Press Release: October 12, 2016

Sylvie van Helden Wins the Autry’s 2016 High Five Art Contest

Sylvie van Helden

Los Angeles, CA (October 3, 2016) — Sylvie van Helden’sUpstream is the winner of High Five Art, the Autry Museum of the American West’s public art contest. She will receive a prize of $2,500 and her design will be featured for one year on a 49’ x 19’ banner at the Autry’s building in Griffith Park, where it will be visible from the 5 Freeway and the Los Angeles River. On Thursday, October 13, van Helden will be celebrated at a launch partyalong with the six other contest finalists.

Upstream belongs to van Helden’s series called The Legend of the Koi. The work is a loose interpretation of an ancient Chinese tale about perseverance and transformation. Legend is a story about a school of fish that are swimming upriver. They encounter a large waterfall and the majority turn around discouraged. A small group continues against the current, undeterred. After 100 years of attempts to surmount the waterfall, one fish makes a heroic leap to the top and is turned into a dragon, a symbol of power.

“The story reflects my background as a Chinese American. The water is a key element in this tale. The fish is dependent on the water for his survival, despite it originally being an obstacle to him. The fish’s ability to ultimately benefit from this obstacle is a nice analogy for our need to find sustainable ways to grow, and in the end, thrive,” said van Helden.

van Helden is a mixed media artist with an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. In the Legend works, fragments of the Koi and Dragon float amidst colorful washes of paint, suspended waves, and geometric shapes derived from origami. van Helden’s bold palette and attention to textural nuance show her interest in graphic design and printmaking. She has exhibited her works at venues such as Maryland Art Place, Eastern Michigan University, the Wichita Center for the Arts and the Painting Center in NYC.

A selection committee chose seven finalists based on artistic merit, connection to the environmental theme of California Continued, originality, and ability to effectively translate onto a large banner format. Designs by the finalists were displayed inside the Autry and online from August 1 to September 9, 2016, attracting more than 5,000 votes. The first runner-up is Heritage by Arturo Martinez. The second runner-up is Speed X Distance X Time by Robert Minervini. Both runner-ups will receive $500, and all finalists will receive prizes from the Autry Store.

“This year the High Five Art Contest challenged artists to explore their local environment – including, but not limited to its rich history, ecological diversity, build infrastructure, and relationship with inhabitants. The results were a wide-range of submissions of depth and breadth that illuminated the intersection between people and environment,” said Amy Scott, the Autry’s Chief Curator and Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator of Visual Arts.

High Five Art Launch Party
Thursday, October 13, 6:30–9:30 p.m.
At the Autry in Griffith Park, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027
$5 General Admission / Free for Autry Members
Reservations Recommended:

As KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez spins and a ferris wheel soars, unwind with an evening of art and culture at the Autry in Griffith Park.

  • Explore the museum after-hours. Don't miss California Continued, a new exhibition spanning two galleries, an ethnobotanical garden, and an immersive media experience.
  • Contribute to a community chalk mural, scribble in the sky with a 3D pen, go for a spin on a ferris wheel, and check out the winners of the Autry's 2016 High Five Art Contest.
  • Plus, take home a free California-themed tote bag!



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Artist: Arturo Martinez
Artist Statement: My illustration shows the history of a village looking to art, books, myths, and fables to give life to the grand heritage that the pioneers left when they founded this land. The traditions and roots that remain and are led by generations in family, nature, and animals recreate the magic and the myths. It remains as a reason to tell the legends embedded within tradition.


[[{"fid":"11131","view_mode":"figure_figcaption","fields":{"format":"figure_figcaption","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Caitlin Anne","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Caitlin Anne","field_folder[und]":"566","field_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_caption[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Caitlin Anne","title":"Caitlin Anne","height":"155","width":"400","class":"media-element file-figure-figcaption"},"link_text":null}]]
Nomad, Neighbor 
Artist: Caitlin Anne
Artist Statement: Coyotes have been native to the West for centuries. They have endured and even thrived in the face of industrialization. I believe it is not bold to say that their amazing ability to adapt makes them a lot like us. Encroaching urban developments helped shape a different lifestyle for coyotes, utilizing washes, alleyways, and even subway trains. The hunting of small pets and trash can raids have been blamed on these creatures and other wildlife, but who can blame them when it is we who have indirectly forced them to change what they eat and the way they live in the modern West? Coyotes have become the nomads of Western urban wildlife, subject to human violence and admiration alike. Peace between us can only be found when we as humans see coyotes as our neighbors.


[[{"fid":"11136","view_mode":"figure_figcaption","fields":{"format":"figure_figcaption","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Daria Nakelska","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Daria Nakelska","field_folder[und]":"566","field_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_caption[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Daria Nakelska","title":"Daria Nakelska","height":"155","width":"400","class":"media-element file-figure-figcaption"},"link_text":null}]]
The Poetry of the Earth
Artist: Daria Nakelska
Artist Statement: With my piece I wanted to convey a message of people becoming one with nature. A bond between humans and nature is a bond that has existed since the beginning of our time and has since then been forgotten. With time we have forgotten that nature, like a mother, used to nurture and shelter us. Today it seems we are more astonished with our own creations than the creation we are a part of. My work is a message of entwinement and absolute harmony. 

[[{"fid":"11141","view_mode":"figure_figcaption","fields":{"format":"figure_figcaption","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Jackie Baxton","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Jackie Baxton","field_folder[und]":"566","field_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_caption[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Jackie Baxton","title":"Jackie Baxton","height":"155","width":"400","class":"media-element file-figure-figcaption"},"link_text":null}]]
Artist: Jackie Baxton
Artist Statement: My work encompasses the natural world mixing with mythology and cultural storytelling. I am interested in the ever-changing terrain that humans have manipulated into our habitat. Our species has introduced, depleted, and relocated other life beings to the point that we now have to manage and maintain the planet in what “we” view as balance. Recently, I have become even more dependent on the rural landscape by raising livestock, hunting, and just being outdoors for art inspiration. Because of this I was able to see more clearly the natural world and its evolving existence. I wanted to document it and send a message that nature and its beauty should be protected for future generations. This image is from the sculpture Reclaimed that I made this past year. The work that I create depicts nature moving back into the area where is once thrived. We as Californians need to look, realize, and help the native plants and creatures repopulate the same space that humans live in order to have a healthy landscape.

[[{"fid":"11146","view_mode":"figure_figcaption","fields":{"format":"figure_figcaption","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Robert Minervini","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Robert Minervini","field_folder[und]":"566","field_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_caption[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Robert Minervini","title":"Robert Minervini","height":"125","width":"400","class":"media-element file-figure-figcaption"},"link_text":null}]]
Speed X Distance X Time
Artist: Robert Minervini
Artist Statement: By contrasting elements of invented urbanity with elements of nature, I hope to draw attention to the reality of our collective footprint on the environment. I utilize tropes from art history, science fiction, and my experiences living in California to reference places both real and imagined. I reference art historical movements such as the Hudson River School of Painting to allude to a changing contemporary view of nature.

[[{"fid":"11151","view_mode":"figure_figcaption","fields":{"format":"figure_figcaption","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Susanna Negrete","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Susanna Negrete","field_folder[und]":"566","field_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_caption[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Susanna Negrete","title":"Susanna Negrete","height":"155","width":"400","class":"media-element file-figure-figcaption"},"link_text":null}]]
The Gift
Artist: Susanna Negrete
Artist Statement: A healthy landscape is a treasured gift to all who live there, and nature cannot do it alone. Traditional ecological knowledge then becomes the point of reference, which cultivates wisdom on a personal, tangible level. It is the foundational framework we can work with, with our own two hands, in our own backyards and most definitely, at our own pace as we learn how to be better stewards of the region where our own lives are rooted.

Media Sponsor
KCRW and Time Out

About the Autry Museum of the American West

The Autry is a museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past to the present to inspire our shared future. The museum presents a wide range of exhibitions and public programs—including lectures, film, theatre, festivals, family events, and music—and performs scholarship, research, and educational outreach. The Autry’s collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant of Native American materials in the United States. 


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The Autry Museum of American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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4700 Western Heritage Way

Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462
Located northeast of downtown, across from the Los Angeles Zoo.
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