Martha Whittington Wins $10k Herradura Contest

Martha Whittington with her winning barrel sculpture Field Surround.

Martha Whittington went home a happy woman last night, with a $10,000 check from Tequila Herradura for her winning artwork made from an oak tequila barrel. SCAD student Sam Lasseter ($3,000) and Gregor Turk ($1,000) took second and third place, respectively.

The Atlanta iteration of the Herradura Art Barrel Competition took place yesterday at Mason Murer gallery. Like an episode of the reality show Work of Art, it involved eight artists selected from about 500 applicants. Each had six weeks to transform a barrel into an artwork with rough guidelines to capture the spirit of the Herradura brand.

Judges were asked to consider how creatively the artists used the barrel, and their inclusion, or not, of the agave plant and the Herradura horseshoe logo. I was one of six judges, who also included Art Papers editor Victoria Camblin, freelance artist and designer Eric Nine, Herradura executive Jesus Ostus, and last year’s winners, Micah and Whitney Stansell, who also won the subsequent national competition for a whopping $100,000. Whittington will now contend for the national prize against the winning artists from Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Miami.

Whittington’s submission, which she jokingly referred to as the Anish Kapoor barrel, was minimalist and deceptively simple. Its stripped down appearance belying the hours of labor that involved dismantling the barrel, replaning each stave and fitting them with hand-polished stainless steel, and reassembling the whole thing. A glowing white horseshoe propped against it detracted somewhat from the sculpture but served to fulfill a recommended design element.

Lasseter’s was an interactive piece; viewers could roll the barrel across the floor, which made an attached jimador puppet appear to be pushing his agave harvesting tool. Turk covered his barrel in black rubber inner tubes in the pattern of a topographical map, with a silver ceramic top bearing an incised map of the town of Amatitán, where the company is located.

The other contenders were Daniel Flores, Michael Haverty, Fabian Williams, Craig Singleton, and Mark Wentz.

As part of the competition, Herradura donates $10,000 to Creative Capital for each city, which helps to pay for the winners’ enrollment in one of its professional development workshops.

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