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Good picks for Seattle artist innovator’s award

Last September, Artist Trust announced the finalists for its new Arts Innovator Award, which delivers $25,000 to two Washington State artists each year, the first three years funded by Dale and Leslie Chihuly. Early in October, the Artist Trust panel picked its winners: Leo Saul Berk and Margie Livingston

Jen Graves decried these choices, calling them “devastatingly conservative.” I’m tempted to say that by her reasoning, the fascinating people at parties are the ones who wear lamp shades and dance on tables, but I want to take the question of innovation more seriously.
Yes, neither Berk nor Livingston is Bruce Nauman. Neither has redrawn the map of contemporary art practice. But doing so is not any artist’s job. Impact is determined by others, by their own dim or bright lights. Collectively, based on a necessarily incomplete idea of who’s out there doing what, art history is made and remade. 
What artist choose is the arena of their engagement. Innovators are those who make their visual thinking tangible and extend it, each piece a part of an internal symposium brought to light. In a consumer culture, where the new is not a shock but an economic imperative, the most innovative act might be steadfast loyalty to the depths and nuances of a single point of view.

Leo Saul Berk Spider Hole, detail, at Lawrimore Project

leosaulberkspider.jpgMargie Livingston at Greg Kucera

margielivinghands.jpgCongratulations to both artists, the Chihulys for their generosity to other artists, and to Artist Trust.

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