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Top Honors Winner Claire Watson at Guild Hall’s 84th Artist Members Exhibition. (Photo credit: Rossa Cole)

The jury, well, juror has spoken. On October 28, Water Mill resident Claire Watson was named the top honors winner of Guild Hall’s 84th Artist Members Exhibition (AME), an award bestowed by this year’s juror Virginia Lebermann, Ballroom Marfa co-founder and fellow East Ender.

A resident of the South Fork since the early 90s, Watson’s work has been featured in the AME since 2009. “I do a lot of revisiting,” she says about her process. “My work is always evolving. I’m a sculptor, but I started using found objects and repurposing them.”

Claire Watson’s “Bye Gone,” this year’s AME top honors winning-piece. (Photo credit: Rossa Cole)

Her winning piece featured in this year’s exhibition, which had over 300 submissions, was “Bye Gone,” a 24-by-20-inch piece made from pattern parts of leather pants as well as leather remnants, thread, canvas and gesso. “It refers to the absence of the person who once owned the leather,” she says of naming her piece. “My work has a conceptual basis; it’s rooted in that. The visual statement it makes is ultimately what’s important, but the impetus to that may only be visible to me.”  

Over the decades, Watson’s work has encompassed drawing and sculpture along with mixed media pieces, which most recently have been assembled and constructed with salvaged items, particularly disassembled garments. Typically utilizing only four materials — thread, canvas, leather and gesso — Watson’s pieces are made with traditional, basic and self-taught tailoring and sewing techniques, with a constant consideration to the original shape of the disassembled clothing she’s using.

“I’m keeping it simple,” Watson say. “There’s a pattern shape of the pieces I take apart. I try to preserve the shape.”

According to a press release from Guild Hall, the AME has supported artists along with the East Hampton-based cultural center by offering the works on view for purchase, with proceeds split evenly between the two. “Bye Gone” is for sale for $5,000. To view all works from the exhibition click here. Prices range from $125 to $14,000.

(From left to right) Awards juror Virginia Lebermann with Andrea Grover, Guild Hall’s executive director, and Melanie Crader, director of visual arts. (Photo credit: Rossa Cole)

Aside from some serious bragging rights, Watson also wins the opportunity to have her own solo exhibit at a future Artist Members Exhibition. This year, that honor was Mary Boochever’s who was 2019’s AME top honors recipient. Currently, Boochever’s solo exhibit, “Chart of the Inner Warp,” and the AME will both be open through January 8, 2024. Galleries are open Friday to Monday from noon to 5 p.m.. Admission is free.

In addition to Watson’s top honors prize, there were several artists that were given honorable mentions from Lebermann. Those included Isla Hansen for her mixed media “Hand Tools (or Tools for No Masters), Michael Butler for his acrylic painting “The Pepperidge Tree,” Phillippe Cheng for an untitled work on sandpaper with archival inks, Chris Siefert for his mixed media “Rib,” and Mary Martha Lambert for her oil and charcoal “Revenant.” Robert Longo received a juror’s special award for “Untitled (After Cave Painting in Lascaux).”

“Being a juror for the Artist members Exhibition was a beautiful introduction to the dedicated community surrounding this illustrious East End institution,” Lebermann says in a press release. “I’m looking forward to many years of engagement in visual art, performance and education at Guild Hall.”