Winners of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's New Media/New Century Award Announced
Landscape has been a touchstone of American art for over two hundred years. Early painters found inspiration in natural wonders; Hudson River School artists transformed landscape into a national icon; and exploration artists portrayed wilderness as a land of opportunity. When photography was invented in 1839, this new medium revolutionized the way we knew and understood the landscape. Today, new media is again transforming the way artists look at the land, as technology encourages new collaborations, image manipulations, and interactions with audiences. Acknowledging these changes, the Smithsonian American Art Museum commissioned new online projects through the New Media/New Century Award.
New technology artists Cindy Bernard, Russet Lederman and Patrick Lichty are winners of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's New Media/New Century Award to create art for the Web. Their work will be posted on Helios, the museum's online American photography center, through its award-winning Web site, AmericanArt.si.edu, in early 2001.
"We are thrilled to award this prize to three outstanding artists," said Elizabeth Broun, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "Remaining on the cutting edge where art meets technology has always been one of our top priorities. We continue to promote the infusion of technology into the art world by granting these New Media/New Century Awards."
Richmond, Va.-based Dominion, one of the nation's largest energy companies, makes the New Media/New Century award possible as part of an ongoing partnership with the museum. The partnership is dedicated to supporting photography that examines the American landscape and, in this case, projects that bring new insight to the subject of landscape as online art works. The award grants each artist $4,000 to create his or her proposed project.
Bernard, of San Pedro, Calif., is collaborating with sound artist Joseph Hammer of Los Angeles, Calif. Visual and aural information will be used to conjure iconic landscapes found in cinema. Bernard has exhibited her work internationally, and her future plans include a piece for the Los Angeles public transit system, also in collaboration with Hammer.
According to Bernard, "The New Media/New Century Award is the first grant I have received for Web-based work. I am pleased and excited to have the opportunity to take my exploration of landscape, cinema and memory to the Web."
Lederman is creating a collage of stories collected from various individuals about their memories of, inspirations from and attachments to particular locations, using the programs Flash and Shockwave. The piece will communicate personal, as well as eclectic views of American landscape. Lederman is the principal of Russet Lederman Productions, an artistic design company that creates interactive media for CD-ROMs and Web sites. She currently teaches at the Pratt Institute of Art in New York.
"I am very honored to receive this award, as it will allow me the means of pursuing an ongoing personal and creative exploration of oral histories," said Lederman. "Within my work, the technical tools of the Web and the new media are not the main focusthey are simply a very powerful and broad reaching vehicle for communicating with a larger audience."
Lichty's project brings together online panoramic photography, streaming audio and video and annotated texts to construct a story of the 1990s urban sprawl in his hometown of North Canton, Ohio. A technological artist for nearly two decades, he has worked with a variety of media.
"As an artist and independent curator, it is good to see institutions like the Smithsonian American Art Museum recognizing technological media," said Lichty. " It is an indication that digital culture has permeated our society at a very deep level. Artistic expression through electronic media represents the impact that online technologies have had on the Western world."
Jurors for the award were Steve Dietz, director of New Media Initiatives at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn., and Jim Sheldon, associate professor of New Media at Emerson College in Boston, Mass. The jurors worked with the Smithsonian American Art Museum's senior curator for photography, Merry Forresta.
The grant for this award was made through the Dominion Foundation, which is dedicated to the economic, physical and social health of the communities served by Dominion companies. For more information about Dominion, contact Dan Donovan, media relations manager, at (412) 690-1370, or visit the company online at www.dom.com.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 38,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk-art objects, and contemporary crafts.
As the museum begins a three-year renovation of its main building, the Old Patent Office, it is continuing a full program of craft exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.). For information about Renwick Gallery activities, call (202) 357-2700. Please visit the museum's Web site at AmericanArt.si.edu.
Pictured above: Gus Foster, Cut Wheat, 1988, 363 degree panoramic photograph, 18 x 86 1/4 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Foundation. This photograph appears in the online exhibit, Between Home and Heaven: Contemporary American Landscape Photography.