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Alumna Receives MacArthur "Genius" Grant

Elizabeth Turk '94 Recognized by New York Times, PBS Newshour, Baltimore Sun

Posted 09.28.10 by MICA Communications

Elizabeth Turk '94, "Ribbon #19, Standing"

Elizabeth Turk '94 has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. Turk, who received an M.F.A. from MICA's Rinehart School of Sculpture, was recognized for her elegant marble sculptures, now on display at the Hirschl & Adler Modern in New York City.

In Turk's installation, The Collars, hefty blocks of 400-pound Sivec and Carrera marble are transformed into 21 delicate sculptures. In her hands, a traditionally heavy and finicky medium is reduced to a weightless and almost skeletal level of intricacy.

Defying easy categorization, Turk's Collars recall elements from the natural world—skeletons, spider webs and shark's teeth—as well as Elizabethan fashion and antique lace patterns.

READ: New York Times article announcing the MacArthur winners, Sept. 28
READ: Baltimore Sun article from Oct. 1 looks at how the MacArthur grant has impacted winners' lives
READ: BURNAWAY magazine interviewed Turk, article from Oct. 4 (also links to several other articles about her)
WATCH: PBS Newshour interviewed Turk on Oct. 29

The work is labor-intensive and often leaves little room for error.

"That's the intriguing part. You have to think about gravity all the time," she said in an interview (below). "If you make a mistake, it breaks. You can't create some sort of concept that says, 'Oh yeah, that was really about some esoteric thing.' It just breaks."

In an unconventional fashion, Turk set her sculptures adrift in the ocean after completing them, allowing them to become, in her words, part of "the next decay process."

"With these and other visually arresting feats of precision, Turk is pushing the physical limits of her material and reviving a classical medium for contemporary artistic exploration," the MacArthur Foundation said in an announcement.
Elizabeth Turk '94, Collar #7
Turk received a B.F.A. in International Relations from Scripps College in 1984 before receiving an M.F.A. from MICA's Rinehart School of Sculpture.

Much of Turk's career has been marked by an interest in a variety of mediums, including wax, clay, bronze and porcelain as well as photography and video. She began working with marble in the 1990s.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2000), the L'Oreal Art and Science Prize (2001) and the New York City Art Commission Award for Excellence in Design. She has served as an artist-in-residence at the Lux Art Institute in Encintas, Calif., the Kyojima Artist-in-Residence Program in Tokyo and the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program in Sheboygan, Wisc.

She had solo shows at the Hirschl & Adler Modern in New York, the Lux Art Institute in California, the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, N.C., and the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. She has participated in group exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Baumgartner Gallery in Washington, D.C., as well as the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College and the Joie Lassiter Gallery in Charlotte, N.C.

MacArthur fellowships, informally known as "genius grants," recognize individuals who have shown exceptional creativity and promise in their chosen fields. Fellows receive a $500,000 "no-strings-attached" grant, received in quarterly installments over a five-year period.

Candidates are nominated anonymously by peers in their chosen fields and are notified of their selection several days prior to the official announcement.

MacArthur's official press release (announcing all 23 of this year's fellows) can be seen here. To see more of Turk's work, click here.

Image captions (top-bottom): Elizabeth Turk '94, Ribbon #19, Standing, marble, 2009; Elizabeth Turk '94, Collar #7, marble, 2003. © Joshua Nekfsky; courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York.


Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.