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2017 Neddy Artist Awards Finalists Announced

SEATTLE – From a veteran painter of nearly 50 years to a multimedia artist only six years out of college, all of the 2017 Neddy Artist Awards finalists have this in common: Their art is a vessel for illumination of, and connection with, their diverse communities.

Since 2011, Cornish College of the Arts has stewarded the Neddy Artist Awards, started in 1996 as a tribute to the life and work of Ned Behnke. Each year in September, two $25,000 unrestricted awards are given — one in painting and one in any medium or combination of media grounded in the visual arts — to artists living and working in the greater Puget Sound region. Six finalists receive $1,500.

This year’s Painting finalists are:

  • Christopher Jordan of Tacoma, Washington, who integrates social media, public art, and community organizing to address the experience of black Americans;
  • Barbara Sternberger of Bellingham, Washington, a longstanding oil painter who recently reversed her color sequence by using handheld oil paints;
  • Gillian Theobald of Seattle, Washington, who couples a defined set of thematic parameters with a sensuous palette to inspire the viewer's imagination;
  • Tuan Nguyen of Seattle, Washington, who brings visibility to the marginalized by deconstructing and reassembling the elements of painting and drawing to represent disruption and transformation.

This year’s Open Medium finalists are:

  • Gretchen Bennett of Seattle, Washington, who uses found objects and other medium to render larger histories into observable truthful stories;
  • Marita Dingus of Renton, Washington, who creates large mixed media figurative sculptures by through sewing, weaving, wire twisting, and binding recovered materials;
  • Dakota Gearhart of Seattle, Washington, whose work in photography, video, and installation reflect upon nature and culture through staged fantasy;
  • Che Sehyun of Bellevue, Washington, founder of a community movement to honor our diverse elders and ancestors in the modern context.

The finalists were selected by a jury of three: gallery director/curator Stephanie Snyder (Portland, Oregon); artist representative and longtime local gallery owner Francine Seders (Seattle); and painter / publisher Matthew Offenbacher (Seattle).

More About Finalists in Painting

Christopher Jordan co-directs the arts organization/drop-in center Fab 5, which empowers young people as creative leaders. In 2017, his solo exhibition “Latent Home” was displayed at University of Puget Sound; and he had an invitational artist residency at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. Jordan recently received an Olympic Park Summer Project Commission for Seattle Art Museum. He studied at the Tacoma School of the Arts and Pacific Lutheran University.

After 40 years as a dedicated oil painter, Barbara Sternberger has shifted into a creation process of “here-and-now” that led her to create handheld oil paints. Sternberger received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and was a lecturer for more than 20 years in Western Washington University’s Art Department. Her work has been in exhibitions throughout the Northwest and is in the collection of Whatcom Museum of Art in Bellingham, Washington.

Gillian Theobald has kept to a seven-days-a-week studio practice for almost 50 years. Following many years in Southern California, she moved to Seattle in 1991. Since then, she has been a part of growing studio scene in Georgetown. She earned her Masters of Art in 1971 at the San Diego State University, and has had solo exhibitions in Seattle, Los Angeles, and London.

In a simultaneous act of negation and affirmation, many of Vietnamese-American artist Tuan Nguyen’s works represent disruption, displacement, and transformation. Nguyen’s art has appeared locally at TKBuilding, V2, and Soil Gallery, and he has exhibited nationally in Los Angeles, California; New York, New York; and St. Louis, Missouri. Nguyen received his MFA from the University of Washington in 1999.

More About Finalists in Open Medium

Gretchen Bennett’s work has been featured in the Seattle Art Museum video gallery and exhibitions. Bennett has been a guest lecturer at Seattle University, Rutgers University MGSA, and Cornish College of the Arts. She received her MFA at Rutgers University in 2001.

African-American environmental artist Marita Dingus’ recent exhibitions include Hanging From The Rafters at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, The Girls – Remembrance to the 200 Kidnapped Nigerian Girls at the Traver Gallery in Seattle, Marita Dingus: Race & Pedagogy Conference at the University Puget Sound in Tacoma, and Marita Dingus – Fashion Free For All at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle. Dingus has a BFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and an MFA from San Jose State University.

Dakota Gearhart is currently shooting a comprehensive video series for an exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York. The series is focused on decaying marine reefs in urban areas such as Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Key West. Other upcoming projects including exhibitions at the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Gearhart received an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Washington in 2013.

Che Sehyun graduated from the University of Washington in 2011 with a BA/BS in English/ Physiology & Comparative History of Ideas. A self-taught musician, photographer, and filmmaker, she has created the the G’ma Project, a community movement to honor our diverse elders and ancestors in the modern context.

More About Jurors

Stephanie Snyder is the Anne and John Hauberg Director and Curator of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College. Snyder is the curator of numerous exhibitions, including: Sacha Yanow, Cherie Dre (2016); Wynne Greenwood: Kelly, at the New Museum, NY (co-curated with Johanna Burton and Sara O’Keeffe, 2015); and Supports/Surfaces (co-curated with Wallace Whitney, 2014). Snyder has received both the Getty Foundation Curatorial Research Fellowship (2008) and was a Fellow in the Getty’s Museum Leadership Institute (2014).

For nearly 50 years, Francine Seders ran one of Seattle’s most important galleries. Among many others, Seders has represented Northwest masters Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson, Michael Spafford, and Jacob Lawrence, one of the 20th century’s most important painters known for his depictions of African-American life.

Matthew Offenbacher’s work has been called vulnerable, funny and queer. An Oregon native turned Washington resident, Offenbacher runs a press which publishes ‘zines and books by Northwest artists. He is a past recipient of the Neddy Artist Award (2013). His essays include Green Gothic (2009), a landmark in Pacific Northwest art history. Recent exhibitions and projects include American Painting Today (V2), The Lion Side of Under the Porch (INCA), The V&A (Veronica), and Deed of Gift (Seattle Art Museum).

About Ned Behnke

The Neddy Artist Awards honor the legacy of Seattle painter and teacher Ned Behnke (1948-1989). Ned was the son of Robert and Sally Skinner Behnke. Deaf from birth, Ned Behnke expressed himself in the visual arts from an early age. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Central Washington University, and his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, Painting, from the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He lived and worked in Seattle, where he taught art to hearing-impaired students at Cornish College of the Arts and other institutions.

During his life, Ned Behnke received many national arts awards including a major public art commission by the King County Arts Commission for the Seattle Hearing and Deafness Center. He exhibited his art widely and was represented by Foster/White Gallery in Seattle. Ned Behnke died in 1989.

His legacy is in evidence throughout our community through the generous philanthropy of the Behnke family. The Northwest AIDS Foundation (now the LIFELONG AIDS Alliance) created the Ned Behnke Leadership Award in 1993. The Ned Behnke Preschool, Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center was founded in 2007 with an emphasis on speech, language, and literacy development.