Artist Gina Osterloh has been awarded the inaugural Wayne P. Lawson Prize for Ohio Artists. The new award, presented by the Columbus Museum of Art, was established in honor of Wayne Lawson, and his career-long commitment to strengthening and supporting the arts in Ohio and promoting the importance of individual artists. Dr. Lawson is director emeritus of the Ohio Arts Council, graduate professor emeritus of arts administration, education and policy at The Ohio State University and an honorary board member of the Columbus Museum of Art.
The annual Wayne P. Lawson Prize recognizes an Ohio artist who represents excellence in their practice with the purchase of a work by the artist to enter CMA’s renowned and growing collection of regional, national and international art.
“The Museum is very grateful for Wayne Lawson’s sustained leadership and philanthropy in establishing this award honoring outstanding Ohio artists,” said Nannette Maciejunes, CMA executive director and CEO. “We look forward to sharing Gina Osterloh’s engaging and innovative practice with our diverse community of visitors through this acquisition and future exhibitions.”
Camouflage, erasure, assimilation, and replication are recurring themes across Osterloh’s work. In her photographic, moving image, and performance-based work, we see the artist’s body traversing, tracing, or puncturing photographic space, but often covered or facing away from the viewer. She cites her experience growing up as a mixed-race Filipino American in Ohio as a formative experience that led her to both photography and larger questions of how a viewer perceives difference. Both representing and obscuring her body, Osterloh’s work explores the dynamics of visibility, identity, and power. She challenges us to think about what is seen or unseen within the photographic image in terms of social experience, and how people are defined as alien or outsider.
To inaugurate the Wayne P. Lawson Prize, CMA is purchasing a set of three pigment print works by Osterloh. The series of images—Grid, Eyes; I Am Image; and Holding Zero (all 2020)—are set inside Osterloh’s signature rooms constructed from paper. In these works, the room is delineated by an imperfect grid marked out in black tape. Playing on the optical phenomenon of the grid illusion in which white blurs occur at the intersection of gridded lines, in one image, hundreds of eyes gaze out from each node within the otherwise empty room. In I am Image, the artist sits in the center of the same room wrapped entirely in coils of the tape that covers the walls, becoming a kind of mummified body. The third work, Holding Zero, shows Osterloh embracing a photographic replica of that mummy, as though she had escaped from this condition but remains shielded by the empty shell of her image.
An assistant professor in the Department of Art at OSU, Osterloh earned her Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University in 1996 and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Irvine, in 2007. Osterloh’s work has been featured and reviewed in such periodicals the New Yorker, Art in America and Artforum, and in the publications Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora and Energy Charge: Connecting with Ana Mendieta.
Recent exhibitions of Osterloh’s work include the solo show ZONES at Silverlens in Manila, the Philippines, as well as the group exhibitions Multiply, Identify, Her at the International Center of Photography in New York City and Past as Present: Capturing and Archiving the Female Experience at the University of Cincinnati DAAP Reed Gallery.
A solo exhibition of Osterloh’s work is scheduled to open at the Columbus Museum of Art in the autumn of 2022.
Lawson was the Barnett Distinguished Professor of Arts Administration, Education and Policy at the Ohio State University until his retirement in 2006 and was the director of the division of comparative literature at OSU from 1968 until 1975. He became the fourth executive director of the Ohio Arts Council in 1978 and served until 2006. During his long career in education and state government he worked to encourage an arts climate in Ohio that provided artists, arts administrators and the public with a voice in developing the state’s arts policies and stressed the importance of supporting individual artists.
Among his active volunteer service roles, Lawson was a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Mandel Center, a collaborative program for non-profit organizations sponsored by the Schools of Applied Social Science, Law and Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland; chair of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in Washington D.C.; Chair of Arts Midwest in Minneapolis; board member of the Alliance of Artists Communities in Providence, Rhode Island; and board member of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; board member of the Music Theatre Group in New York; and three terms with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation in Atlanta.
Over the years, Lawson partnered with numerous institutions and organizations to support international cultural exchange initiatives, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Keny Galleries, National Endowment for the Arts and ArtsLink, as well as U.S. embassies and private funders to produce exhibition projects in Japan, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Germany, Russia, Spain, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel and Russia.
“I believe deeply in the arts and the individual artist,” said Lawson. “They provide us with opportunities for connection and conversation, they foster the exchange of ideas and creative experiences that inspire curiosity and understanding, and they have the power to remind us that for each new challenge there is a creative solution.”