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Keeping his eyes on the (art)prize

Area resident part of annual ArtPrize exhibition

September 13, 2012
By Jason Raiche - staff writer ( , Daily Press

COOKS - A Cooks man is among 1,517 artists vying for a substantial monetary prize in Grand Rapids' Fourth Annual ArtPrize exhibition.

James Denkins' "Edge of the Forest" is a three-dimensional woodcarving of a forest gnome surrounded by plants and animals. The Cooks resident said the gnome, which serves as the centerpiece of the carving, was the piece's starting point and inspired him to enter the ArtPrize contest.

"It's something that caught my eye and I just had to carve," said Denkins, who added that he's still making additions to the piece.

Article Photos

James Denkins’ “Edge of the Forest” is a wood carving that will be on display in Grand Rapids for the Fourth Annual ArtPrize exhibition. The Cooks resident is among 1,517 entries vying for a $200,000 grand prize from a public vote. (Courtesy photo)

"I'm just trying my best to create a piece that will catch a lot of people's eyes," he said.

Denkins began working on the carving about one year ago and has spent approximately six to seven months total working on it.

According to its ArtPrize website description, "Edge of the Forest" is a tribute to the fragile ecosystem. The gnome is a play on how humans are in the midst of everything - usually surprised at what is happening and not knowing what to do. The sprouts of grass symbolize a sign of hope for re-growth and understanding, while the trees represent how age and the elements affect everything. The variety of animals, which include a raccoon, rabbit, grasshopper, butterfly, beetle and other animals, is meant to be eye-catching and also to show how nature adapts to its surroundings.

Denkins said he has been a woodcarver for more than 25 years.

"It's always been a hobby," he said, and since he retired in April, he now has more time to focus on his woodwork.

Denkins sells his work to customers and has a website,, that features his carvings. He says he carves pretty much "anything and everything," though he tries to stay away from the ever-popular bear carvings. Just some of the pieces he's created include gargoyle statues, dolphins, fallen soldier memorials, the famous Easter Island head statues, and animals like dogs or raccoons.

He has also competed in numerous carving competitions around the country, including the recent U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship in Eau Claire, Wis.

During the ArtPrize exhibit, Denkins' piece will be on display at the Grand Rapids Downtown Courtyard by Marriott located at 11 Monroe Ave. in Grand Rapids.

According to the ArtPrize website, there are 1,517 entries from 56 countries and 45 states in this year's ArtPrize contest.

The exhibition officially opens on Sept. 19, with artists showing their work in 162 venues within three-square miles of downtown Grand Rapids. Artists are competing for a combination of public votes and juried prizes to secure a part of the world's largest art prize, which totals $560,000. Of this amount, $360,000 is awarded by public vote and $200,000 by a select group of art experts.

Voting is open to anyone over age 16 and votes may be cast online at, via text message and mobile application. Members of the public are not required to live in Grand Rapids to vote, but in order for their votes to count, they must register in person in Grand Rapids at one of the ArtPrize registration points, according to Denkins.

Once they register in person, they can select their favorite art pieces online or by texting, giving a piece a "thumb's up" or "thumb's down." The voting number for Denkins' "Edge of the Forest" is No. 52238.

Round one of voting takes place from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29, giving voters 11 days to explore the exhibits and vote for those they think should win. Then from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, voters will have five days to choose their favorite from the top 10 entries. The artist whose piece receives the most votes will be awarded the $200,000 grand prize.

For more information on this year's ArtPrize contest, visit



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