SIDNEY – Maureen O’Keefe, of Sidney, hopes lots of people vote for her artwork in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before Oct. 3.
The painter has entered a piece titled, “We Are the Sacristans,” in ArtPrize, an exhibit comprising some 900 artworks by artists from throughout the world.
According to the show’s website, “ArtPrize is an open, independently organized, international art competition … It celebrates artists working in all mediums from anywhere in the world and is open to any creative with an artwork to enter and a venue willing to host it.
“For 18 days, art is exhibited throughout the city in public parks and museums, in galleries and vacant storefronts, in bars and on bridges. ArtPrize awards $450,000 directly to artists through grants to support their ambitious work and through prizes which the public decides through the ArtPrize website.”
The top prize, based on viewer votes, is $50,000.
“Artists sign up, and venues sign up,” O’Keefe said recently. “The venues act as curators. People running the venues make choices” about which pieces to exhibit. “This year, there were 1,700 artworks looking for venues and 900 venues.”
The exhibit is free to viewers, who can scan QR codes for the works they wish to vote for. Venues are open daily through Oct. 3, and votes can be recorded on an ArtPrize app from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
O’Keefe’s painting comprises seven panels, each 4 feet by 4 feet, exhibited in the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, 1530 Madison Ave. S.E. Each panel contains a portrait, in acrylic, and a mirror image of the portrait. The paintings are loosely based on the seven sacraments of Catholicism.
“It was a piece I was already sort of processing for a show I’ll have in Dayton in 2022. I grew up Catholic, but I’m not practicing now. But the sacraments fall in times of your life that are transitional. I miss being able to mark those moments officially,” O’Keefe said. Her panels helped to fill that void.
“The center one is my grandmother. That panel is a good example of the concept. She lived with us for 10 years and died in Mom’s house. We were the caretakers. Each panel has its own meaning,” she said.
Hers is one of 23 artworks on display in the center. Amanda Jones, community engagement coordinator at the center, selected them. She included O’Keefe’s because “it shows the raw side of life and religion. It touches on a topic that isn’t always comfortable for women specifically to speak on,” she said in an email.
“My work investigates identities, labels, personas and belonging. The portrait and the figure are tools for this exploration of the tension between our perception of ourselves and how we are seen by others,” O’Keefee wrote in her artist’s statement accompanying the “Sacristans” painting.
She uses what’s known as a blind contour drawing process. She works from photographs but draws the artwork without lifting her pencil from the paper, in one continuous line, and without looking at it as she draws it. Then she applies paint. The result is a fluidity of color and composition that portrays – and evokes – feelings more than realistic likenesses of her subjects.
“I’ve been doing a lot of manipulation in terms of mirroring my images,” she told the Sidney Daily News. “I treated each panel as its own painting. I had the color scheme in my mind, so it’s very cohesive.” Because she worked on two or three panels at the same time, each one influenced the others.
She’s hoping that her work will attract enough votes to garner a prize. In addition to the top prize, a $10,000 prize is awarded to the highest vote-getter in each of four categories.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” she said. “I just want people to go see it and hope they vote for me.”
O’Keefe had entered work in the 2016 competition. She has recognized the effect the annual event has had on Grand Rapids residents, aside from the economic impact resulting from half a million people’s converging on the city during the three-week show.
“I was able to talk to people who were really engaged, common people who don’t have an art background. ArtPrize has trained them to think deeply about art. It was exciting. I loved it,” she said.
The artist advises that people who plan to attend should take masks. There is still a pandemic going on, she noted, and there will be crowds. She added that “you can’t see everything in one day.
“And go to my venue. It’s a little out of the way,” she said.
For information about ArtPrize, visit artprize.org.
The writer is a contributor to the Sidney Daily News.