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Women in the Arts Awards

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Kathy Richland Pick and Tricia Moreau Sweeney

The Illinois State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (ILNMWA) presented the 4th Annual Grants Exhibition & Silent Auction: Photography on Thursday, October 5th. This year’s winners were Kathy Richland Pick and Tricia Moreau Sweeney. Both winners received a $500 grant. Karen Irvine, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, was the juror.

Michal Russo, ILNMWA board member and graduate student in the Arts Administration and Policy program at the School of the Art Institute, helped develop the event. “It is up to the state to form the committee,” she says. “Every year, the committee picks the theme and the medium. Then, a call for entries is sent out.” The Illinois committee had asked Russo to join the board in an attempt “to reach a younger population.” The committee felt Russo could focus on reaching “cutting-edge” artists all over Illinois.

Pick, who was a photographer for the Chicago Reader for 35 years, exhibited Powerful Women. Her digital inkjet prints appeared to depict women, but upon closer examination, the subjects’ gender becomes ambiguous, an idea she developed through her relationships with a cross-dresser and a transsexual who were best friends. Intrigued by this relationship, she examined the question, “What does it mean to be female? What do we view as female, and what do we view as feminine?”

Sweeney’s exhibition, Public Displays of Affection, also examined gender ambiguity. “When play fighting,” she says, “male and female bodies mesh together, but one cannot tell who is who.” When Sweeney first moved to Chicago, she took note of its public spaces, which she found vastly different from Houston. She noticed the closeness and play fighting of couples, friends, lovers, and siblings. Their actions were both a little bit posed and candid.

According to gapersblock.com , a news site that considers its self “an antidote to all those sites infatuated with the coasts,” there is in Sweeney’s work, “order to the environment and disorder in the actions. Affection is in the form of play fighting…an ambiguous form of aggression that gives people an excuse to be physically close without the usual expectations.” Sweeney’s next project will focus on portraits of couples, framed within a specific environment. She will continue to examine public spaces and new people.

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