And now, a message from our sponsor ...

Specifically the MADDEN Art Museum, which sponsored the visual arts category for this year's MasterMind awards:

What seduces you? The MADDEN Museum of Art wants to know.

Is it the naked form? A box of velvety chocolates? Are you seduced by the decadence of a bed made of ostrich feathers and crystals?

In its second exhibition since the museum's grand opening on November 11, 2008, The MADDEN's Intimacy & Seduction exhibition examines concepts that have ignited the human experience for centuries, inspired and perplexed artists across all genres. Intimacy & Seduction explores themes of love and lust, from the visceral to the cerebral.

Intimacy & Seduction features a noteworthy gathering of artists assembled both regionally and from abroad, contemporary working artists and traditional masters. Featured artists include Peter Anton, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Vittorio Matteo Corcos, Jill Greenberg, Peter Max, Mark Sink, Daniel Sprick and Andy Warhol.

The highlight of the exhibition is Bouguereau's "Return of Spring." In it, the artist places a beautiful young nymph and several encircling cupids in a garden of roses and lilacs, symbolic of eternal youth and a season of love and abundance. The pose of the nymph, an S-curve, is evocative of the classical sculptures of the Venus, often depicting the goddess in a state of partial undress with her hands clutching at falling garments or covering herself to feign modesty. The Venus wants you to look at her, and while her hands flutter futilely and superfluously to hide herself, she actually succeeds in drawing your attention to the exact place she appears to be hiding.

When "Return of Spring" was first exhibited in 1886, critics accused the artist of "academic formalism, empty of blood and emotion". Despite this criticism, the painting has aroused emotion and stirred blood on two occasions, by vandals who presumably objected to the nudity it portrays. During the painting's first visit to Omaha in December of 1890, a man threw a chair through the Bouguereau canvas. For the remainder of the two-year tour, the torn painting and the chair were exhibited as curiosities. After its return to Paris, the damaged painting was repaired by the artist. Almost a century later in January 1976, a museum visitor took a bronze statue off of its pedestal and hurled it at the Bouguereau painting, breaking the protective glass and piercing the canvas.

These episodes implore us to consider how art impacts the viewer. While in no way endorsing these acts of violence, The MADDEN is captivated by the power "Return of Spring" has had on audiences throughout the world.

In presenting this award, The MADDEN Museum of Art is hopeful that the scholarship recipient will continuously strive to create works that are both objects in which we take pleasure, as well as--and perhaps more importantly -- indications of human insight.

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Joe Tone
Contact: Joe Tone