Arts Council of New Orleans Sends Artist Alex Podesta to ArtPrize

  Local Artist’s Waterborne Installation Exhibiting at Internationally Renowned Competition

The Arts Council of New Orleans has selected local artist Alex Podesta to represent the city’s burgeoning art scene at the independently organized international art competition, ArtPrize, in Grand Rapids, MI.  The exhibition begins September 21 and continues for 19 days throughout three square miles of the downtown area.   

This marks the first year a curator outside the region was invited by ArtPrize organizers to select art for the event, a sign that the creative point-of-view of the Arts Council of New Orleans and dynamic energy of the local arts scene is taking a prominent seat in the national arts arena and New Orleans artists are on the radar like never before.

Awarded the designation of City Parks Curator for the Grand River site, the Arts Council selected Podesta’s proposal for a waterborne installation from approximately 25 entries. The piece falls in the “Installation” category — entries that are dependent on the site in which they are installed.

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“Podesta’s Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers), was ultimately chosen for the ArtPrize competition because it embodies the spirit of the work that we are seeing in New Orleans right now and it is tailored perfectly for the location of the Grand River,” said Arts Council President and Chief Executive Officer Kim Cook.

 The floating sculpture consists of two figures with Podesta’s face and rabbit bodies facing each other and separated by approximately four feet. Only their shoulders, heads and ears are visible above the waterline.  Depending on the movement of the water and wind, the figures appear slightly animated.

Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers) is the latest iteration of an ongoing series of sculptural, self-portrait, bunny/man chimera,” said Podesta. “Pieces in this series always have two or more of these figures interacting in a variety of ways. This particular piece has its conceptual basis in an earlier piece from this series, City Watch, a piece of public sculpture commissioned by the Arts Council of New Orleans and the Joan Mitchell Foundation.”

Podesta loosely based his City Watch piece on Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, and it was originally intended to be floating in Bayou St. John in New Orleans, a positioning that was meant to be a simultaneously humorous and somber reflection on the flooding and isolation experienced by so many of during Hurricane Katrina.

“Eventually, snowballing red tape led to City Watch being installed on a rooftop opposite Orleans Parish Prison instead of in its originally intended location,” said Podesta.  “As I continued to mull the idea over, it became clear that there was a quiet, meditative ennui to two of these figures floating in a body of water and that it worked well, possibly even better, without being embroiled in the disaster of Katrina. When the opportunity to create a waterborne piece for ArtPrize was presented by the Arts Council, I jumped at the opportunity.

 “In this sculpture, the two figures are together but isolated. They face each other but avoid one another’s gaze, looking down instead. They’re uneasy, unsure, ungrounded. And yet they’re also grown bearded bunnymen — an absurd incongruity that forms an insouciant counterpoint to their otherwise melancholic situation.”

 Podesta added that the parenthetical title, The Bathers, is meant to be a cheeky positioning of himself within a particular aspect of the tradition of Western Art wherein great painters seem to always have at least one piece entitled, The Bathers.  To wit: Picasso, Cezanne, Fraggonard, Mattise, et al.

  “The Arts Council of New Orleans is honored to be the first curator from the South – or from anywhere outside the Midwest region — to be extended the opportunity to present,” said Kim Cook, Arts Council president and chief executive officer.  “It shows a genuine regard for our ability to curate high quality, intriguing art and a respect for the work our local artists are producing.”

About ArtPrize:  For 19 days (Sept. 21-Oct. 9), three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, becomes an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up throughout the downtown area, and it is free and open to the public. At ArtPrize, spectators and visitors take an active role as judge and critic, and an unprecedented top prize is determined solely by public vote. In addition to the Public Vote, ArtPrize presents parallel Juried Awards—four $20,000 category awards and one $200,000 Juried Award Grand Prize. The jury also presents an award for Outstanding Venue, given to the curator of a Venue, not a participating Artist. Chosen by internationally acclaimed art experts, the Juried Awards put critical favorites in the spotlight and add to the public conversation about what makes good art. The Juried Awards are decided separate from the Public Vote, and it’s possible for an Entry to win both a Public Vote and Juried Award.  Round One of voting at ArtPrize opens at Noon on September 24th and goes until 11:59 p.m. on October 4th. Anyone can register to vote sign up for an account — however, voters must actually visit ArtPrize to register in person in order to cast ballots.

Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. As a multidisciplinary arts agency, the Arts Council operates in three conceptual areas: People- Community Engagement and the Creative Citizen, Place- Civic Design and the Urban Aesthetic, and Artists- Artistic Excellence and Creative Services. Each area works to advance the Arts Council’s overall mission to nurture creativity and enrich lives through inspiration, connection, transformation, and investment in the New Orleans arts and cultural community.  For more information on the Arts Council of New Orleans, or to join as a member of the organization call: (504) 523-1465 or visit:


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