Professor of Art Mark Klassen won first prize at the 2018 Wisconsin Artists Biennial for his wooden piece titled "Air Conditioner."
Mark says he was inspired by the 2016 rumors that former Secretary of State John Kerry said that air conditioners were more dangerous than ISIS. At the same time, Wisconsin government was debating the Concealed Carry law. The state has since passed laws in favor of Concealed Carry and allowed establishments to opt-out by posting a notice of refusal for the right to carry concealed weapons via signs. Still, Mark says, there was apparent anxiety around the fact that others could carry a weapon into a facility where he may not have one. Taking the idea further and basing it around climate change, resulted in "Air Conditioner".
"The piece in a subtle way is about anxieties," says Mark.
"Air Conditioner" was selected from a total of 53 works by 46 artists. In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, Mark will have a solo exhibition in two years at the 2020 Wisconsin Artists Biennial.