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Supporting the Fledgling Artist

MFA student wins $30,000 Edes Prize for Emerging Artists

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February 21, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Cameron Crawford

Cameron Crawford (left) creates large-scale sculptures and installations. Credit: Doug vanderHoof

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Establishing a career as a visual artist is rarely easy. But for Northwestern University student and sculptor Cameron Crawford, the transition from art student to artist will be easier than he expected.

That’s because Crawford, who will earn his master of fine arts degree (MFA) in June, is a recipient of the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. The $30,000 prize, designed to kick start the careers of fledgling artists, is awarded to one student from Northwestern, DePaul University, the School of the Art Institute and the University of Chicago.

“Something like the Edes Prize can make a huge, career-altering difference for an artist,” says Steve Reinke, a Northwestern associate professor of art theory and practice who knows Crawford and his work well. “I know of no other similar awards.”

“The prize means a great deal to me,” says Crawford, who creates large-scale sculptures and installations. He’ll use proceeds from the prize to secure studio space and buy the tools and raw the materials he requires for his sculptures. “In the past, I’ve had to make decisions based on restraints and limited resources,” he says. “The Edes Prize will allow me to make the best work that I can.”

After graduation, Crawford plans to move to New York, where he will continue making his large-scale sculptures and installations. A recent work, titled “Sick Sic Six Sic ((Not) Moving),” is a room-sized installation of six pieces made of reinforced concrete, plastic, wood and silicone that was exhibited at Chicago’s New Capital warehouse gallery.

One review called it “a labor-intensive world of abstracted forms…arrayed in shades of gray, silver and white.” Modern Painters, a national publication, described it as “what might be called a laboratory bed, an architectural sconce and a flower stand -- all made of reinforced concrete -- accompanied by prim linens and decorative curtains eerily handcrafted out of the most non-curtain of materials -- silicone, eye shadow and monofilament.”

“Cameron’s work is not easy work,” says Reinke. “It has its own language and its own logic, and asks a lot of its viewers. Initially it can seem opaque or difficult, but his work has a force that comes from absolute conviction and, though it has influences, it is very much his own.”

Crawford, who earned his bachelor’s of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has worked as a freelance art handler in Chicago, St. Louis, Miami and Dubai. For three years, he ran Brown Triangle, a non-commercial Chicago exhibition space.

He “was shocked, excited and more than a little bit terrified,” on learning he’d won the prize. “When someone says ‘yes’ to me, I’m always overcome by the feeling I have to live up to that,” he says. “But as far as problems go, it’s the best problem I’ve ever had.”

Nik Edes, whose parents Clare and Samuel Edes were longtime Chicago residents and passionate supporters of the arts, created the Edes Prize specifically to help artists at the very beginning of their careers. “In a society that doesn’t sustain many artists, the Edes Prize is a wonderful concept,” says Reinke. “I have no doubt that Cameron will make his mark.”