Interview with 2013 Juried Panel Prize Winner Leanna Knapp
Shell was my most recent completed sculpture at the time of the Artfields 2013 submission deadline. It was my strongest piece out of all of my previous work because I put every emotion I had into it. It told a story that I was unable to speak through words, and it was able to tell my story when I didn’t know how to. I felt like I owed it to the sculpture to try to have it shown to a larger audience because of the emotional and physical weight that it had begun to bear for me. At the time of completion, I began to see this piece as a friend of mine. I had spent hours of every day for three months with this one sculpture; I gave it all of my pain and internal struggles. I felt the least I could do was honor it by showing it in a beautiful venue to a grander audience.
Did you think you had a chance at winning?
I felt that if I was going to win any prizes from Artfields 2013, it would come from Shell. I looked through all of the work I had completed and realized that I had put the most of myself into that sculpture, and that if I was going to win, it would be with that piece. I submitted my entry with confidence that even if I didn’t win a top prize, I would still have the opportunity to have my work reach a large audience, and I felt that my sculpture deserved that at the least.
How did you prepare your entry?
In my final semester at The University of Georgia I was enrolled in a class that taught the business side of being an artist. In that class I was given the opportunity to receive feedback on my visual portfolio and artist statement, allowing me to create a strong entry for Artfields 2013. I also had some assignments where I practiced writing to galleries and applying for grants, which helped give me confidence in my ability to effectively convey my thoughts and ideas into a written presentation.
I received an amazing amount of support and acceptance from the community of Lake City. The vendors and the public audience were all extremely gracious and hospitable. I ran into a few obstacles during the installation of my sculpture at Becky’s Salon, but I received quick assistance from local business owners, employees and a group of helpers from the ArtFields offices! Without any of their help my sculpture would have been shown from a parking lot. Instead, they willingly helped get my 500 pound sculpture into the lobby of Becky’s Salon, where it took root and grew into the sculpture that the ArtFields audience got to experience. Since the competition, I have received an outpouring of love and support from my new, local community. I think that the best experience to come from my ArtFields win is knowing that I have inspired other artists. People have come up to me and told me how my story has encouraged them to keep pursuing their artistic expression and to not give up on what makes them happy.
Do you have any tips or advice for artists entering the 2014 Art Competition?
Be confident on your abilities as an artist. Part of being an artist is being able to speak about your work to others and being able to accept critiques from your audience. The more you ask for feedback, the more you learn about what you are doing that is successful and how to adjust the parts that aren’t as successful. Practice writing. I know, I know–that’s not really something people love to do, but it will make you a stronger artist. It will give you the confidence to speak to gallery directors and you will be able to more easily apply for competitions and grants. Try to stay positive and never give up doing what you love! Rejection happens to everyone, but you can’t let that stop you!
Being the recipient of the Juried Panel Prize really validated that I am in fact an artist. Fresh out of college and still trying to figure out my niche, I was given the greatest confirmation from this award. It has improved my confidence as an artist. This award was based off of the vote of a group of very established and esteemed artists. Having their approval and acceptance into the art world has really made a difference in how I view my own work.
How did winning at ArtFields impact your career as a professional artist?
Winning the Juried Panel Prize has motivated me to keep learning as much as I can and to create more and more work. I was recently accepted to have my work at a local gallery. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with Leslie Wentzell, a ceramic artist and owner of The Artery Studio in Port Saint Joe, Florida. She has been mentoring me on the ways to become a successful artist as a career and has been teaching me everything she knows about ceramics.
I am currently working on Shell II, along with a few other sculptures that I plan to unveil at ArtFields 2014. I am also teaching classes at The Artery Studio in Port Saint Joe, where my studio is located. I am also trying to figure out how to balance working on production pieces and fine art pieces at the same time. . . I’ll let you know when I get it figured out!