Elizabeth Turk Wins 2010 MacArthur Award

Sculptor was in residence at McColl Center for Visual Art and exhibited at The Mint Museum in Charlotte

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has named Elizabeth Turk, an artist with ties to the Charlotte cultural community, as one of 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2010. Turk, a sculptor known for transforming marble into intricate, seemingly weightless works of art, was a 2003 Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Visual Art and presented her first solo museum exhibition VantagePoint III – Elizabeth Turk: The Collarsat The Mint Museum in 2004. Turk was recently in Charlotte to deliver Collar 21 to the Mint for presentation within the contemporary art galleries in the new Mint Museum Uptown, opening 1 October 2010.

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of a MacArthur Fellowship than Elizabeth,” said Carla Hanzal, Curator of Contemporary Art at The Mint Museum. “Her ability to manipulate marble into such exquisite forms defies the medium’s rigid qualities and is nothing short of extraordinary. We are proud to share her impressive artwork with the public.”

“Elizabeth has a quiet, thoughtful, yet powerful sensibility,” said Suzanne Fetscher, President of McColl Center for Visual Art. “Her time with us was spent developing the concepts and execution for the “Collars.” At the time, she called our Center a “candy store” where artists can explore materials, tools and relationships with other artists and the community, which is our reason for being. It is wonderful to see our partnership with the Mint Museum reflected in this amazing recognition for Elizabeth.”

While her past artistic projects have involved works in metal, glass, and porcelain, as well as drawings, photography, and video, Turk has focused on marble in her major series of works. Inspired by the challenges the hard stone poses for an artist interested in rendering nature’s most delicate forms, she has achieved an extremely fine level of detail in an often-unforgiving substance. Employing a variety of electric grinders, files, and small dental tools with a dexterous touch, her technical virtuosity is on full display in “The Collars,” a series of sixteen painstakingly carved sculptures that explore a rich variety of organic and geometric patterns. The elaborate collars in this collection combine allusions to decorative motifs and the self-organizing systems of the natural world, drawing from lace-making and Elizabethan fashion as well as botanical, skeletal, and architectural structures. Continuing the theme of fragile, textile-like compositions with the strength and heft of stone, Turk creates a surprising sense of buoyancy and undulating movement in her recent series of marble ribbons suspended in midair. With these and other visually arresting feats of precision, Turk is pushing the physical limits of her material and reviving a classical medium for contemporary artistic exploration.

Turk will receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support from the MacArthur Foundation over the next five years. All Fellows were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.