the Menil Collection. In 1983, Prince established the Praise God Foundation with a friend to help care for people who live in nursing homes and health-care centers around the city. He donates the income made from his artwork, and any other donations he can find, to the Praise God Foundation.
Image courtesy of the Office of Mayor Annise Parker
2015 Texas Patron of the Year: Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston
For 17 years as a City Council Member, Controller, and now Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker (b. 1956) has been an avid supporter of the arts. As a Council Member she shepherded a civic art ordinance that sets aside 1.75% of qualifying capital improvement projects. She introduced and passed an ordinance to use the Hotel Occupancy Tax to provide an unprecedented amount of funding-up to $86 million over 5 years -for arts and cultural organizations and programming.
Working with her Office of Cultural Affairs, Mayor Parker has launched a large public engagement and planning process to develop a vision as well as goals and objectives for the future of the arts and culture in Houston. Additionally, Mayor Parker nominated “Cultural Districts,” representing Houston’s Museum District, Theater District, Midtown Arts District and others, which have successfully been designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Through the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Mayor has introduced economic tools to help further the enhancement of cultural institutions including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In partnership with the Houston Arts Alliance, new civic artworks have been commissioned, purchased or are underway. And Mayor Parker is a poet and writer herself; in 2013, she named Houston’s first poet laureate.
“As the most diverse city in the nation, Houston is rich with culture,” said Mayor Parker. “As Mayor I’ve made it a priority to nurture our arts and culture with funding and public policy decisions that recognize their importance to our community. They are part of the quality of life amenities that make Houston one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.”
Parker was born in Houston and grew up in the community of Spring Branch, where she attended public schools. Her mother was a bookkeeper, and her adoptive father worked for the Red Cross. In 1971, when Parker was 15, her family moved to a U.S. Army post in Mannheim, Germany for two years. In Germany, she volunteered in the Red Cross youth service organization and worked at the post library. Parker began attending Rice University on a National Merit scholarship in 1974, working several jobs to pay for her room and board.
A member of Rice University’s Jones College, she graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology. Parker is Houston’s second female mayor (after Kathy Whitmire), and one of the first openly gay mayors of a major U.S. city. Parker and her wife Kathy Hubbard have been together for more than 23 years and are advocates for adoption, with three daughters and a son.
As the 2015 Texas Artist of the Year, Amy Blakemore will be featured in an exhibition in the Art League Houston Main Gallery from September 25 – November 7, 2015. Art League Houston will also present an exhibition in the Art League Houston Front Gallery featuring a survey of works by 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Forrest Prince. All three awardees will be celebrated at the annual gala, which will be held in their honor on Friday, October 16.
For ticket and table purchase information please contact Jill Nepomnick at Art League Houston, 713 523 9530.