GV alumna wins $50,000 prize for female artists

Arie Nienhuis

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The Grand Valley State University art program has helped countless young, talented artists grow into highly skilled and successful professional artists. Recently, alumna Aneka Ingold has proved this through her achievement in winning $50,000 in the first Bennett Prize, the largest prize ever awarded to solely female painters.

Ingold, who graduated from GVSU in 2013 with a degree in painting, works and teaches in Tampa, Florida depicting creative and subversive portrayals of the female experience through her colorful, detailed paintings. On her site, Ingold states that she attempts “to represent a shared female experience” through vibrant visual stories.

“(Winning the prize) feels amazing,” Ingold said. “It feels incredible to be recognized and validated for my effort and material. I spend a lot of time in my studio creating things and it can be isolating. Just getting into the show was really excited, and I am beyond words that I was selected as the winner.”

Ingold’s work is inspired by her own experience as a woman and mother, as well as the collective female experience in the modern world. Through invented, universal female forms, she feels obliged to tell stories that can be applied to any woman today. Aside from the enormous influence which she said she gained from her family, Ingold finds direction and drive from countless things she sees in her day to day life.

“(Creating art) is very intuitive for me,” Ingold said. “I spend a lot of time collecting images that trigger thoughts, memories and ideas. That can be family photographs, books, my kids storybooks or just being out in the world taking pictures. I try not to overanalyze things. I just let the flow of creative energy come through me and into my work.”

Although Ingold feels she found most of her artistic direction during her time at Kendall College, she feels grateful to the GVSU art program for giving her skill early on. Specifically, Ingold references drawing professor Bill Hosterman as a major faculty influence.

“I used a lot of the drawing classes to work out my ideas and I brought those ideas into my painting work,” Ingold said. “I learned a lot about technical skill in depicting the human form, which was very helpful. Also, Professor Hosterman really helped me explore my subconscious and understand how to work out ideas.”

With the funds and exposure provided by the Bennett Prize, Ingold looks forward to putting a traveling solo show together and hopes to construct a dedicated studio in her home. Finally, she shared a few words of advice for any young artists at GVSU.

“The most important thing as an artist is to make what you love, and that can be hard to do in academia,” Ingold said. “Do not be afraid to experiment and ask questions, and stay true to what you love doing. You can challenge your professors and learn together in order to make what you truly love to do. Keep searching and find what that is.”