Toronto artist Kristan Horton is the winner of the 2010 Grange Prize for excellence in contemporary photography. Horton, 39, received a cheque for $50,000 - Canada's largest photography award - at a ceremony Wednesday evening at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto where he and the other three nominees have had their work displayed since Sept. 22.
As with two previous Grange Prize laureates, Horton was chosen by public vote. In addition to voting online at grangeprize.com, visitors to the AGO and to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography, where work by the four finalists has been displayed, cast ballots until Oct. 31. A former fine-arts student at the University of Guelph and the Ontario College of Art and Design, Horton received 46 per cent of the total vote. Started in 2007 by the AGO and Aeroplan, the Grange competition each year partners two contemporary Canadian photographers with two from another country. The partner country this year was the United States.
Horton and the other finalists - Canadian-born, New York-based Moyra Davey, Brooklyn's Josh Brand and Leslie Hewitt from Houston - were selected for Grange consideration earlier this year by a four-person jury helmed by Sophie Hackett, AGO assistant curator of photography.
Horton's AGO exhibition includes works from his Orbit series, a collection of large, layered colour images derived from piles of detritus he has photographed, and from Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove, 200 diptychs from 2007 in which he juxtaposed stills from the famous Stanley Kubrick film with his own recreations of the content using utensils, toys, cardboard, food and other everyday materials.
Horton is a multidisciplinary artist motivated more by a desire to work in "as many mediums as possible" - drawing, sculpture, photography, video, assemblage - than "perfecting a single thing." In a recent interview, the artist acknowledged he has no formal photographic training, and "in fact, I've never even considered myself a photographer. But having said that, I seem to have come closer to photography, very close, as a medium [that]I'm using every single day," be it looking at images, taking photographs or making art. Photography, he observed, "is a tool that helps me answer philosophic itches . . . about perception, representation and self-representation . . . questions about being in the world."
Horton claims never to have made a conscious decision to become an artist. "I had permissive parents" who indulged whatever artistic impulses he had from a young age, he said, and over time he became "accustomed to a self-directed lifestyle that just wasn't interrupted, that never got interrupted, that's still not interrupted."
Prior to Wednesday's announcement, each Grange Prize finalist had participated in a residency program, with Davey, Brand and Hewitt spending one week in Toronto in the summer creating new work and Horton travelling to Chicago. As runners-up, Davey, Brand and Hewitt will each receive $5,000.
The Grange Prize show continues at the AGO through Jan. 2. Its counterpart at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography concludes Dec. 22.