Join us to celebrate the fifth year of the Bob Stocksdale International Excellence in Wood Award. Supported by an anonymous donor, this award is presented annually to an emerging or mid-career artist whose work unites quality of craftsmanship and respect for material, for which renowned master woodturner Bob Stocksdale (1913–2003) is known. The 2020 recipient for the Bob Stocksdale International Excellence in Wood Award is Kristin LeVier, Moscow, ID.
In commemoration of the 2020 Stocksdale Award, Jena Gilbert-Merrill, a current Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, will present a lecture on LeVier and renowned master woodturner Bob Stocksdale (1913 – 2003). Gilbert-Merrill, whose research interest is focused on the history and experience of empathy-embedded objects and materials, will discuss LeVier’s work in the context of Stocksdale’s impact and legacy, including his quality of craftsmanship, respect for materials, commitment to human rights, and artistic innovation in the material of wood.
Kristin LeVier: I create minimalist contemporary sculpture inspired by my deep fascination with the natural world, and my mission as an artist is to tell a story through work at the intersection of art and science. I’m driven to make art that excites curiosity and connects us to the extraordinary, strange beauty of the world around us.
The two decades I spent as a research molecular biologist allowed me to explore the complexity of our world, and I continue to view my surroundings through the eyes of a scientist. The structure of a leaf or the movement of a bacterium can be astonishingly beautiful, and I sculpt with the aim of illuminating the subtle and the tiny.
Through my work I hope to deliver scientific content viscerally to encourage curiosity and a desire to look more closely at the smallest details of the fantastically rich and beautiful world around us.
Jena Gilbert-Merrill is a scholar and artist with an interest in making, makership, and materiality. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2016 with a BA in Studio Art & Educational Studies, completed a postgraduate program in Ceramics at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and is currently a Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. With her background in art-making, craftwork, and education, Jena is especially drawn to investigate how things are made, the empathy embedded in handmade objects, and the unique way that objects and materials can contain, encode, and reveal stories, history, and experience. Her current research revolves around the cultural and personal significance of making and material intelligence, as well as notions of skill, professionalism, and amateurism in the context of early 20th-century craft and design.
Bob Stocksdale (1913–2003) was an internationally renowned pioneer of contemporary wood turning. Known for his striking lathe-turned bowls, formed from exotic woods, Stocksdale is credited with sparking the revitalization of the craft of wood turning and its growing significance as an art form. His signature work comprised smooth, elegant bowl forms that emphasized the natural color and distinctive grain pattern of the wood.
Stocksdale grew up on his family’s farm in Warren, Indiana. He began working with wood as a teenager repairing furniture and taught himself how to turn on the lathe. Drafted into the US Army in 1942, Stocksdale claimed Conscientious Objector status and spent the duration of WWII in Civilian Public Service camps. It was in such a camp where he turned his first bowl.
Following the war, Stocksdale moved to Berkeley, CA, and became an early member of the Arts and Crafts Cooperative, Inc. (ACCI), a cooperative gallery showing work by designer-craftspeople. He was married to the noted weaver and fiber artist, Kay Sekimachi.
Bob Stocksdale’s awards and acknowledgments were many. He was inducted as a Fellow of the American Crafts Council; made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the American Association of Wood Turners (AAW); honored as a California Living Treasure; and recognized as a Master of the Medium Award by the James Renwick Alliance. His work is held in the permanent collections of many notable institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Contemporary Museum of Art, Honolulu; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Center for Art in Wood.