Su Su, a Pittsburgh artist who grew up in China, is among 10 women nominated for The Bennett Prize.
Inaugurated in 2018, the $50,000 biannual award is the largest art prize offered solely to women figurative realist painters. The 10 finalists were selected from 674 entries.
While studying in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, the 31-year-old artist learned how to conceptualize costumes and scenery to build a narrative. After earning a master’s degree in fine arts at CMU in 2015, she worked for Quantum, City Theatre and Attack Theatre. A few years ago, she decided to focus entirely on painting.
Being nominated for The Bennett Prize, she said, is “a great opportunity to have my work seen by professionals.”
While growing up in Beijing, Ms. Su learned calligraphy, jade carving and traditional Chinese painting. “I joined an art club when I was a kid.”
At age 12, she began studying at the Central Academy of Arts & Design in Beijing.
The artist, who lives in Wilkinsburg, said she loves her quiet neighborhood and Pittsburgh’s parks, which she calls a luxury.
“I can close my door and focus on my work,” she said, adding that the local art community is especially “supportive for young professionals.”
This past summer, Ms. Su received a different kind of recognition when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., purchased her painting “Darwin.”
The Bennett Prize was established by Steven Alan Bennett, former chief legal officer for USAA, a financial services provider for America’s military. Mr. Bennett and his wife, Elaine Melotti Schmidt, have collected figurative realist art by women since 2009.
The San Antonio, Texas, couple established the award with a $3 million endowment at The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy. The purpose of the prize is to ensure that talented women painters receive recognition, solo exhibitions, higher prices for their work, commissions and inclusion in museums and private collections.
The finalists’ artworks will be exhibited from May 20 to September 12 at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan. The winner of the $50,000 award will be announced at the exhibition’s opening. The winner receives $25,000 annually for two years to allow her time to mount a solo exhibition of her work, which will open at the Muskegon Museum of Art in 2023 and then travel the country.
After the Michigan exhibition, the finalists’ works will travel to art venues in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The first recipient of The Bennett Prize, Aneka Ingold, will present a solo show alongside the finalists’ paintings.
The other nine finalists are: Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross, Providence, R.I.; Tanmaya Bingham, Portland, Ore.; Chloe Chiasson, Brooklyn, N.Y.; June Glasson, Millbrook, N.Y.; Holly Keogh, Charlotte, N.C.; Lavely Miller, Baltimore; Rebecca Orcutt, North Bend, Wash.; Ayana Ross, McDonough, Ga; and Amy Werntz of Dallas.
The four-member jury consisted of Mr. Bennett, realist painters Alyssa Monks and Katie O’Hagan and Patrick Moore, director of The Andy Warhol Museum. For more information about The Bennett Prize, go to www.thebennettprize.org.