The Gibbes Museum of Art is proud to announce Stephanie J. Woods as the 2021 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. A multimedia artist from Charlotte, NC, Woods’ work fuses a relationship between photography and fiber. Woods will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize and will be recognized at the Society 1858 Amy P. Coy Forum scheduled for May 9, 2022. Honorable mentions go to Adebunmi Gbadebo (SC) and Edison Peñafiel (FL).
“Each year we select one artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South,” says Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “We are so pleased to recognize Stephanie J. Woods for her work and thank all of the artists who submitted their applications for the 1858 Prize this year. We couldn’t be prouder of the innovative work being created in the South and hope to continue supporting these groundbreaking artists.”
Stephanie J. Woods’ body of work examines performative behavior and the cognitive effects of forced cultural assimilation including the effects of intergenerational trauma, the politicization of afro hair and the everyday coping devices and affirmations Black people establish to survive. She further explores these concepts by using textiles, photography, video, sculpture, community-engaged projects, and material language. Her multimedia works utilize symbolic imagery and materials that reference Black American culture and the southern American experience, such as hair weave, satin bonnets, afro hair, Carolina red clay and sweet tea.
Currently based in Albuquerque, NM, Woods is an assistant professor of interdisciplinary art at The University of New Mexico. Her passion for interdisciplinary practices and material language is evident through her collaborations and implementation of symbolic materials that examine performative behavior, domestic spaces and alternative realities that reference Black American culture and her experiences growing up in the American South.
Woods earned a Master of Fine Arts in new media sculpture and is the recipient of several residencies and fellowships, including Black Rock Senegal, the Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, ACRE Residency, the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists Residency and Penland School of Craft. Her work is featured in the permanent collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, located in Richmond, VA. She has also exhibited her work at Smack Mellon and Tiger Strikes Asteroid, both located in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally, her work has been featured in BOMB Magazine, Art Papers, Burnaway and the Boston Art Review.
“I became aware of the 1858 Prize in 2014 while I was pursuing my MFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro,” says Woods. “During that time, I saw that artists Sonya Clark, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Joyce Scott and Ebony G. Patterson were either winners or finalists of this award. Seeing the recognition of other Black women artists like myself excited me! 2021 was my fourth year applying, and it means so much to be recognized by the place where you come from. I was born in Seneca, S.C. and raised in Charlotte, N.C. My experiences growing up in the South have influenced so many aspects of my artwork and who I am.”
2021 Honorable mentions:
Adebunmi Gbadebo creates sculptures, prints and paper using Black hair sourced from the diaspora, along with historical and cultural imbued materials. For several years, Gbadebo has been traveling to the former True Blue plantation in Fort Motte where her ancestors once toiled and where some of them are buried. Named for the indigo that used to grow in its environs, at True Blue all that can be seen for miles around are cotton fields and red dirt. There is no discernable acknowledgment of the backbreaking, forcibly enslaved labor that once cultivated this sediment and laid the foundations for what stands there today. Gbadebo’s work is included in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Adebunmi is currently represented by Claire Oliver Gallery, Harlem, NY.
Edison Peñafiel is an Ecuadorian American artist based in Miami, Fla. Born in Ecuador, Peñafiel migrated to the United States to leave the political and economic instability of his native country. His singular style integrates video and multimedia installation to create surreal echoes of our world, environments that translate experience. His work centers the migrant as a subject, informed by his own life. His early photography focuses on deconstruction and perception, absurdity and politics. The use of a camera plays with evidence and fact and their manipulation in media. Socio-economic and political themes deepened with his shift to multimedia installations. By introducing looping video projections, Peñafiel imitates the loops that make up our history and present. His visions show people trapped in behaviors of movement and labor, always being watched. Peñafiel has presented his work in numerous large-scale projects, site-specific installations and immersive installations, appearing at the Bass Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Elsewhere Museum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
For more information, visit www.1858prize.org.
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