Judges laud thought-provoking winner of inaugural Lake Art Prize

Published on 12 December 2020

Council's Visual Arts and Public Programs Leader Joanna Davies with Destafano's winning work.jpg

A thought-provoking mixed media artwork exploring the experience of a deaf artist finding their safe space in the world has won the inaugural Lake Art Prize.

Artist Chelle Destefano’s Navigating to Safe Space – a textile artwork that acts as a screen for a silent video projection – will be added to the Museum of Art and Culture collection after a panel of expert judges selected it as the top entry among 600-plus contenders.

Head judge and Museum of Contemporary Art Director Elizabeth Ann Magregor OBE lauded the work’s complexity and its underlying meaning.

“It’s a fascinating and intriguing work, and we found ourselves going back to it over and over again,” she said.

Victoria-based Destefano, 41, said it was heartening to see members of the deaf community recognised for their voices, culture and identity.

“The message in the work relating to seas of communities was a powerful one when I related an experience I had when looking for and finding the deaf community,” she said.

“It was like seas of water trying to find that, and then coming to shore, so to speak, to find them.”

Destefano’s work went on exhibition on Saturday at MAC alongside 40 other finalists in the $25,000 Lake Art Prize, one of the richest acquisitive art prizes in regional NSW.

Lake Macquarie City Council Manager Arts, Culture and Tourism Jacqui Hemsley said she had been “blown away” by the volume and quality of entries.

“We received entries from right across Australia, from both accomplished and amateur artists,” she said.

“They reflected such a diversity of talent in our arts community, and a wide range of creative interpretations of the theme of ‘Where There is Water’.”

“I want to congratulate not just Chelle Destefano, but every artist who entered their work, and particularly those shortlisted as finalists.”

In addition to acquiring Destefano’s work, MAC also purchased four other “exceptional” works from the exhibition for its permanent collection.

They included The Last Arborist by Lotti Consalvo, Water is Life! By Ben Adams, Baaka Nhuungku by Lotte Hilder and Jasmine Cruciun, and Wilugaju Wilara by Dale Collier and Nicole Monks

To celebrate the opening of the Lake Art Prize finalist exhibition, MAC hosted a day of activities on Saturday.

The day featured art demonstrations by renowned artists John Earle and Paul O’Brien, as well as a first look at the 41 finalist artworks on display.

The exhibition continues until 7 February, with visitors encouraged to vote for a $2000 People’s Choice Award.