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Integrated visual arts graduate student wins best in show in 2015 Biorenewables Art Competition

April 27, 2015

Heather Whittlesey won best in show for "Almost Antique" (ceramic).


AMES, Iowa — Heather Whittlesey, an Iowa State University integrated visual arts graduate student, won the best in show award in the 6th Annual Biorenewables Art Competition sponsored by the ISU Bioeconomy Institute (BEI).

Awards were announced at a reception on Earth Day, April 22, at the Biorenewables Research Laboratory.

Students enrolled in integrated studio arts (undergraduate) and integrated visual arts (graduate) courses annually are invited to enter the competition. Artwork submitted must reflect the Bioeconomy Institute's mission of "economic, environmental and social sustainability to advance development of biorenewable resources for the production of materials, fuels, energy and chemicals." Prizes are sponsored by BEI Director Robert C. Brown.

Whittlesey, of Ankeny, received a $750 prize for "Almost Antique," a set of three ceramic containers representing a gasoline can, a propane tank and a propane hand torch.

"I think humor can be a great motivator for conveying a message, especially if it is about a serious subject matter," said Whittlesey. "Developing alternative fuels is at the helm of creating a more advanced society, so I decided to create current fuel containers knowing that soon they are going to be obsolete."

Whittlesey's work will become part of the BEI's permanent art collection.

Sarah Reagan won first place for "Fricken' Fracking Box" (butternut and walnut).

Other cash award winners included sophomore Sarah Reagan of Apple Valley, Minn., first place ($350) for her wood "Fricken' Fracking Box" (butternut and walnut); senior Riley Eveleth of Monroe, second place ($250) for her paper collage titled "Homage to Aaron Fink;" and senior Madison Haws of Ankeny, third place ($150) for her mixed-media work called "We Often Forget."

Honorable mentions went to senior Alyssa Campbell of Waukee for "Horse and Snapping Turtle Skulls with Flowers" (charcoal) and sophomore Nicholas Martinez of West Des Moines for "Maus Redefined" (clay stoneware with high-fire glazes).

The competition was juried by Mary Holtze, an adjunct art professor at Des Moines Area Community College and a drawing instructor at the Des Moines Art Center; Patrick Johnson, a research scientist with the Bioeconony Institute; and Sara Merritt, educational specialist at Iowa State's Reiman Gardens and vice president of the Ames Community Arts Council.

"It is often difficult to select winners when the artwork is so diverse, but we were guided by two basic criteria," Merritt said. "We were each looking for work that not only demonstrated alignment with the mission of the Bioeconomy Institute, but that which also showcased an artist's particular attention to quality of craft."

In addition to the award recipients, students who submitted work included: Emily Kief, Lakeville, Minn., senior, and Sonya Gau, Johnston, freshman, both in pre-biological/pre-medical illustration; Maxwell Schmidt, Libertyville, Ill., junior in design; Hannah Hoglund, Champlin, Minn., senior in environmental science; integrated studio arts sophomore Carly Ludwig, Carroll; junior Autumn Dunham, Jewell; and seniors Robin Allen, Crystal Lake, Ill.; Samantha Bedford, Carroll; David Chadd, Coggon; Caroline Freese, Indianola; Aaron Nostwich, Roland; Reed Siems, Granger; Katharine Schmidt, Sioux City; and integrated visual arts graduate student Alexis Dwyer, Columbia, Mo.

All 20 entries in this year's competition will be displayed in the lobby of the Biorenewables Research Laboratory until March 2016. Viewing hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; the building is closed weekends and university holidays. All of the artwork also can be viewed in an online presentation. The permanent art collection can be viewed in the BRL administrative offices, 1140 BRL.

Robert Mills, Bioeconomy Institute, (515) 294-4459,
Jaden Urbi, Design Communications,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,