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Downen, McElwee are Guggenheim fellows

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 22, 2010 - Two St. Louis artists have been named 2010 recipients of Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. Sculptor Jill Downen received the award in the Fine Arts category, while Van McElwee, professor of Electronic and Photographic Media at Webster University, won the award in the category of Video and Audio.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation supports creative and scholarly work in the sciences, humanities and arts. It is regarded as one of the most prestigious grants made to individuals working in these fields. For 2010, 180 awardees were selected from a field of nearly 3,000 applicants. The average award totals $40,000 and supports the recipients over a period of six months to one year.

Jill Downen's application requested support for work on a new project with the working title, "Temporal Bodies: A Transformation of Site and Flesh." Downen says the project will continue her established interest in the intersection of bodies and architecture, and will explore the themes of "exchanging forces and tensions of construction, deterioration, and restoration." The fellowship will also allow Downen to travel between St. Louis and New York, where the site-specific installation will be exhibited.

Downen, a first-time applicant, describes the award as "a tremendous gift, one that comes with affirmation and a responsibility toward future accomplishments. The Guggenheim award, for me, confirms the thought that anything is possible."

Van McElwee will use the fellowship to fund equipment and travel related to "HALF-REAL," a new single-channel video work he plans to develop. According to the artist, the work will examine "the idea of reality as a multiverse of forking possibilities" by combining sound and layered shots of natural patterns and architecture.

McElwee has previously applied for the fellowship. Receiving the 2010 award makes him the second Guggenheim Fellow in his family. McElwee's uncle, William H. Willis, received a fellowship in 1980, when he was chair and professor of Greek and Classical Studies at Duke University.

"I'm thrilled and deeply honored to be named a Guggenheim Fellow," McElwee said. "The foundation's encouragement will fuel my work from now on."

Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic.