The prize money was donated by an anonymous foundation to the Hudgens, which created the competition to encourage the visual arts in the state. The arts center hopes to identify funding to offer the prize every other year.
A panel of jurors – David Kiehl (New York's Whitney Museum of American Art), Sylvie Fortin (Art Papers magazine) and Eungie Joo (New York's New Museum) — met in Manhattan in August to view more than 2,000 submitted images. They selected the prize winner based on pieces in the finalists' exhibit, which will be on view through Feb. 19.
Hur's installation, "She Prays Happiness," was created from recycled silk cemetery flowers, shredded into small pieces and used to form long, bright stripes that extend across the gallery floor and continue in paint up a wall. The stripes replicate the Korean wedding blanket of the artist’s mother, Soon Hur. That reference "meshed with my interest in the ideas of loss, childhood memories and fantasy," Gyun Hur said. "It's very vulnerable."
An accompanying video shows Hur's mother and father, Woo Hur, working with their daughter to pluck the silk flower petals and then chop them with large paper cutters. Music by the Korean singer Patty Kim plays in the background, mixing with the steady rhythm of the paper cutters. Hur's parents spent nearly a week helping their daughter install the piece.
Hur was born in Daegu, Korea, and her installations, sculpture and paintings are strongly influenced by her immigration experience -- exploring geographical and cultural identity, as well as assimilation.
With finalist Moon serving as an interpreter, Woo Hur said of his daughter, "I didn't know she would become an artist, but I knew she was very talented in many different things." Crumpling a tissue with nervous energy, he added about the award, "It's more than money, of course. This is going to help her tremendously, encouraging her so much."
After undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia, Hur received her master's from the Savannah College of Art and Design. To repay school loans, she works part-time for a medical billing company, tutors and babysits.
She called herself "a literal emerging artist," but has exhibited in Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, Seattle and Vermont. In March, she will create a large-scale installation at Lenox Square, commissioned by the Atlanta nonprofit Flux Projects.
On her Web site (http://gyunhur.com/home.html), Hur blogged Wednesday morning that she didn't sleep much Tuesday night. "Still in awe of what happened," she wrote, "and feel so grateful and honored."
Hudgens Prize Finalists' Exhibit
Through Feb. 19. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Free admission through Dec. 31. Hudgens Center for the Arts, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Building 300, Duluth. 770-623-6002, www.thehudgens.org.