Maine artists Anna Hepler and Lauren Fensterstock this week were awarded $50,000 artists fellowships from United States Artists, a foundation that gives out grants to American artists in nine different disciplines. The grants can be used for anything, and have been awarded to more than 500 individual artists across the country since 2006.
Eastport-based Hepler has made a name for herself over the past two decades working in both two and three dimensions, from monumental soft sculptures like the floating orb she installed at the Portland Museum of Art in 2014, or small ceramics and metal sculptures like the ones at a 2015 solo exhibition at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor. Regardless of size, her work turns everyday materials — plastic, wire, rubber — into meditations on big concepts. In 2015, accompanying her UMMA exhibit, Hepler installed a somewhat controversial floating piece called “Boat Load,” composed primarily of buoys, mooring balls and boat fenders, anchored to the bed of the Kenduskeag Stream in downtown Bangor.
Fensterstock, a Portland resident, trained as a painter and jewelry maker at Parsons School of Design and further refined her talents in graduate school at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Her work embraces a perceived conflict, twisting nature with the man-made, the uncommon with common objects — from soap, pennies and wire to precious and semi-precious gems.
Hepler and Fensterstock are not the first Maine artists to receive the $50,000 United States Artists grant. In 2015 Portland potter Ayumi Horie also received the grant, and before that, Indian Township basketmaker Jeremy Frey and former Maine poet laureate Wesley McNair. A full list of this year’s awardees can be found on the US Artists website.