It’s crystal clear that glass artist Mary Hong’s future is brighter than ever. The award-winning artist, who owns two studio art galleries in Grayton Beach, recently was selected as a special category winner of the Mixed Media Artist of the Year 2016.

"I am beyond thrilled to have recognition on an international and elite level and excited to bring my mixed-media-with-glass art to the world,” Hong said.

Hong entered a grouping of five glass art paintings that ranged from a green wine bottle tree still life to a contemporary abstract of foaming emerald green waves to a whimsical torso sporting a red glass bikini.

The judging panel, which included James Lambert, Eric Smith, James Baird and Mary Ann Cohen, considered originality, sense of composition, creativity, technical skill, use of materials and light, commercial appeal and overall impact of the artwork.

Referred to as the American Idol of the art industry, this premier awards contest is in search of the next “it” artist and is offering prize values of up to $65,000, including a contract with Art Brand Studios and exhibition opportunities at Redwood Media Group’s shows.

Earlier this month, Hong was featured at Art San Diego and is invited to exhibit in Spectrum Indian Wells 2017 and Artexpo New York 2017. She also will be included in editorial features in the Spectrum Miami 2016 and Artexpo New York 2017 Art Business News Show catalogues.

“We created the Mixed Media Artist of the Year contest to empower talented artists and introduce their work to the world,” said Eric Smith, president and CEO of Redwood Media Group. “This is a great opportunity for emerging as well as established artists to submit their work to a panel of professionals with the chance of winning an opportunity of a lifetime.”

A professional artist for 23 years, Hong considers herself “a glass artist who paints” and has participated in group and solo exhibitions in the U.S. and France. She opened the Mary Hong Gallery in Grayton Beach in 2012 and added a hands-on art-making studio, The Shard Shop, in 2015, where she teaches her technique ShardWorx artwork made with glass and resin on canvas. She launched a signature line of art supplies and art kits and also has produced a series of video tutorials viewable at MaryHongArt.com.

Hong is the proud recipient of the 2014 Artist of the Year award from the South Walton Tourist Development Council.

“To me, even if glass is broken, it is still beautiful and I love how a painting can put it all back together,” Hong said. “I slather glass with gold and silver leaf, then mix it with other shattered remains of lamps, dinnerware and lately, an old shower door. I like imagining the stories glass could tell.”

As a special category winner, Hong is invited to exhibit her artwork Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 at Spectrum Miami during Miami Art Week. On Dec. 8 she will be participating in a Group Exhibit at Bev's Fine Art in Raleigh, North Carolina, from 6-8:30 p.m. and April 14 to 17 she will exhibit at Art Expo New York at Pier 94 in New York City.

Locally, her work can be seen throughout the Salamander Spa at The Henderson, a Salmander Beach Resort & Spa, a new luxury resort hotel in Destin.

Her work is available for viewing and purchase at Mary Hong Studio Gallery in Grayton Beach and online at MaryHongStudio.com. For more information, call 850-231-1416.