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About our 2015 Jurors

Meet our Jurors

Ryan Mandell earned a Master’s degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) from Indiana University and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art (Drawing) from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Before joining UW-Milwaukee as Assistant Professor and Area Head of Sculpture in 2013 Ryan taught at the University of North Texas, Pennsylvania State University, and Boise State University. His work, which is informed by research in the fields of architecture and urban planning, has been exhibited extensively across the U.S. and internationally, including past shows in Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Budapest, and Berlin, including a recent solo exhibition with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Baltimore. He is a recent recipient of an Idaho Commission on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts grant, and his work has been recognized by The Chicago Tribune, and Sculpture Magazine.

Frank Trankina received his Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University. Trankina was the first recipient of the prestigious Alexander Rutsch Award in Painting. His work is represented by galleries in Chicago and Tokyo, Japan and has been exhibited internationally and nationally in Cambridge, England, San Diego, Miami, Dallas, New York, Tokyo, and extensively in the Midwest. Trankina’s work is in numerous international and national private collections in Indonesia, Japan, New York and Washington DC as well as others, and is in public permanent museum collections including Rockford Art Museum, Illinois State Museum, Elmhurst College and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Trankina is a Professor of Art and Painting Area Coordinator at Northern Illinois University.

2015 Beloit and Vicinity
Jurors' Statement:

It has been a great honor for us to take part in such a prestigious and long running competition.  We would like to congratulate all of the applicants to the 2015 Beloit and Vicinity Competition. It was a privilege to jury such an impressive and varied collection of works comprised of one hundred and fifty four submissions.  We were very impressed by the overall quality and diversity of the work.  It was quite a challenge to make final selections from such a pool.

Upon reviewing the work, we were stuck by the great range of subject matter and media. Despite being a regional exhibition the submitted work revealed a national, and even international, sensibility in both form and content.  It is a testament to the creative spirit and work being made in the region. Uncovering a theme among such varied work proved difficult, however, there are a couple of common threads.

First, we took note of work which touches on social issues in one way or another and possesses a narrative quality. Examples of this are "The Dance of Life or.. Bunnies Know Best", which conveys an age-old narrative about the human folly of war and destruction in opposition to nature's autonomy and propagation.  Another example is "Black Stripping the Myth" which forcefully confronts the viewer with the conflict between racial stereotyping and personal identity. Additionally, "Portrait of the Westside," with its powerful mug shot image epitomizes contemporary America; profiling, violence, and broken legal systems.

Some narratives are more cinematic in character, and amorphous in meaning. Photos "Golden Slipper" and "Drowning" have film-still qualities, and read as an excerpt of a larger, perhaps more menacing story. "Designer Bag Frames" is an entertaining video which takes a more whimsical approach with its deadpan satire of consumer culture in a performative, faux TV commercial.

In some of the work, the social commentary is yet more abstract and expansive.  Big playful forms and what appear to be legs are chasing the proverbial carrot in "Work Week". Even more oblique is "Passage", with its large ominous figure and fiery background implying both personal and universal metaphors. 

Second, we noticed the strong formal qualities of many of the pieces. In this realm is "Normal Water Dept." a photo  with a clean modern composition and anywhere-small-town-USA content.  Also, "Color Structure, The Initial Taste of Juicy Fruit Sustained" is an intense study of color, overlapping and interlocked rectangles, whose whimsical title reads as a satire of minimalism. The sculpture "Swingset Concept #1 (Half of Something Else)", suggests conceptual and aesthetic concerns of movement, space, the grid, and performative qualities.  We could add many other examples.

While we enjoyed all the work, the awards were chosen based on a combination of criteria, including formal strength, individuality, execution, expression, clarity of concept and presentation.

We would like to give special thanks to Beloit College, James Pearson and Lauren Elizabeth Hartog’16 for their generous help organizing the material, and for inviting us to review such an ambitious and diverse exhibition. 

Ryan Mandell
Assistant Professor, Sculpture Area Head
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Frank Trankina
Professor of Art
Painting Coordinator
Northern Illinois University