Cameron Welch – One River School
2019 Emerging Art Award
At the beginning of May, for those of us who teach, we being the final weeks of the academic semester. We bid farewell to the BFA and MFA candidates who are about to embark on one of the toughest and most gratifying assignment: life as artists. Elsewhere in the art world commercial galleries and professional artists gear up for one of the most vibrant art fairs on New York’s Randall Island: Frieze and depending on the year, the Venice Biennale. And in other places in the world of art, there are other events taking place, such as the One River School 2019 Emerging Art Award which was received by Cameron Welch on Tuesday, April 30th in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Matt Ross, the Founder, and CEO of the transformative One River School presented the cash award to Welch to an audience of supporters of the program and the artist.
Cameron Welch, an emerging artist that has not yet turned 30, make a hybrid work that consists of painting, ceramics, sculpture, and mosaic. The images he creates have a raw, full-of-life aesthetic, that consist of beautiful passages of assemblages that transform into visual poetry. An excellent example of this can be seen in a work titled “Heavier Than Heaven,” 2019, Oil, acrylic, spray paint, found objects, and ceramic on panel, 60” x 48”. I had the opportunity to speak to Welch and asked him about the work, specifically about the relationship between two collaged images of bullet holes and daisies. He said he included the photos to set up a dialog and to create a connection between the two. The gun shots and cut flowers reflect the nature of a life shorten. The bullet holes are reminders of individuals that are killed daily by various gun attacks. Elsewhere in the assemblage is a t-shirt the artist himself wore as a kid until it was thread worn. In the same artwork there is a found guitar that is broken in two between the body and neck. He sets up these elements to create a narrative that is nuanced by his own history and background but to server as a greater read. Their relationships also become universal. The manner in which the parts are orchestrated have their similarity yet is lyrical.
Welch is a bi-racial individual of parent that is African American and Caucasian. The mosaics are impressive in that they encompass so many different attributes from painting to collage, craft, furniture, graphic imagery, figuration, etc. He blends these various elements not succumbing and debted to the history of any of the mentioned mediums. The ability to utilize the multiple modes and languages into one, I believe, stems from his cross mixed ethnicities. In another painting titled “Jazz,” 2018, Oil, acrylic, spray, collage, found objects, and ceramic on panel. 60” x 48,” he has combined and collaged two different instruments in the single piece, a synthesizer keyboard, and a West African Djembe drum. The two instruments, as odd as they may sounds together may not necessarily accompany one another in the same song, however, visually the combination could be a metaphor as the marriage between two races. The name of Djembe drum in the Mali language, when translated mean “everyone gathers together in peace.”
Whatever the meaning and intentions maybe and how the works are created, without a doubt, Cameron Welch is an artist to keep an eye on. Matt Ross, the founder of the school recognized for wanting to change and revolutionize art education in K-12 grades, has, by honoring him with the first-ever One River School Emerging Art Award. This award and exhibition marked a new chapter in the School’s vision in supporting art and artist. Ross said of Welch’s work and the nature of the prize “I am inspired by Cameron’s work and the sheer determination that he and so many other emerging artists demonstrate by committing their lives to create art.” Ross began One River School out of a need to educate his local community and to celebrate contemporary art. The effort to create an award means One River School is enriching their endeavor by supporting artists by connecting their work to a broader audience through education. The award is a reflection of a local culture and community the importance of skills and creative ability.