Third Place
Gus Boehling

As I read through the ads given to me, one escaped slave in particular struck me as intriguing. Ben, who was mentioned in four of the advertisements, ran away from various masters of his at four different times over the course of four years. During his first documented escape attempt, he went into a lake and pretended to drown himself so that his master would think him dead and not try to find him. Later on, in another ad, this cleverness is dismissed in a description of him as a ‘crafty fellow’. His masters did not see him for the intelligent, thinking person that he was but rather as a sneak, not to be trusted. I think that this misunderstanding of his true potential might have been what drove him so hard to continue to try and escape. Not only was he oppressed physically, he was also in a position where his intelligence was seen as a bad thing.

This feeling of having the person inside of him, who he knew he could be, must have weighed on him terribly and been a constant source of pain unless he was making an effort to rid himself of it.

In creating my art, I tied together both of the major emotions I got out of Ben’s description with the image of water that played such a major role in his primary escape attempt. The mental oppression Ben receives from his masters, here symbolized by the heartless words they used to describe him in those hated wanted ads that must also have come to feel to Ben like a terrible burden, rushes down over his strained shoulders in the form of an unrelenting waterfall. Yet while this terrible burden is on one side of him, directly opposite it is the self that Ben believes he can be. Even through all the hardships that pummel his body, Ben must have been extremely dedicated to his eventual freedom to attempt escape so many times. He obviously did not see himself as a slave; when he looked at himself in a mirror, the man he saw was a free man who had simply been the victim of a bad situation. The reflection his body casts is the man he knows inside that he is—his own master.

2008 Winners

Sisi Li (1)
Lia Rothschild (2)
Gus Boehling (3)
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Dustin Capek (H)
Keith Greenbaum (H)
Kahlilah Shahara Lilley (H)
Micole Woo (H)
Samantha Wilcox (H)
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Dara Illowsky
Yingna Liu
Roman Mendieta
Amanda Murray
Shannon Murray
Ali Simon-Fox
Megan Wachs