Painting a picture of national recognition
Rachel Ludlow is all smiles after one of her paintings was chosen as the Saskatchewan winner in the national BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition. -Photo by Sarah Cheshire.

Rachel Ludlow says it's her biggest accomplishment as an artist - so far.

One of her paintings has been chosen as the Saskatchewan winner in the national BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition. It includes an award of $2,500.

This isn't the first time she's produced award-winning art.

"I won a colouring contest when I was four years old, and received a cassette walkman as a prize. It was a very big deal," she recalls.

But not as big a deal as this latest honour.

Each year, BMO chooses one winner from each province and one national winner for 1st Art! Regional awards are $2,500, and are showcased at the BMO 1st Art! Exhibition, which will be held from October 7 to November 1, 2009, at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto.

"To be acknowledged with this award really means a lot to me, and that other people connect to my work and appreciate it as well," says Ludlow, who graduated earlier this year from the U of R with a bachelor of fine arts with a major in visual arts (painting).

Ludlow's winning painting is a pink and black sequined Prada handbag. The painting is called $1,945.29. That's the price she paid to purchase the Prada bag. She kept it for three days, photographed it, and then returned it without using it. The work both celebrates and questions the emphasis on status symbols in consumer culture.

Ludlow, who was born and raised in Regina, has been an artist as long as she can remember.

"I loved colouring books and was always very particular about filling in the lines just right. That compulsiveness has remained in my studio practice. My parents have always been supportive and encouraging of my abilities and desires. I get my artistic nature from my dad. My dad is a carpenter and has helped me build the structural frames for my paintings," she says.

After graduating from Campbell Collegiate, she attended the University of Regina.

"I decided to major in art at university because I believe it is what I was created to do. I have been given a gift, and by going to school I felt that I could make the most of the abilities given to me and then be able to best share that gift with others," she says.

During her final two years of studies, Ludlow was the director of the Fifth Parallel, the student-run art gallery at the U of R.

Ludlow is proud to be a U of R grad who has been named the Saskatchewan winner in the national BMO 1st Art! Competition.

"I think winning this award is a good testament to the learning environment here at the U of R, even though we're smaller than some of the universities that compete in national competitions like this. It's great that the U of R is being recognized for fine arts, which is one area that often doesn't get highlighted. I've had a great experience with the professors and the other students. I've had many strong and positive influences from many of my professors, in particular David Garneau and Leesa Streifler as my painting instructors. They pushed me and argued with me and challenged me to think and to create truly honest work. They helped me create the best work I could," says Ludlow.

Ludlow is looking forward to going to Toronto for the grand opening of the exhibition on October 6 - the day before the event will be opened for the public.

Then it's off to Australia for a few months, for a vacation that was booked long before she knew her painting was a winner. Then she'll return to Saskatchewan.

"When I come back I'll get a studio and look for more showing opportunities. Later I want to get my masters degree in painting and then continue showing my works. I'm not sure what my artistic career will look like 10 or 20 years from now, but I know I will still be painting. Painting is what gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment, it challenges me and stretches me to think and create fresh ideas."