The third Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is on the walls. Like the previous iterations of the competition, this installment features many compelling, diverse works which represent the breadth of American portraiture. The winner of the competition’s first prize was Bo Gehring, whose video portrait is the first work in that medium ever to be selected as competition winner.
Still from Jessica Wickham by Bo Gehring
Gehring’s work is a slowly moving, vertical, digital portrait, bottom to top, of his sitter, Jessica Wickham. It is not a tilt, as the camera is not stationary; it is more akin to a video scan. Gehring’s camera moves from below the feet of his subject to beyond the top of her head, equidistant from her body during the entire, seemingly ascendant—seemingly because the subject is laying down—process of the shot.
Dorothy Moss, curator of the competition, said of the work, “Bo Gehring’s portrait of Jessica Wickham was selected unanimously by the jury as the first prize winner. It was exciting to see a panel of informed, opinionated people come together in complete agreement. We were all especially struck by the poignancy of the moment when Wickham self-consciously looks away from the camera revealing the intimate dynamic between artist and subject and implicating us (the viewers) in the process.” For his winning portrait, Gehring will receive a $25,000 prize and a separate commission from the museum to portray a remarkable living American for its permanent collection.
In an earlier interview with NPG, Gehring noted, “I had a good start in college but became disenchanted with engineering and dropped out to become an artist. In spite of believing I would never willingly do anything like engineering again, events quickly conspired to put me into very high-tech computer pursuits for the next thirty-five years. I was an early computer animator and also earned two patents developing three-dimensional sound. This background informs every art project I do; in fact, I think of each one of my artworks as a direct outgrowth, or flowering if you like, of the skills I learned in all those years in technology.”
The range of the works submitted was great. Inside the field of forty-eight portraits, many are traditional forms such as oil on canvas and sculpture, while others are photographs, textiles, and collage. There are also four video portraits, one of which is projected onto a glitter screen. The sitters also encompass a broad range of individuals, including relatives of the artists—moms, dads, and cousins—and friends of the artists. There are also self-portraits, portraits of homeless individuals, soldiers, and strangers.
Still from Buffalo Milk Yogurt by Jennifer Levonian
Second prize was awarded to Jennifer Levonian of Philadelphia, who submitted a digital video animation titled Buffalo Milk Yogurt. Third prize went to Sequoyah Aono of New York. His self-portrait sculpture was created with acrylic on wood.
Commended artists are Paul D’Amato of Riverside, Illinois for his photograph Lillian, New Covenant Church of Deliverance, Chicago, 2011; Martha Mayer Erlebacher, from Elkins Park, Pennsylvania for her pencil-on-paper self-portrait; Heidi Fancher, from Washington, D.C., for her C-print photograph titled For Delia; and Beverly McIver of Durham, North Carolina for her oil-on-canvas work titled, Depression. Each will also be awarded a cash prize.
“The overall quality of this competition’s entries was incredibly strong across media. A theme that runs through the work in the exhibition is perseverance and the human capacity for resilience,” said Moss, adding, “The artists, whether making self-portraits, individual portrayals, or exploring the dynamic between family members in group portraits, are working through uncertainty and finding resolution while mastering their chosen medium.”The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Mobile App
Learn more about the portrait competition with our free mobile app! Tour the exhibition, listen to interviews, get inside information, and vote your favorite portrait for the People’s Choice Award.