ArtPrize juried finalist showcases human connection


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A husband and wife who spent months traveling the world to create their ArtPrize 10 entry say their work is about demonstrating the connection between all people.

“The connection between people can create a love and compassion between each other in harmony, like in this piece,” photographer Mariano Cortez said Tuesday.

He and his wife Chelsea Nix created “THE STRING PROJECT,” which is a finalist for a juried award in the two-dimensional category. Their photos were snapped around the world, including some in Michigan, and each shows someone holding a white rope. It’s a symbol, the artists said, of the human connection.

“I can relate to anybody in these pictures, so we’re trying to focus on that and bring that to life,” Cortez explained.

He and his wife met while volunteering in India and wanted to showcase how everyone goes through high and low moments of life.

The self-proclaimed “budget photographers” set a limit of $30 per day when they began traveling to four continents for the project. The process included spending some nights on airport floors.

Even with language barriers, the couple said, people quickly understood the concept and were thrilled to be part of it.

“People today are craving that authentic, genuine human connection and real authentic human experiences,” Nix said.

The couple set a rule that they would shoot each photo in under five minutes. They explained that they didn’t want to spend too much time posing the photos. The strategy paid off while photographing a married pair they had never met before.

“Because we didn’t move them, because we didn’t position them, they felt comfortable enough that they kissed,” Nix recalled, pointing to the photo. “And this is the only photograph that we have that they’re not looking at the camera and they naturally kissed because they felt so comfortable.”

ArtPrize visitors can take a photo with the string that has traveled the world when they visit “THE STRING PROJECT,” which is displayed in an upstairs hallway at DeVos Place.

The couple said that if they win a prize, the money will go toward their nonprofit Project Simple, a soup kitchen in Guatemala for elderly women and abandoned children

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