Aneka working on a drawing

Figurative realism, fear and family

Artist Aneka Ingold '03

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Aneka Ingold '03 always wanted to be an artist.

From drawing as a young child, to earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Grand Valley, to developing her craft in mixed media, Ingold has always been an artist.

She was recognized this year for her artistic talents and efforts by being named the winner of the first Bennett Prize, the largest-ever award given solely to women painters. The $50,000 prize is designed to propel the careers of women painters working in the figurative realist style. Ingold was one of 647 entrants in the prize’s inaugural year.

“It was surreal just to find out I was one of the 10 finalists for the Bennett Prize,” said Ingold. “When they announced my name as the winner, it was like a dream come true.”

Art piece by Aneka

Tributary, mixed media artwork by Ingold.

“I work through a lot of the fears, desires and questions that I have about myself, about life, and about women's roles in society while creating my pieces.”

Aneka Ingold '03
Art piece by Aneka

Bind, mixed media artwork by Ingold

The award has brought more attention to Ingold and her work. This includes her current partnership with RJD Gallery in New York, a gallery specializing in contemporary art, as well as her Bennett Prize exhibition opening in May 2021 at the Muskegon Museum of Art.

Ingold specializes in the figurative realist style, an artistic style that focuses on the realistic depiction of the human figure. Working with mixed media, her pieces begin with acrylic paint on paper, and are then built upon with pens, colored pencils, and more paint. Part of her inspirational process includes collecting physical images and photographs that she finds interesting or moving. She said she files them away, reviewing when a muse is needed.

Ingold is thankful for the undergraduate education she received at Grand Valley and said it set the foundation for her career. As a student, once she was proficient in the technical skills of painting, a faculty member encouraged her to experiment with mixed media.

“It was an important process for me to first understand how to work from observation and render the human figure well,” she said. “Before you can take any creative liberties, such as doing things like abstractions and manipulations, you need to hone your traditional, technical skills first.”

Grand Valley faculty also encouraged Ingold to move from merely making observations to searching for content in her work, content such as the female experience.

Ingold passionately portrays the female experience, examining the past through women’s eyes and reflecting the present struggles and triumphs of women. She has studied many accounts of uniquely female life experiences throughout different time periods, cultures, and political and social milieus.

“I work through a lot of the fears, desires and questions that I have about myself, about life, and about women’s roles in society while creating my pieces,” explained Ingold. “I have two children and a lot of my work has to do with the transition into motherhood. There is a fear involved in that role change and that fear shows up in my pieces. My work can be cryptic and mysterious, even confrontational, but it’s also meant to be empowering.”

In addition to empowering viewers through her art, Ingold empowers the students that she teaches. In 2014, Ingold graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids with a master’s degree in fine arts. Through working as a teaching assistant at the college, she realized she had knowledge, skills and wisdom to impart to younger people, both as a teacher and a mother.

She and her family moved to Florida, and Ingold now teaches drawing two days a week at the University of Tampa.

“I keep making art and teaching art because it’s enlightening. Art can be a very commanding and influential form of communication. It elicits new ways of seeing and knowing,” said Ingold.

“When I make art I’m not just speaking through imagery, I’m also listening and learning. This is what I’m hoping to instill in my students and why I love education.”

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