Joseph Ovalle (M.F.A. '23) wins International Sculpture Center's top student award
Monday, July 17, 2023
Recent Eskenazi graduate Joseph Jesse Ovalle (M.F.A. ’23, Studio Art) has been awarded the International Sculpture Center's (ISC) Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2023. Ovalle was recognized for “Drain the Swamp,” (2023) a high-relief sculpture measuring eight by eight feet and incorporating wood, steel, resin, fiber, paper, plaster, alligator skin, and plastic.
Ovalle was chosen to receive the award from among 182 nominees from 94 colleges & university sculpture programs in North America and abroad. The jury reviewed 646 images of sculptural works to select 10 award recipients and 11 honorable mentions.
Ovalle’s award-winning sculpture literalizes political candidates’ familiar bromide about “draining the swamp” in Washington, D.C. The eight-foot tondo amalgamates fragments of artwork, discovered artifacts, and plaster casts in a send-up of the political ecosystem to which the “drained swamp” metaphor seems to aspire.
Whitewashed into homogeneity, it’s a desert littered with the detritus of contemporary civilization--AR15 rifles, strips of an American flag--while the classical columns and putti, clenched and outstretched hands, 3D-printed teeth, and what look like bone fragments also found in the desiccated jumble evoke an ancient, infamously halted one: Pompeii.
“Through sculptures, I seek to reflect the intricate systems, cyclical patterns, and oppressive architectures present within the United States,” said Ovalle. “I challenge viewers to engage actively, fostering a sense of agency to explore, unravel hidden discoveries, and forge meaningful connections to previous works and contextual objects dispersed throughout [the work]."
Ovalle was sponsored in the ISC competition by Andrea Stanislav, associate professor of sculpture and head of the Eskenazi School’s sculpture area.
"Joseph Ovalle is one of the most ambitious and prolific graduate students I have worked with at IU,” said Stanislav. “The award is a testament to Joseph's dedication, hard work and steadfast vision towards his M.F.A. thesis exhibition. His work is most deserving of this prestigious award and recognition." Ovalle is the second Eskenazi student Stanislav has sponsored to have received this award.
Ovalle uses a diverse range of techniques in his work, including CNC carving, 3D printing with various materials, plaster casting, woodworking, steel fabrication, custom-designed video games, audio elements, paper casting and cutting, and more. “I feel fortunate to have had faculty who have gone out of their way to get myself (and my peers) the equipment and representation that a graduate student needs to succeed,” he reflected.
It was during his residency in Salem, Indiana during the summer of 2022 that Ovalle gained mastery of 3D printing, an innovative technique that would become critical to completing “Drain the Swamp” and his other thesis work.
The ISC established the annual "Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award" program in 1994 to recognize young sculptors and to encourage their continued commitment to the field. It was also designed to draw attention to the sculpture programs of the participating universities, colleges, and art schools. Recipients of the 2023 awards were chosen by a professional panel including Erin Lee Antonak, Louisiana-based artist and curator; Isaac Duncan III, Tennessee-based artist and ISC board member; and Lynn DeClemente Losavio, New Jersey-based non-profit executive, curator, and collaborator.
Ovalle’s and the other award recipients' work will be featured in a group exhibition, published in the January/February 2024 issue of the International Sculpture Center's Sculpture magazine as well as on the ISC’s website.
Ovalle is the cofounder and codirector of the online gallery and resource The In Art Gallery.
The International Sculpture Center (ISC)is a member-supported, nonprofit organization founded in 1960 to champion the creation and understanding of sculpture and its unique, vital contribution to society. Members include sculptors, collectors, patrons, architects, developers, journalists, curators, historians, critics, educators, foundries, galleries, and museums—anyone with an interest in and commitment to the field of sculpture.