winning art

Winning submission — Nicole Irene Anderson’s winning painting “You Surpass Them All.” Oil casein and graphite on a panel. 

Art and literary award provides stipend, career assistance

Chelsea Rose Kurnick was the winner for her poetry and Nicole Anderson took the top spot in the painting category. 

According to a statement from Creative Sonoma about the program funded by Community Foundation Sonoma County, “Five visual and five literary artists were selected from a pool of applicants from all corners of the County. Winners’ work will be recognized and exhibited at the Museum of Sonoma County, opening on Nov. 22. Winners will also receive a $2,500 stipend and a professionally produced catalogue including excerpts of the written work and visual images.” 

The winners were selected through a highly competitive process, according to a statement from Creative Sonoma. Aspiring artists submitted written applications and samples of their portfolio, from which 10 finalists were selected for each genre. 

Visual Arts jurors then made studio visits to the 10 visual arts finalists; literary jurors reviewed excerpts of each writer’s work. Through that process, the five winners in each category were selected. 

Lead jurors for the program were New York Times bestselling author Ellen Sussman and Museum of Sonoma County Executive Director Jeff Nathanson. 

“This program continues to fulfill its promise of bringing new artist voices into our collective consciousness,” Elizabeth Brown, CEO of Community Foundation Sonoma County, said in a statement. “Many of the artists who have received this award over the past decade have gone on to successful careers in the arts.”

Anderson is 26, and a graduate of the California College of the Arts. She moved to Windsor in 2017. She has been painting for 10 years and works mainly in oil, drawing media and casein, a fast drying, water-soluble paint made from milk protein. 

“I am currently making works on paper, where I combine oil, casein, and graphite pencil to create intricate surfaces where thick paint, textured glazes and delicate drawing coexist,” Anderson said. “As part of my process, I travel to locations to sketch and take photographs of architectural forms and landscapes that are highly altered by human intervention. Coming into contact with these real places serves as an emotional and nervous starting point that functions as a stage, or ‘movie set’ in a composition. 

“The stage undergoes manipulation and its place of origin obscured,” she continued. “In some paintings, the stage becomes populated with anonymous people engaged in questionable activities. The narrative qualities of these singular interpretation. They rather aspire to imbue a sensory response and to evoke ethical ambiguity.”

Anderson has set herself the goal of having gallery representation within the next three years, and she is hopeful this award will help her achieve that goal. 

“This grant will be tremendously helpful to cover the costs of studio expenses as I continue to make more work,” she said. “The exhibition at the Museum of Sonoma County is an exciting opportunity to exhibit brand new work that has never been shown alongside other notable artists in this county.

“(I want to) to continue making paintings that have a strong impact on people,” concluded Anderson.

Kurnick, 33, also moved to Windsor in 2017, eight days before the fires. 

“As utterly devastating as the fires were, I was awestruck by the outpourings of care I witnessed in their aftermath,” she remembered. “At first, I felt terrified about the move I'd just made, but my fear was quickly replaced with a deeper love and appreciation for the local community than I ever expected to find.”

Kurnick has ben writing poetry since she was 15, and started attending open mic readings at 17. 

“Creating poetry is a process that allows me to explore concepts or feelings that, at first, I feel I can’t explain using words. Unless I’m writing a poem in a prescriptive poetic form, I expect that each new piece I write will require me to find a new form to express it,” she said. “As for a recognizable form, I love the villanelle — it requires a lot of line repetition, which can have a beautiful interplay with the content in a poem. I've written a villanelle about the pattern of salmon migration and a series of villanelles about an infatuation and the intrusive obsessive thoughts it caused.”

However, her writing prowess isn’t just about poetry, as she also dabbles in “creative non-fiction ... live storytelling a la The Moth, I've done some standup comedy, and last year, I created a Powerpoint presentation on Sonoma County's 19th-century faith healer Madame Emily Preston.”

Her contest submission, which was a 20-page sample of her work, encompassed several of these genres, but it was her poetry that captured the jury’s attention. 

“In assembling my submission, I wanted to capture the breadth of styles in which I write, but also to show that I have a developed, singular voice,” Kurnick said. “I find that my work tends to be about longing and loss, sometimes personal and sometimes global in scope; she writes of messy partnerships and humankind’s tenuous relationship to the material world we inhabit. 

“That said, I do think about the reader as I'm writing, and I don't want my work to just be a bummer. When a writer can articulate something that felt ineffable, I find that fulfilling and sometimes joyful, even if the experience being articulated is, itself, painful,” she finished.

Kurnick has been a producer of arts events throughout the county, and hopes to continue to do so, along with bringing in PowerPoint presentations for entertainment purposes, something being done in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She also hopes to teach creative writing classes through Creative Sonoma as well as doing some “generative writing workshops” with the LGBTQIA community at Positive Images, where she is the vice chair of the Board of Directors. 

But, she is buoyed by the fact that this award affirms her skills and talent as an artist. 

“Winning this award is a tremendous honor for me. I've always regarded myself as a curator as much as an artist in my own right; this award is affirming of my talent and potential as an artist,” she said. “The money affords me time to focus on creating new work and also to set up a personal website. The group exhibition at the Art Museum of Sonoma County is a career milestone for me.” 

Though she was a Windsor resident at the time of the contest and submission, Kurnick has recently had to relocate to Santa Rosa, though she says Windsor is still a place of inspiration and enjoyment for her.

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