James Siena '79 tapped for alumni artist award

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Nicola Pytell

Painter James Siena '79 has been selected to receive the 2009-10 Eissner Artist of the Year Award, administered by the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA).

The CCA also announced the 2009-10 Cornell Undergraduate Artist Award winner, Dorian Bandy '10, and runner-up, Jessie Fair '09.

Siena creates complex linear abstractions based on his own "visual algorithms," resulting in concentrated, vibrantly colored freehand geometric patterns. He works in a variety of media, including lithography, etching, painting, woodcut, drawing and engraving.

An exhibition of his work will be displayed at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art from Jan. 16 to April 20, 2010. Siena will receive the award and give a lecture on campus April 16.

Siena's art is in many private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York City. After receiving his BFA from the Department of Art in Cornell's College of Architecture, Art and Planning, he developed his style over several years.

His work has been featured in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions since 1981. He was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, a showcase for contemporary American and international artists, and since 2005 has mounted three successful solo exhibitions at New York's PaceWildenstein Gallery.

"James Siena is one of the most inventive, independent, focused and prolific artists working today," wrote Patricia Phillips, chair of the Department of Art, in her letter of nomination. "Thirty years after he received his BFA from Cornell, Siena has emerged as one of the art world's internationally respected leaders. … [He] balances the traditions of 20th-21st century abstraction with a maverick sensibility to craft salient, if speculative, insights on the contemporary world and the intricate workings of human perception."

The annual alumni artist award winner is selected by a jury of arts department chairs at Cornell.

The Undergraduate Artist Award, given to students of artistic merit, includes a presentation of the winning artist's work on campus.

Dorian Bandy is a College Scholar and musicology major in the College of Arts and Sciences who also studies comparative literature. He has plied his talents on campus as a conductor, fortepianist, violinist and violist. In November 2008, he organized and staged a historically accurate production of the Mozart opera "Don Giovanni" at Risley Hall -- the culmination of three years of research, including study abroad in Europe and immersion in 18th-century acting practices.

Bandy will receive his award in October and will present two "Haydn Project" concerts Oct. 26-27 in Sage Chapel with Les Petits Violons (Cornell's Baroque ensemble) and visiting artists from London, Vienna and New York.

The runner-up, fiber artist and designer Jessie Fair, designed the new Cornell tartan, which has been produced as a scarf by Pendleton Woolen Mills. She earned her B.S. from the College of Human Ecology this year and was named an outstanding senior in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design; she was designated an outstanding junior and outstanding sophomore in previous years. Her other honors include a 2009 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence and a 2008 Barbara L. Kuhlman Foundation scholarship.

Her solo exhibition, "Works on Silk," shown in February in Willard Straight Hall Gallery, featured her original shibori-dyed silk pieces. Her work was also included in "On the Edge," the 2007 International Textile and Apparel Association Design Exhibition in Los Angeles. She has started her own online design business, ShiboriLove.com.

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