Metal MFA alumna wins prestigious USA Fellowship

Lauren Fensterstock: Small Hollow (detail), shells and mixed media under Victorian dome, 2016
(photo: courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery)

SUNY New Paltz alumna Lauren Fensterstock ’00 (Metal) has been named a 2016 United States Artists (USA) Fellow, one of the greatest honors available to working artists.

Fensterstock was named a USA Barr Fellow for her work in the Crafts category. She joins 45 other artists selected from a pool of more than 500 peer-nominated artists across nine creative disciplines recognized this year with a USA Fellowship and the $50,000 cash prize it carries.

“It’s a wonderfully prestigious award, and I was honored and, honestly, a little stunned to be a recipient,” Fensterstock said. “I openly wept on the phone when United States Artists called me!”

Lauren Fensterstock: Small Hollow, shells and mixed media under Victorian dome, 2016 (photo: courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery)

The Fellowship extends what has been a rich and dynamic career for Fensterstock. Her sculptures and installations, represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York, have been shown at national and international venues, and have garnered recognition from many commissions, publications and peers.

A graduate of the New Paltz Metal Program, one of the highest-ranked graduate metal programs in the country, Fensterstock attributes much of her creative foundation to the mentorship she received from Metal faculty, including Professor Emeritus Jamie Bennett and current Head of the Metal Program (and 2012 USA Fellowship awardee) Myra Mimlitsch-Gray.

“New Paltz’s Metal faculty have a reputation as inspiring and innovative thinkers in the field,” she said. “All the teachers I studied with were role models for me, people who have ambitious careers not only as educators but as artists.”

Fensterstock describes the program as supporting outside-the-box approaches to craft, which suited her personality and her artistic and professional goals, while also steeping students in the extensive lineage of the form.

“I chose to come to New Paltz because I felt it was a unique place where I could focus in any format, and where I could have sophisticated conversations and apply them to sculpture installation,” she said. “There’s a real open-mindedness in the department. They threw a lot at us in terms of history, philosophy and theory, and drew examples from a diverse disciplinary range that let us see how our work fit into a larger context. That approach inspired creative problem solving.”

The United States Artist award liberates Fensterstock to continue pursuing ambitious, large-scale installations that reinterpret and complicate old and new approaches to sculpture in metal.

“This award allows me to do bigger, experimental and perhaps temporary projects without having to make compromises,” she said. “Although I went through training as a metalsmith, my work has never really fallen into traditional categories like jewelry and ornamentation. References to the history of ornamentation and craft, a belief in the power of objects to convey meaning, and a focused attention to detail, are infused in everything I do, and because of that, I think back to my New Paltz days quite often.”

Lauren Fensterstock: Colorless Field 3, paper, charcoal, plexiglass, 2015 (Photo: Constance Mensh)

To learn more about Lauren Fensterstock and her work, visit her website and her profile at Claire Oliver Gallery.

About United States Artists (USA)
Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations, USA is among the largest providers of unrestricted support to American artists.

USA Fellows spotlight the importance of originality across every creative discipline, celebrating the broad diversity of American artistic practices from coast to coast and cultivating a creative ecology that is diverse in age, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

The 2016 USA Fellows will be celebrated in Chicago at USA’s annual Artist Assembly, March 27-29, 2017.

For more information on the 2016 USA Fellows, visit