BEST LOCAL ARTIST (1998)

This category is an unfortunate catch-all: Comparing photogravurists and painters and sculptors and declaring one of them the victor is a bit like naming a Best Molecule or Best Sexual Position. Still, with that caveat lector firmly in place, we can say that our favorite local artist is Stephen Mohring, who's been gracing such spaces as Intermedia Arts, the Soap Factory, and the Franconia Sculpture Park with his inventive, moody installations. Whether expressing himself in the creepy plaster body parts in Office or the metal drawers filled with rice, pebbles, feathers, and whatever else in Inventory, Mohring constantly seeks out new questions to ask and graceful ways to pose them. We were especially charmed by last year's Figure #1: On the Absence of Landscape, in which a 7-foot-deep shaft containing a bronze figure offered an inventive counterpoint to Franconia's preponderance of sculptures standing on grass. Coming from an artist who continually uses open volumes to express his obsessions, Figure #1 was a clever reminder that, sometimes, space is where you least expect it.

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