Jason Osborne almost lost $20,000 in his junk mail.
On a whim two weeks ago, the second-year master of fine arts student checked his junk mail before going to bed.
In doing so, he discovered he had been awarded one of two annual fellowships from the Dedalus Foundation, a national group promoting the practice and research of modern art.
The fellowship is awarded to two master of fine arts students a year and comes with a $20,000 stipend.
“I never check my junk mail, and when I saw it, I thought it was going to be a rejection letter, because you get way more rejections,” he said.
“I had to read it like eight times.”
The fellowship is one of the most prestigious in the art world, said professor Elin O’Hara Slavick, who is Osborne’s adviser.
“It’s a stepping stone to the New York art world and other things,” she said.
“Once you get something like this, people see this on your resume, and they know about you.”
Osborne, a painter, was nominated by UNC and sent in an online application with recommendations, an artist’s statement and pictures of his work. He was then chosen by a panel from the Dedalus Foundation.
Slavick says his work stands out because of its sense of humor about the art world. For example, a painting called “My Studio Assistant Made This” pokes fun at paintings that look rawly made.
“His work is beautiful and prophetic, but stupid and dumb and funny, and I mean that in a great way,” she said.
“He’s using art to make a comment on the art world.”
Ashley Florence, also a second-year master of fine arts student, said Osborne is both dedicated and funny — and it’s the combination that makes his work stand out.
“He’s in his studio all the time and he has a really distinct and vibrant relationship with his paintings and studio,” she said.
“His sense of humor is encoded in his paintings.”
Jonathan Sherrill, another second-year master’s student, said he was happy to see Osborne succeed.
“It’s encouraging as his colleague to see him be awarded for what he’s doing,” he said.
Osborne said he plans to use the money to find studio space either in his hometown of Durham or in New York City, where he has had his work displayed in the past.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off about employment after finishing my degree,” he said.
In addition to helping his own career, Osborne’s achievement will help bring national attention to UNC’s studio art program, Slavick said.
“It’s going to make people — especially painters — who didn’t even consider UNC-Chapel Hill look at our program,” she said.
“You look at the list of winners, and it’s New York, New York, and now, Chapel Hill.”
Contact the Arts Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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