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Alumna Adah Bennion wins International Sculpture Center Award

She's a Peach, Adah Bennion, 2021, multi-channel video projection installation

Congratulations to alumna Adah Bennion (BFA 2023), who won an honorable mention in the 2023 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards from the International Sculpture Center. The International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award was founded in 1994 to recognize young sculptors and encourage their continued commitment to the field of sculpture, as well as to recognize the award recipients' faculty sponsors and their institutions. This year there were 182 nominees from 94 colleges & university sculpture programs in North America and abroad. The jury, consisting of by artist and ISC Board Member Isaac Duncan III, artist, curator, and former recipient Erin Lee Antonak, and non-profit executive, curator, collaborator, and staff liaison between the Seward Johnson Atelier and Grounds for Sculpture, Lynn DeClemente Losavio, deliberated over 687 images of sculptural works to select 10 award recipients and 11 honorable mentions. Bennion, who was nominated by Sculpture Intermedia Professor Wendy Wischer, will be recognized in the January/February 2024 issue of Sculpture magazine, on the ISC website, and given a one year membership to the ISC.

Bennion was also recently awarded the Rolapp Scholarship upon her graduation from the Department of Art & Art History at the U. We caught up with her for a brief interview:

Adah Bennion (BFA 2023)

Pronouns: She/Her

Majored in: Sculpture Intermedia

Three words that describe you:Plastic shopping bag with 'Thank You' printed three times
Detail driven/oriented (some might say obsessive)
Resourceful (in my mind, Tim Gunn is always standing there saying, “Make it work…”)
“Pun-y” (dad-jokes all day!)

Most impactful class or professor:
Though there are a handful of specific classes and professors that were particularly crucial in the formation of my creative identity and the development of my practice during my time at the U, I often found that it was in the interdisciplinary moments that took place between classes, or while taking multiple courses at once, that I grew and that enriched my practice the most. What I was reading for Kinetic Sculpture with Paul Stout would inform the conversations I was having in Wendy Wischer’s Professional Practices, which would then manifest formally and conceptually as a piece for Making in Metal with Moses Williams – By engaging conversations, critiques, and practices from a range of disciplines at the same time, my ideation process and practice evolved and entangled itself organically, allowing me to think outside of the parameters of my medium and to delve into the realms between. Marnie Powers-Torrey in the Book Arts department introduced me to the Rare Book Collections and it was Jaclyn Wright who first directed me to the university’s digital archive and special collections, sparking in me an interest in the idea of institutional archives and a love for scholarly creative research. As I branch outside of my comfort zone (and medium) I am inevitably challenged in new and unexpected ways, leading to growth in unforeseen areas. For example, while taking Painting I in my final year I began engaging in discussions with John O’Connell that lead me to new ways of thinking through spatial composition, framing, and painterly thematic inquiry in my sculptural work, which has had a huge impact on my installation practice and experiential design.

A U of U moment you’ll never forget:
My first metal pour – There is nothing so exhilarating, terrifying and bonding than undertaking a large-scale metal pour as a community. Unlike any other process I have encountered in my education thus far, preparing for and executing a metal pour was truly a group effort and is responsible for some of the closest connections and friendships that I have formed in my 3 years at the University of Utah. Unlike most creative undertakings, a large-scale metal pour forces each individual to both ask for help and be willing to help in turn, which is all excellent preparation for the actual pour, where trust in one another is paramount and there is no option to go it alone!

What inspires you:
I am most inspired by material and process: I am most drawn to tactile, by-hand processes and I love learning about the many different ways of making and about the histories behind each. I am drawn in by the visibility of the makers hand in a thing or work; to see the ‘how’ of its making just enough to then be awed by its skill.

I am inspired by the evolutional narrative and durability of material – its ability to morph, endure, and breakdown over time, as well as its unique ability to absorb, retain, and evoke memory.

I find inspiration in the everyday archive: a bird’s nest made up of twigs, hair, twine, and the scraps of an old t-shirt; the contents of a glove-compartment or wallet; an array of found bottles turned blue by the sun and time. I am fascinated by the prospective evolutional arcs of made materials in geologic time, my practice often imagines the spawn of adaptive material relationships and the chimeric ecologies of a post-anthropocentric world, which manifest as bizarre, yet appealing, juxtapositions of material and form, suggestive of a strange naturally occurring convergence of traditional craft processes and synthetic materials over time.

Hopes and plans for upcoming year:
This summer I will be relocating to Athens, Georgia, where I will be earning my MFA as an Arts Lab Graduate Research Assistant at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia for the next 3 years. As a creative research assistant working both in my studio and within community, I plan to continue to engage in the slow, tactile processes of traditional craft and fiber through which I form intimate and explorative relationships with materials over protracted lengths of dedicated time and intention as I explore interweaving threads of time, materiality, memory and value in our contemporary context.

Banner Image: She's a Peach, Adah Bennion, 2021, multi-channel video projection installation