Press Release

March 12, 2008


Boston, Mass. – Catherine D'Ignazio, Rania Matar, Andrew Witkin and Joe Zane were named finalists for the 2008 James and Audrey Foster Prize, the ICA's biennial award and exhibition program for Boston-area artists, the museum announced today. D'Ignazio, Matar, Witkin and Zane will participate in an exhibition at the ICA that opens November 12, 2008, and continues through March 1, 2009. The winner of the prize will be announced in January 2009.

The James and Audrey Foster Prize is key to the ICA's efforts to nurture and recognize Boston-area artists of exceptional promise.  The program creates a significant opportunity for four locally-based artists to exhibit their work in a leading contemporary art museum, and offers a substantial financial award of $25,000 to the winner and $1,500 to the finalists.

First established in 1999, the James and Audrey Foster Prize (formerly the ICA Artist Prize) expanded its format when the museum opened a new facility in 2006, with four finalists presenting their work in one of the ICA's inaugural exhibitions. James and Audrey Foster, passionate collectors and supporters of contemporary art, endowed the prize with a $1 million gift, ensuring the ICA's ability to sustain and grow the program for years to come.

"When the new ICA opened, it was a thrill to see visitors so engaged in the 2006 James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the ICA. "This program is an opportunity not only for the artists to advance in the field, but for audiences in Boston and beyond to appreciate the artistic innovation happening in our community."

"We're thrilled that D'Ignazio, Matar, Witkin and Zane will join the expanding list of artists who have grown artistically through this effort.  They will have their work in the spotlight of a museum that is watched closely by the international art community," says James Foster, ICA Trustee and Chairman, President and CEO of Charles River Laboratories.

The ICA looks to a broad network of local and national colleagues to identify eligible artists for the prize.They are asked to look for work that indicates exceptional artistic promise through innovation, conceptual strength, and skillful execution by artists who live or work within Greater Boston.  Over 30 locally-based arts professionals nominated 38 artists, from which a distinguished jury selected the four finalists named above. This jury, which includes ICA Director Jill Medvedow, Larrisa Harris, Associate Director of MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Harry Philbrick, Director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Kelly Sherman, artist and recipient of the 2006 James and Audrey Foster Prize, and Philippe Vergne, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Walker Art Center, will select the winner from among these finalists in January 2009.

All four finalists stood out to the Foster Prize jury as early career artists that have confidently embraced an artistic approach that will lead to the sustained creation of compelling work.  Early, pivotal support of artists at this stage is an important feature of the James and Audrey Foster Prize. 

The often collaborative work of Catherine D'Ignazio, or kanarinka, is based in the belief that small actions can lead to poetic transformation. It appears in several formats, including performance and street interactions, on-line and in galleries. Her multi-faceted work It Takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston was an ambitious attempt to measure fear.  Over several months the artist ran Boston's official evacuation route, and kept count of the number of breaths required to run this 100-mile system. Audio recording of the sounds of her breaths, as well as the breath counts as they accumulated with each subsequent run, were made available through a website and a podcast. This project was recognized by the New England Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics this year as an exhibition of note in a public space. D'Ignazio is Co-Director of the experimental arts organization iKatun, and a founding member of the performance art collaborative The Institute for Infinitely Small Things. She teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design's Digital+Media Graduate Program. Her artwork has been exhibited at Eyebeam, MASSMoCA, the DeCordova Museum and the Boston Center for the Arts. D'Ignazio received an MFA from the Maine College of Art in 2005. She lives in Boston. 

Andrew Witkin's solo presentation at the Allston Skirt Gallery in 2007 presented poetic arrangements of familiar, everyday items such as clothing, running shoes, tin foil and paper, along with things slightly less ordinary such as cow's knees and lamb's knuckles.These are physical manifestations or "stopping points" of the artist's ranging and ongoing examination of essential life questions, such as how one balances personal fulfillment with community responsibility. Witkin's inquiry follows many paths, including drawing, travel, sculpture, book research, repetitive actions, giving and attending lectures, and old-fashioned contemplation. His open-ended approach results in work that "is and is not art, is and is not finished," according to the artist. In addition to the Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston, Witkin has presented work at the Boston Center for the Arts, Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, and University of the Arts, Philadelphia. In his academic education, Witkin focused on music, set design and art history. He lives in Boston.

Similarly to Witkin, Joe Zane's bold probing of essential questions that circulate around the making and presentation of art was noted by the Foster Prize jury.  His work employs a variety of mediums including drawing, painting, video and sculptural objects that include frequent references to the art world. Zane attempts to instill an almost comic awareness in the viewer of his or her futile attempts to locate ultimate meaning in a work of art, such as with Forgers from 2005-06, a series of painted depictions of famous art forgers.  Zane's work has been exhibited at MIT's List Visual Art Center, ArtSpace in New Haven, Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston and the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York. Zane received an MFA from Cornell University in 2003.  He lives in Boston.


The Foster Prize jury was struck by Rania Matar's ability to capture the everyday humanity that persists amidst catastrophic circumstances in her photography. Matar's work focuses on the Middle East, especially its women and children. More recent projects examine refugee camps, the meaning of the veil and the aftermath of war. Her striking photograph entitled Barbie Girl, 2006, shows a toddler running in delight with the person we assume is her mother smiling in pride behind her.  Behind them is a chaotic backdrop of dust and rubble, a construction crane, and the shells of bombed out buildings. Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. She trained as an architect at Cornell University before studying photography at the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshops. Her images are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Portland Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum, the Danforth Museum of Art and the Kresge Art Museum. She has won several awards in photography. Matar lives in Brookline.

Recipients of the prize to date include Ambreen Butt (1999), Laylah Ali (2000), Taylor Davis (2001), Alice Swinden Carter (2002), Douglas R. Weathersby (2003), Kanishka Raja (2004), and Kelly Sherman (2006). Works by Ali, Butt, Davis, and Sherman have entered the ICA Collection. The James and Audrey Foster Artist Prize program is organized by ICA Curator Carole Anne Meehan.

An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for seventy years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas.  The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am - 5 pm; Thursday and Friday, 10 am - 9 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm.  Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, and free for members and children 17 and under. Free admission on Target Free Thursday Nights, 5 - 9 pm. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at


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