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Artist reflects on hair, heritage and community

  • Clark's portrait of Madam C. J. Walker
  • Sonya Clark

Posted on January 21, 2010

The GVSU Department of Art and Design will host visiting artist Sonya Clark at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, 41 Sheldon, Grand Rapids, for a lecture discussing her current work. The event, on Wednesday, February 3, at 7:30 p.m. is free and open to the public.

Trained in textiles at the Chicago Art Institute and Michigan's Cranbrook Academy of Art, Clark considers herself a craft artist and sculptor. Her informal education comes from a Jamaican grandmother, who was a professional tailor, and the many traditional artists she has met in her travels to the Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Ghana, India, and throughout the world.

Clark’s current work reflects the importance of “hair, heritage and community” and recent work explores the hair comb, allowing her to be true to her interest in weaving and pattern as well as heritage and tradition.

Clark is professor and chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. She has received many awards, including a Pollock-Krasner, a Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship, Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency in Italy, a Canberra School of Arts Residency in Australia, and a Red Gate Residency in China.

Her work has been exhibited in more than 200 museums and galleries in the UK, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Canada, Taiwan, Austria, France, Switzerland, Australia, and the USA. Most recently, she has had exhibits at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Birmingham Museum of Art in England, and the Cheongju International Craft Exhibition in Korea.

Pictured is Clark’s large and imposing portrait of Madam C. J. Walker, the first African American woman to become a millionaire. Walker made her fortune in cosmetics and hair-care products and produced the first line to cater to the needs of black women. The portrait was composed with hundreds of ordinary black hair combs, modified to create a black and white image that mimics pixilation.

For more information contact Beverly Seley in GVSU's Department of Art & Design, at (616) 331-3486.

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