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Sandy Springs native, husband win national art contest
by Everett Catts
December 24, 2013 12:26 PM | 4859 views | 0 0 comments | 218 218 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special Photo / From left, Micah and Whitney Stansell with their winning entry.
Special Photo / From left, Micah and Whitney Stansell with their winning entry.
Sandy Springs native Whitney Stansell and her husband Micah, a College Park native and Woodward graduate, earlier this month won Herradura Tequila’s national competition to find the most artistic and inspiring barrel art creation from 80 unique pieces of art.

The award was given during Art Basel, an art festival in Miami, and came with a $100,000 cash prize.

It is the second largest in the U.S. behind the McCarthur Genius Award, which is $1 million, Whitney Stansell said.

The couple, who live in College Park, won a regional competition in October before capturing the national title against eight other finalists: Kim Holleman of New York; Raul De Lara of Austin, Texas;  Adam Toht of Chicago; Max Lehman of Santa Fe, N.M.; Adam Feibelman of San Francisco, Kiki Valdes of Miami and Jocelyn Duke of Los Angeles.

“It’s definitely a very humbling and exciting feeling,” Whitney Stansell, a Dacula High graduate, said of the honor. “It also definitely carries with it a sense that we are free to make art on our own terms. It really is a magical feeling in a way. For Herradura to say we think art is significant and put a significant amount of money behind that statement is truly vital to the arts.”

In a joint statement, the Stansells said they created as their contest entry a zoetrope, combining Micah’s talent as a filmmaker and Whitney’s skills as an artist.

“Though a 150-pound tequila barrel is not our usual medium, we set about the process of ‘making art’ in our usual way; anthropologically,” they said. “We considered the barrel not just as an aesthetic object, but as a utilitarian one; an object with a particular historical purpose. Here we struck upon the idea to use the inside of the barrel, leaving the outside of the barrel unchanged save for a marquee sign with a simple call to action: “look inside.” It is after all the inside of the barrel - what’s inside - that is important.

“We’ve created a zoetrope, an early ‘cinema’ device, inside the barrel. The running horse pays homage to Muybridge, a pioneer of the moving image, and the marquee sign and the act of peering into the barrel are a nod to the kinetoscope/mutoscope. Early alchemists believed the distilling of ‘spirits’ to be magic. In the same way, early cinema devices like the zoetrope were used to conjure spirits and were presented as magical objects. We think there’s still something pretty magical about the inside of our Herradura barrel. Look inside and see for yourself.”

In the regional competition, art critics, gallery owners and editors in each of the eight cities served on the judging panels to select the “Critic’s Choice” winners to compete in the grand finale event.

Art fans also had the opportunity to vote for their favorites online to crown the “Fan Choice Award” winner in each city, all of whom will be guaranteed a spot in a Creative Capital professional development workshop.

Whitney Stansell said they plan to put the prize money to good use.

 “There’s a glamorous answer, which is we’re going to invest it in some studio space,” she said. “The unglamorous answer is we’re going to pay off student loans from our master’s degrees. I have one from SCAD [its Atlanta campus] and he has one from Georgia State. We are the artists we are today because we went to graduate school. It will be an incredible feeling to not have to pay Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac every month.”

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