In 2009, I packed up a borrowed van with My Father’s Religion and headed to Grand Rapids Michigan to participate the the first year of Art Prize, an event designed to open the world of art to any artist and to bring this world to the populus, by having viewers vote for their favorite art work. Highly controversial in concept and noted for awarding enormous amounts of money in prizes,it has grown in popularity and respect. The year I participated, I selected my venue by on line descriptions, thus not seeing the space until arriving. It ended up being difficult to access via a back of the building freight elevator, and otherwise off the beaten track, so I wondered if anyone even saw it, let alone voted for me. I was however very pleasantly surprised when buying a vest on the way home in Saugatuck, MI, to discover that the clerk in the snappy boutique had gone to Art Prize and had actually both seen and liked my work.
Below is a photo of me installing the work. (If you look very closely at my left arm you can see the hardware of the “external fixator” holding my broken wrist in place. I removed the splint from my right arm because it kept catching on the wire. I had broken both of my wrists two and a half months earlier, and my beloved Jessica knit many of the trees for me to complete the installation. Thayer helped extensively too, specializing in branches.)
Since that first year, Art Prize has garnered much attention and has grown in attendance, and has become increasingly competitive. Last week the very prestigious Juried Grand Prize, awarded not by votes but selected by distinguished jurors, was won by Sonya Clark. The $200,000 purse was split with her co-winner, Anila Quayyum Agha, who had the extraordinary experience of not only tying with Sonya Clark, but also winning the popular vote, leaving her with $300,000. Her piece Intersections, looks stunning and likely creates a transformative experience. Kudos to them both.
But I am so very excited that Sonya Clark, chair of Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, won this award for her Hair Project, which examines gender, race,culture, and society.
She has been a favorite artist of mine, and a stunning example of what’s happening and being taught in the field of contemporary fiber arts.
In 2012, she was part of a show at Carlton College, A Complex Weave. That show was an exciting collection of artists exploring feminist issues via fiber and materiality.
Check out more about Sonya Clark here: http://sonyaclark.com/bio/biography/
and ArtPrize here: http://www.artprize.org/