What you should have seen at ArtPrize, according to Chimes staff


Abigail Ham

Through the use of everyday objects, “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream” acts as a haunting commentary of the U.S. immigration process.

As ArtPrize an annual, open admission, art contest in downtown Grand Rapids came to a close this past weekend, crowds took advantage of one last chance to see the variety of paintings, photography, murals and many other forms of art found throughout the city. In case you did not make it, Chimes staff has compiled the best of the submissions to give you a taste of what you missed. 

Abigail Ham: “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream” by Tom Kiefer is an immersing collection of photographs. Each photograph captures an item or set of items confiscated from unauthorized immigrants crossing the southern US border. The items were confiscated and discarded at a US Customs and Border Patrol facility where Kiefer worked as a janitor.

From wallets to clothing, toothbrushes to CD collections, the ordinary, familiar objects humanize the unseen immigrants and their absence is felt. The exhibit is haunting both in the way it makes those absences present and in the way it stays with you by heightening your attention to the objects of your own life.

Liana Hirner: Painted in acrylics on a stretched canvas, “Cosmic Evocation” by Annie Shaffer depicts the heavenly cosmos that people spend lifetimes wondering about. While many people think of heaven as a white expanse, Shaffer imagines “the moment of conception from the heavens” as a kaleidoscope of colors. A deep purple covers the bottom half of the canvas, while the upper half is a combination of white, blue, pink and gold. The combination of different colors, as well as the scattering of shining white orbs that look like stars, suggest that there is something cosmic about heaven — something that may remind people more of outer space than the divine. 

What I enjoy most about this painting is that because its depiction of heaven is very abstract, it can mean different things for different people. When I look at the painting, I think of the intricate patterns on a marble countertop, and also of what I imagine the stars look like in the solar system. “Cosmic Evocation” is captivating because it allows the viewer to interpret what sort of heaven the painting represents and the abstractness of the colors make the painting look like so many different visuals at the same time. 

Maya Oeverman: My favorite piece at Art Prize was an oil painting called “Good Stewards of the Earth” by Susan Bloom. I was intrigued by the idea of looking at the animals who have come before us and met their end as a way of understanding the importance of conservation. Having the extinct animals in the clouds above the other animals depicted the stark reality of what is happening to so many of the species on our planet. To see so many familiar animals right below them was a strong reminder for me of how fragile our ecosystem is and what we stand to lose without proper care of nature. 

In the bright colors and diversity of creatures, there is still hope for us to do the right thing.

Some animals pictured, like the giant sloth or the dire wolf, were there purely to be eye-catching, but upon a closer look you can find animals that have gone extinct in the last few decades due to human impact. It showed me how often we do not take good care of the planet around us and how we fail to see things from an ecological standpoint. Despite that, I also found hope in the painting. In the bright colors and diversity of creatures, there is still hope for us to do the right thing. We can still protect our planet and reverse what we have done, and that is a truly powerful message for an art piece.