2023 Recipients

Please view the work of the 2023 Recipients on The Center Gallery website.

Nathan Bieneman - BFA Photography

The Dawi Opera Project
My foremost goal at the outset of this project was to collaborate with Dawi to create a faithful and honest rendition of his story -- to investigate his journey as an artist and his ambition to leave a legacy behind for his children. Immediately upon meeting him, I was fascinated by Dawi's story: an outsider artist in his 70s who sells his art and poetry at the Maxwell street market, who has yet to reach a large audience, and still strives to have his voice heard and understood.

As we began working together, it became clear to me that a big part of this story was Dawi's journey of overcoming addiction. It is one of the major themes within his body of work, and one of the aspects of his story with which I had a small glimpse of personal connection and understanding. This extended teaser merely hints at the concept of overcoming addiction, but this is a point I intend to explore in depth as the two of us continue to collaborate.

Another point of this story that I had personal connection with was that of an artist who holds on to dreams of attaining major success and acceptance. This piece is intended for those who find inspiration in the story of a man who, after 50 years of practicing his craft, remains resolute in his journey to gain recognition as an artist.

Charlotte Briskin - BFA Fine Art

Babula is a deconstructed and reimagined veil that floats down from the ceiling, breathes in the wind, and dances in the light. An illuminated tunnel that provides a safe passageway between this world and the next. Babula represents the sensed but unseen border between the material world and the spiritual world. The structure is constructed with chiffon fabric that has been torn apart and embroidered back together with thick labored stitches. Babula is an endearing term for Grandmother in Yiddish. This installation was inspired by my late Grandmothers. Babula visualizes and vivifies our intimate yet invisible relationship we have with the spiritual world. Walk through Babula, gently touch the fabric, and interact within the space as your presence creates a unique and temporary pattern of light and shadow.

Callie Clark-Wiren - MFA Art and Art History

At the founding of our nation, the Northern colonies made a compromise with the Southern colonies in order to have the forces necessary to defeat the British. This compromise (def1) was also a compromise (def2) of values that left our nation with a legacy of enslavement. Even after emancipation, a legacy of systemic racism continues, and that original moral divide continues to feed the ideologies of our two party political system.Through the spectacle of light and scale, Compromise lures the viewer into a longer consideration of the word and its implications. The aim is for viewers to identify for themselves the role compromise has within our history, the fabric of our nation, in our socio-political climate, and our everyday lives.

Mats Dahlberg - Fine Art

PLANTAE, FUNGI, ANIMALIA: A Series of Primordial Spirits
Growing up, the few representations of queer people Mats saw were centered around cities. This implanted the false idea in their young brain that urban metropolises were the only spaces where queer people could exist. Additionally, this notion came with the idea that queerness was something new; something that came about with the advent of skyscrapers and automobiles. It is true that queer people often find safety in the larger communities found in big cities, but as they have grown older, they realized how wrong these ideas are and how much they have held them back. Binaries and hierarchies are fabricated out of fear by small-minded people to control and suppress the unknown and are much newer constructions than queerness. This project recontextualizes the queer body as a series of primordial spirits through adornment in handmade garments and self-transformation through the queer art of drag. The three organisms specifically referenced are the mushroom, the orchid, and the moth. They represent three different kingdoms (queendoms) in scientific taxonomy: Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia and express the vastness of the queer experience. Queerness (although this freedom and fluidity may not have always been called this) is as deep-reaching as the fungal mycelium networks, as powerful as the constant toil of the tectonic plates, and as intricate as the dance of worker bees through the hive.

Ziccy Delamarter - Illustration

My Grotesque Comforts
I am proposing a series of three works exploring self-expression from a non-binary lens titled, My Grotesque Comforts. As someone who is trans and non-binary, my gender and sexuality is not easily defined. By society’s standards, I am characterized by my physical form. My body is examined and judged to be put into easily definable categories. But I am not my body. I am the accumulation of emotions and experiences I have gathered in my lifetime. I am a thing traveling in this physical form. Much like the grotesque vermin I find in alleyways, my body will be forgotten, left to decay, and returned to the ground; I find comfort in this truth.

Laura Hawbaker - MFA Creative Writing

MASKS Literary Magazine
In 2020, the Columbia College Library hosted a small exhibit, MASKS. Framed sketches hung in an empty gallery space on walls that nobody could see... because everyone was quarantining at home. The newsprint zine from that exhibit included drawings and stories inspired by the world we were living in and the masks we wear—both physical and metaphorical. Now, just three years later, MASKS Literary Magazine has expanded from that exhibit and zine to an award-winning publication featuring contributors from all over the world, including Brazil, England, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. MASKS is a massive undertaking and team effort. For our fourth issue, our editorial team of 12 sifted through 1,500 submissions of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, and photography. We put in over 8 months of collaborative work: communicating with every submitter, choosing final acceptances, editing, and laying out the design of our issues. Our mission is three-fold: (1) to increase pay equity in the arts by paying every contributor for their work; (2) to increase the voices of the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, disabled, and multilingual creative communities; and (3) we value the print format as an art form, and as such we offer issues both online and in print.

Jessica Hays - MFA Photography

Low Water
Drought stricken rivers, lakes, and reservoirs are becoming increasingly common throughout the world in the face of climate change. To visitors, evidence of drought can appear like a rocky shoreline or extended beach rather than a visual signal of something amiss. In this work, the area between the typical waterline and the lower drought level is altered, making the difference unambiguous. What is meant to be underwater is instead exposed, vulnerable to mutation, and in these images becomes an unmistakable marker for drought conditions. These altered pieces are installed in combination with unaltered photographs and text describing instances of being overcome by climate grief. Chromoskedasic sabbatier is used as a method of emphasizing a discordance caused by drought in these otherwise stunning landscapes. The deep oranges and reds of the process obliquely reference petrochemical contributors to drought as well as implying blood or a wound. The work is an ongoing place-based investigation into the ways in which environment impacts psyche and vice versa.

Hilary Johnson - MFA Photography

The Veil is Thin, There is No Veil
The Veil is Thin, There is No Veil combines video, photographs, and physical materials to create an immersive installation experience in which the viewer is invited to explore their own experience of witnessing the embodiment of self. Through careful use of material as metaphor, the passage of time, the energetics of place, the presence of the body, the installation explores our multi-layered existence to reflect, enhance and support our sense of belonging in a world of persistent and challenging change. I hope the viewing experience may plant seeds of empathy and foster increases in compassion for self and others for viewers whose busy lives may only infrequently offer such contemplations.

Young Kim - MFA Art and Art History

Shall We Go to The Happy Land?

Shall We Go to The Happy Land? is an immersive installation consisting of door-like structures called Nirvana Gates and a performance that materializes a sanctuary where audiences experience comfort, serenity, transcendence, hope, or a moment of respite. In this installation, soothing-yellow-lighting illuminates Nirvana Gates, which frame yellow mulberry paper embellished with the Heart Sutra text, the most recited and read scripture in Mahayana Buddhism. The Buddhist scripture highlights performing compassion and wisdom to people. During the performance, I sing Let's Go To The Happy Land – a song by Han Dae-soo, the master of folk rock in South Korea – walking through Nirvana Gates that lead viewers to pass across the gates, finding their hope to live in sabba, the suffering world.

Kaitlyn Krueger - Photography

Entitlement is a critique of the prevalence of sexual aggression towards women, AFAB, and feminine-presenting people within the United States. Photographic portraits of these individuals and their living spaces are covered in a layer of wax and red paint. The final presentation of this project is a viewer-led interactive piece, where viewers are allowed to scratch off the cover with a variety of tools, revealing the portrait underneath. The act of the viewer and the artifact leftover serve as a visualization of the everyday violation and entitlement to women’s bodies. This body of work is about subverting the concept of a portrait, which is often about inviting the viewer into the subject’s life. Within this context, the viewer has to make the decision to intrude on the subject’s space and violate their safety. The artifacts remain as a sculptural memory of the violence done to the subjects. 

Jacob Soto - Cinema Television Arts

For Us

A sub-subculture is how I would describe the existence of my friends and I as queer people. Mainstream queer culture is depicted through the lens of cis white gay men. Even in spaces designed for us, they take control of the narrative. However, the community is more than that, it is intersectional, and each of us has a unique story that has formed the person we are today. This film documents the experiences, desires, fears, anger, insecurities, and joy that queer people have, living in a world designed to suppress them. Through a series of intimate interviews, day-in-the-life footage, personal photos, and artwork this documentary explores the intersecting issues and identities of young queer POC artists, activists, and community members born & raised in Chicago. The film takes inspiration from New Queer Cinema filmmakers such as Gregg Araki, Cheryl Dunye, Jennie Livingston, and Marlon Riggs. Their work showcased the stories of underrepresented queer people at a time when it wasn't as socially acceptable, pushing the envelope forward for queer visibility. My work is centered on the stories of underrepresented people as I believe our stories have yet to be told in the landscape of American cinema.

Sebastian Splinter - Audio Arts and Acoustics

LEJANOS is written and directed specifically to tackle the issue of Migrant work in Canada, often considered to be a much nicer and safer place to work than in the United States. This perspective is false, and this short is meant to depict a fictionalized but still very real story surrounding the problems faced by particularly Latin-American workers in Canada. My contribution to the project will be the music, which aids to dramatize the narrative, to help the audience connect on an emotional level to the problems faced by Migrant workers, while relating them to their homelands through instrumental references, depicting the nostalgia for one's culture, and accentuating the reality that they are hardly welcome in Canada, and that home is very far away.