Grad Art alumnus and library staffer George Porcari receives prestigious Tiffany Foundation Award

Art Center alumnus and acquisitions librarian George Porcari (MFA 87 Art) was one among 30 recipients of the 17th biennial Tiffany Foundation Awards, which may or may not have arrived wrapped in a little robin’s-egg blue box with a white bow.

Officially announced last week, a series of monetary grants are issued every two years to unsung American artists and craftspeople by The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. What separates the award from other prestigious grants is that artists aren’t able to apply, and funds are unrestricted. The 2013 winners were selected from a pool of 137 nominees proposed by the Foundation’s trustees, artists, critics, and museum professionals throughout the United States. A seven-member jury then reviewed the submissions. The 2013 jury included art world luminaries Phong Bui, Chrissie Iles, Kathryn Kanjo, Charles LeDray, John Perreault, Cindy Sherman and Robert Storr.

Porcari first learned of his nomination over a year ago after the Foundation contacted him asking for images and information about his work. On learning he had won, he says, “I found out in January when a woman from the Artspace foundation called me from New York to tell me that I had a Tiffany. I was completely surprised because I didn’t realize Artspace and the Tiffany Foundation were connected. About nine months previously, I had been told of the nomination and was asked to submit a CV but that was already a little foggy in my memory! I’ve applied for grants and such before and nothing had ever come of it.”

Porcari was selected for his photo collage series, Interference. Interference consists of digitally manipulated photographs that have been stretched and pulled to the point of near unrecognizability, but always maintaining its documentary aspect, even as it is undermined. The work is meant to be seen on 36” x 42” matte paper; with a white space expansive enough to become a space or a field, photographic fragments are put into play. This space ceases to be empty as the imagery engages in a dialogue of sorts.

“I use photo-montage to try to understand the world I live, this time and place, and it seems to me photography and collage are a wonderful means of doing this.  In effect I don’t use my work to explain anything. On the contrary– the work explains to me,” says Porcari, describing his work.

When he isn’t working on his own art, Porcari serves at the acquisitions librarian at Art Center– a position he has held for 26 years. He recalls being somewhat of a pest to the former acquisitions librarian when he was a student here, always asking for books on photography or philosophy. “Her name was Rose, and she was very nice and would buy all of the material that I requested.” When she retired, he applied for the position with his only qualification being a stint helping the book buyer at the iconic Strand Bookstore in New York City. What he didn’t tell then-Librarian Betsy Galloway was his “duties working for the Strand consisted mostly of lifting heavy boxes because [he] was then the young, new guy and that’s what you did if you helped the book buyer in that store.”

Porcari finds a great synergy between his job, his vocation and his education. “The library job was informed by my education here— I knew the books that we needed to get—and the same job now informs my work, which deals so much with looking at images on paper.”

As to the future, this Renaissance man is self publishing a book on Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, designed by fellow alum, U-cef Hanjani (BFA 92 Graphic Design). The book is due to release this Fall. He also hopes to show new work sometime next year. And with this grant, George Porcari is certainly on his way.

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