2018-02-15 / News

Hall wins best-in-show in Newport for second time

Jamestown artist garners top prize from among 319 submissions

Joan Hall works on her award-winning piece at her Jamestown studio.Joan Hall works on her award-winning piece at her Jamestown studio.
For the second time in three years, a Jamestown sculptor has been named best-in-show at the Newport Art Museum for an installation that reaches beyond aesthetics.

Joan Hall’s “The New Normal” won top prize among 319 submissions during the 31st annual exhibition, just two years after her “Global Warming/Algae Bloom” installation captured the award. According to juror Crawford Alexander Mann III, a curator at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the 2018 sculpture is “endlessly compelling both in its complexity and its sheer beauty.”

Hall, a native Ohioan who moved to town in 2014, is influenced by the environment, although not exclusively its splendor. She uses marine debris as material, which serves as an awareness tool for the deteriorating condition of the world’s oceans.


Hall’s first-place installation, “The New Normal,” which hangs in the Newport Art Museum, was influenced by the declining health of the world’s oceans because of plastic pollution. Hall’s first-place installation, “The New Normal,” which hangs in the Newport Art Museum, was influenced by the declining health of the world’s oceans because of plastic pollution. “I remember a time when you could walk on a beach and there were no bits of plastic,” she said. “Those days are gone.”

According to Hall, a former art professor at St. Louis’ Washington University from 1978-2014, she used scientific data on climate change as points of departure for “The New Normal.” Her process begins with sheets of paper made with Japanese fibers that are pigmented and printed on plates, which are often created through the documentation of detritus she collects along the coast. These objects are then embossed in plastic plates and worked on with collagraph materials.

After the paper is printed, Hall adheres them to Mylar using thinned acrylic and then cuts intricate shapes from the prints once they are dry. She uses paint with more pulp so the translucent sheets can be used to make large sculptures.


HALL HALL Her installations change in response to the architecture. Hall makes hand-cast pins out of steel, glass, resin and marine debris, altering the undulation on the wall and making it reminiscent of ocean waves.

“At one time, detritus regurgitated from the sea was made of materials that would decompose and naturally biodegrade at sea,” Hall said. “Plastic has changed all this because the waste floats indefinitely, circulating the world. Plastic fragments break into smaller and smaller pieces that are scattered throughout the water, and birds and fish are ingesting them at an alarming rate.”

Hall, whose concerns stem from her love for sailing, will present her upcoming solo exhibit, “Sea of Heartbreak,” at the Bellevue Avenue museum from May 19 through July. This show addresses the increase in algae blooms and dying coral reefs because of rising ocean temperatures. According to the University of Rhode Island, sea surface temperature in Narragansett Bay has increased 3.6 degrees since the 1960s. Moreover, research from the Plastic Pollution Coalition found that plastic microfibers were present in 83 percent of drinking water samples worldwide.

“My work addresses the crisis of today, one of complacency to changing climates and changing chemistry in the world,” Hall said. “The contamination defies geography.”

The people’s choice award for the current show will be announced May 18. Museum visitors can vote for “The New Normal” once per visit through May 16.

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