Near Zilker Park sits the iconic Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, a tranquil space dedicated to exhibiting Charles Umlauf’s dramatic bronze and stone pieces that combine themes of family, religion, beauty and Austin itself. While this charming piece of the city maintains a sense of old, historical Austin, Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum also embraces contemporary art.
The Umlauf Prize is one of the ways this local institution fosters the creation of artwork that is reminiscent of the thoughtfulness and skill that Umlauf employed. The idea for the prize originated in 2005 when former Umlauf Board Member Damian Priour and his wife, Paula, wanted to develop a way for the nonprofit organization to encourage new artists.
As Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum Executive Director Nina Seely explained in a press release, “The Umlauf Prize represents the future of emerging artists in our community and their work honors the legacy of Charles Umlauf.”
It’s only fitting that those who receive the award are graduate students at The University of Texas, since Umlauf taught fine art there for a total of 40 years. His career culminated in becoming Professor Emeritus (an honorary title gained at retirement to mark distinguished service) in 1981.
This Year’s Umlauf Prize Recipient
Umlauf Prize juror Don Bacigalupi selected this year’s winner after visiting several artist studios at The University of Texas. He picked Elizabeth McClellan who created new work for this special exhibition. McClellan chose to weave together stories, installation elements and performances to form a concept called EchindaLabs.
Brochures, videos and interactions with actual “test subjects” will draw visitors into EnchindaLabs, where genetic modification has reached intriguingly unsettling heights. Guests of the installation can ponder the possibilities and ethics of how we will use science in humanity’s near future.
Like Umlauf’s work, McClellan uses the delicate curves of the human form to develop striking work. She has even created a website to encourage the smudging of imaginative art into reality. McClellan explains in her artist statement, “I use EchindaLabs as a container to explore questions around the possibilities of shaping ourselves and the paradox of being simultaneously cell and universe. The balance between what we are and what we want to be will determine how much we can change ourselves, which begs the questions–how do we know what we are to begin with?”
This Year’s Exhibition
Since 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, the organizations has decided to celebrate by putting together a show of new work by past Umlauf Prize winners. The honored artists include Gracelee Lawrence and Ryan Hawk, Adam Crosson, Stephanie Wagner, Katalin Hausel, Mark Schatz, and Holly Fischer.
The opening of the Umlauf Prize exhibition (including the not-to-be-missed EchindaLabs performance) will take place on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The event is free for the public.
If you’re not able to attend opening night, the show will be up until Jan. 29, 2017. The work will mainly reside in the gallery, but several pieces will be installed in the gardens, as well.
@MadameKLM wants to know:
When was the last time you visited Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum?