Leo Berk (born 1973) considers the effects of the built environment on our senses, psychology and development. In his most recent body of work, the artist returned to the landmark building in which he grew up and which influenced his artistic trajectory: Bruce Goff’s Ford Residence, in Aurora, Illinois. Self-taught and visionary, Bruce Goff created an organic and site-specific contemporary architecture that defied convention and tradition. Beautiful to look at, the house could be challenging to live in as lack of insulation allowed for extreme temperatures inside the structure. Berk’s memories of these physical challenges led to an exploration of the many ways in which aspects of this home prompted a sensory response, which is reflected in the works. Although the pieces seem abstract at first glance, each is connected to a structural part of the house.
The namesake of this distinguished award, Betty Bowen (1918–1977), was a Washington native and enthusiastic supporter of Northwest artists whose friends established the annual award as a celebration of her life and to honor and continue her efforts to provide financial support to the artists of the region. Since 1977, the Seattle Art Museum has hosted the yearly grant application process by which the selection committee chooses one Northwest visual artist—from Washington, Oregon, or Idaho—to receive an unrestricted cash award.
–Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Contemporary Art
Waking to His Dream, 2011, Leo Berk, American, b. 1973, veneer, 60 x 60 x 18 in. (c) Leo Berk, Photo: Leo Berk.