It’s finally here. After months of planning, we at NOT REAL ART are proud to present our first art exhibition, part of a curated monthly series featuring leading lights of the creative world. Kicking off our slate of First Friday Exhibitions, our 2022 grant winners take center stage in February. The six winners included were carefully selected from a pool of over 300 applicants, chosen for their democratic ethos, innovative craftsmanship, and community-oriented work.
Juried by art consultants Melissa Richardson Banks and Badir McCleary, art dealer Chris Davies, muralist Erin Yoshi, gallerist Karla Funderburk, graffiti artist Man One, arts writer and NOT REAL ART Editor-in-Chief Morgan Laurens, grant writer MonaLisa Whitaker, intellectual property attorney Joshua Wattles, and fabricator Julie B, our annual grant is designed to empower six contemporary artists that match our core values of community, connection, and innovation. Founded in 2019, the NOT REAL ART grant awards a total of $12,000 annually, with $2,000 allocated to each artist for open-ended use.
Last year’s winners include Kiley Ames, Y Hope Osborn, Joan Cox, Jo-Ann Morgan, Buena Johnson, and Ellamaria Foley-Ray. We want to congratulate our winners and welcome them to our community with gratitude. Scroll down to learn more about each grant winner, then jump over to the exhibition to see a selection of their beautiful work.
Based in Los Angeles, Kiley Ames explores the depths of emotional feeling through lighter-than-air figure paintings. Formed from colorful flecks of oil paint, Kiley’s half-clothed figures flicker from light to dark in an instant, shifting perspectives without moving an inch. “I see the complex interconnectedness that we all share as scattered fragments of personal experiences and perceptions that continuously gather throughout history,” she tells NOT REAL ART. “Much of my work is formed from how I view fragments and fragmentation—the isolated and incomplete parts that make up a whole. Each of us can create our own perception of reality by editing, rewriting, or omitting fragments from our own history.”
Y Hope Osborn
Digital photographer Y Hope Osborn paused one day to capture the storied history of an old barn. In an instant her Roundup series was born. “Once, I passed barns without a glance,” she says. “Now I notice these ordinary structures for the extraordinary variety in architecture from unnamed architects, and for being stalwarts of the rural. When all else falls, the barn stands.” Her elegant series explores protection, safety, and fortitude in the face of time, noting that architectural structures act as historical markers on the landscape around us. “[The barns], like people, are both individual and part of a larger plane,” Hope says.
Based in Maryland, Joan Cox creates saturated paintings that center intimate relationships between women. “Historically, society has ignored the notion of the very existence of lesbian couples,” she tells NOT REAL ART. “Images of female couples in both painting and photography have been repressed, hidden, or explained only as erotic material for the male gaze.”
Drawing from personal relationships—her partner of 20 years as well as queer couples in her community—Joan weaves an evocative narrative that champions these undeniably complex women in their everyday lives.
“I began sewing in the early days of the pandemic,” quilter and educator Jo-Ann Morgan tells NOT REAL ART. “I was drawn to quilted comforters as a soothing medium with an inherent message.”
A commentary on contemporary issues that haunt her, Jo-Ann’s work commemorates victims of violence and suffering. Works like “Lady Corona Comforts the Children” and “Elegy For Elijah” address the “kids in cages” crisis at the US-Mexico border and police brutality against Black communities, respectively. “I view artmaking as activism,” she says. “Through my work I offer a point of view that can, hopefully, prompt a viewer to consider topics related to social justice and inequality.”
Rooted in positivity, Buena Johnson’s work is a powerful tool for transformation. Known for her sensitive portraiture and imaginative compositions, Buena promotes Black visibility in the arts using a combination of historical and spiritual imagery. “My work is deeply influenced by the effects of the African Diaspora and the healing related to the Black American experience,” the artist and educator tells NOT REAL ART.
Working with pencil, Buena creates layered washes of color that illustrate the depths of Black history and culture. “By illuminating the dark places of the American past, my aim is to create an artistic viewpoint that gives way for hope, positive advancement, and personal wellbeing,” she says.
“Humanity is vast and complex,” says multidisciplinary artist and anthropologist Ellamaria Foley-Ray. “With my work, I’m grappling with the intricacies of Black womanist identity to understand society better.”
Working with clay and metal, Ellamaria creates patterned ceramic “quilts” inspired by the writings of science-fiction author Octavia E Butler, considered a forebear of Afrofuturism. “This body of work will serve as a portal through which viewers can witness how Butler insisted on putting people of color in the future,” Ellamaria tells NOT REAL ART. “As a descendant of historically displaced Africans, the cultural connective tissue between those dwelling in the diaspora and those from the continent forms a vast landscape where my muse, mind, and hands meet in clay.
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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