Gregory Mortenson’s ‘innately humane’ portraits win 2018 Moth Art Prize

Artist inspired by aid work in Haiti after 2010 earthquake to capture spirit of its people

The winner of this year’s Moth Art Prize, run by the international art & literature magazine The Moth, is the American figurative painter Gregory Mortenson.

Mortenson, who teaches portrait drawing and painting at Grand Central Academy in New York, credits his father and grandfather as being two of his earliest role models in art making. He attended Southern Virginia University on a wrestling scholarship, then after completing his degree in art returned to his home in Utah to study life drawing and painting. In 2006 he moved to New York to further his education in classical technique at the Grand Central Academy of Art, under the tutelage of Jacob Collins.

Mortenson travelled with his wife to Port au Prince 10 months after the earthquake in 2010, to help build housing and, moved by what he calls ‘the beauty and triumph of the human spirit’, he set about making sketches of the children as they waited in hope for a new home and school. He returned to Haiti in 2013 to teach art at an orphanage, and completed several more figurative studies, which featured in his 2015 solo exhibition Zion’s Children at Arcadia Contemporary in New York. His work is also represented by Collins Galleries and Haynes Galleries in the US.

Mortenson will receive €1,000 and spend two weeks at The Moth Retreat in rural Ireland as part of his prize. His self-portrait also adorns the cover of the autumn issue of The Moth.

‘I’m over the moon about winning The Moth Art Prize,’ said Mortenson. ‘The Moth has always been brilliantly curated, with exquisite artwork and thoughtful writing throughout. And a couple of weeks in the countryside is exactly what my artist soul needs.’

The Moth Art Prize is judged on a portfolio of 5-10 figurative or representational artworks and receives entries from around the world. The publishers of The Moth, Rebecca O’Connor and Will Govan, were thrilled with the quality of the work entered, but felt Mortenson’s was unswerving in its directness and honesty.

‘Gregory’s work is exquisitely crafted, but it’s also innately humane. It really does capture something of the resilience and beauty of the human spirit,’ said O’Connor.

Work by the following artists’ was also highly commended: Diarmuid Delargy (Ireland), Tazia Fawley (UK), Ellen Heck (US), Hollis Heichemer (US), Robert Jackson (US), Alex Kanevsky (US), Michelle Kettle (Australia), Raha Khademi (The Netherlands), Eilish McCann (Ireland) and Alex Russell Flint (UK).

You can read more about the prize and purchase the magazine online at themothmagazine.com.

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