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Atlanta environmental artist wins $50,000 Hudgens Prize

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Pam Longobardi, an Atlanta artist concerned with the pollution of the world’s oceans, has won the $50,000 Hudgens Prize.

The Georgia State University art professor was to be announced as the prize winner at a Saturday night ceremony at Duluth’s Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts, the organizer of the competition that drew 370 statewide applicants.

Longobardi, the subject of more than 40 solo exhibits in the U.S. and internationally, considers her work a form of art “intervention.” She collects, photographs and exhibits artfully arranged pieces of plastic trash that have traveled in, and been transformed by, ocean currents.

“I have made scores of interventions, cleaning beaches and making collections from all over the world, removing thousands of pounds of material from the natural environment and re-situating it in exhibition context for examination,” she said in her artist statement for the Finalists Exhibit now on view at the Hudgens Center.

The other finalists were Christopher Chambers, primarily an installation artist whose work merges multiple disciplines; Robbie Land, a live-action and animation filmmaker and installation artist; and Derek Larson, a digital/multidisciplinary artist. Chambers and Land are Atlantans; Larson is based in Statesboro.

In a statement, the three prize jurors — Doryun Chong of New York’s Museum of Modern Art; Toby Kamps of Houston’s Menil Collection; and Heather Pesanti of AMOA-Arthouse in Austin, Texas — said the decision was challenging because of the diversity of the artists’ approaches.

“We were impressed and stimulated by the thoughtfulness and commitment of all four finalists,” they wrote. “… We were ultimately won over by not only the dedication but also promises and ramifications of Pam’s ongoing, long-term work.”

The $50,000 prize, donated anonymously, is one of the largest awards to any American visual artist. To promote the arts across the state and to elevate the career of one, the Gwinnett County arts center launched the competition in late 2010. The winner that year was South Korean-born Gyun Hur of Atlanta.

When Longobardi was nominated for the prize in March, she posted on her Facebook page: “Wish me luck, I could do a lot of good things with this award.”

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