Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

April 23, 2010

ArtPrize winner won't be pinned

Eric Daigh works outside pigeonhole

TRAVERSE CITY — Since snagging third place in the inaugural Grand Rapids ArtPrize contest last October, Eric Daigh has kept busy.

The 33-year-old Traverse City artist captured public votes and $50,000 in prize money for his entry of three portraits created out of push pins. ArtPrize drew more than 1,200 artists who exhibited their work throughout Grand Rapids. Artist registration for this year's contest opened this week and continues through May 27.

Daigh's decision about participating again will depend on whether he can find a good spot to display his piece and if he has time to create another entry. His concept is to make a work that almost resembles a large mobile or chandelier and would need an indoor space to house it.

"I've got an idea that requires kind of a big building, so I'm sort of hoping that someone with the right venue will reach out," he said.

This year's ArtPrize runs Sept. 22 through Oct. 10.

The unusual push pin medium made Daigh's work a popular subject on art blogs and a "CBS Sunday Morning" segment. In recent months, Daigh completed six or seven push pin commissions, gained representation from Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, sold all three of his ArtPrize portraits and is planning for several shows.

He must pay taxes on his prize money and bought a new camera, a Lego Set for his 6-year-old son and a pair of boots for his wife. He will also use the funds for a building project.

Daigh is appreciative of ArtPrize and the exposure it gave his artwork, though he's slightly wary of being pigeonholed a "contest winner" or his art a "gimmick."

"I am in this to be an artist. This is what I consider to be my career," he said.

He expects even more local artists to compete in ArtPrize this year, and he cautioned them from assuming that the oversized works that resonated with voters last year will succeed again this year. The public, he said, may vote for "more intimate" creations this time.

His expertise at finding the beauty in mundane office supplies landed him another fun assignment. Daigh teamed with Post-it Notes maker 3M to judge a student design contest. Young artists ages 11 to 18 may submit a billboard design using Post-it products. The winner will work with Daigh to create a huge billboard that will be displayed inside Grand Central Station. The contest celebrates the brand's 30th anniversary.

In preparation for the contest, Daigh received boxes and boxes of Post-its in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. And while he continues to look for inspiration in other mediums, he hasn't forsaken the push pin. A cargo ship with his special order — 330,000 push pins — is making its way across the ocean from China.

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