Home Exhibitions South Arts 2022 Southern Prize and State Fellows

South Arts 2022 Southern Prize and State Fellows

701 CCA is proud to host the 2022 South Arts Southern Prize & State Fellow exhibition, from March 9th through May 7, 2023. Since its beginning in 2017, the South Arts Southern Prize & State Fellows event supports the highest quality of art being currently created in the American South.

The exhibition featured work from nine State Fellowship recipients, one from each state in the South Arts region. Each featured artist received a $5,000 award after being selected by an independent jury panel based solely on artistic excellence.

Two artists from this group were then selected as finalists for the Southern Prize. Second place winner Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo took home $10,000 and first place went to Hannah Chalew, who received $25,000. Both artists will receive a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences in Rabun Gap, Georgia.

Curator's Statement

Two years indoors. Two years of searching, thinking, and grasping as America scavenges what remains of who it is and hopes to be. Two years indoors, staying safe from a global pandemic, racialized terror, and economic uncertainty. It is no wonder our jurors found themselves thinking about space. Six of the nine fellows chosen thisyear are installation artists. Each artist in this class of fellows asks deep questions about the spaces we occupy, who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

The 2022 South Arts State Fellows are clearly defining this moment at all the Southern intersections, reminding us of the plurality of southern culture and the
Southern experience. They present a contemporary window into the American story two decades into the century, by constructing stories of marginalization, clarifying histories, and sounding an alarm for the environment.

As the nation is embroiled in a debate about our history, what the truth of it is, about the value of telling it honestly, Marcus Dunn and Gloria Gimpson
Suggs remind us of the murky edges of our past, of America’s dalliances with darkness and of the humanity of those victimized. Dunn, of Pee Dee/Tuscarora descent, takes us on a trip through candid images of young Native Americans in boarding schools, clipping memories of those who were forcibly removed from their communities and indoctrinated away from their cultural norms. He uses subtly painted portraits to talk about cultural identity, assimilation, and the deep damage it poses. In her pieces, Suggs colors idyllic images of the American South of yesterday. She hints, through the inclusion of racialized architectural
spaces, at the divisions of our past as we flirt with said divisions in real-time. Using crayons, she drafts images that bear the marks and the truth of that division, but are still possessed of joy. The joy of these works is revolutionary. In Tree Shelter (2021), a radiant light permeates the center of the frame marking a space of congregation, a chosen space, a Black space.

Who gets to take up space, what gives a space value, how do we create spaces of care, how do we care for our spaces? The 2022 fellows examine our interaction with both the natural and built environments. Crystal Gregory's use of both concrete and woven materials examines the body and the things that house it. The fluidity of the woven material juxtaposed against the rigid permanence of concrete speaks to both the fragility and resilience of humanity. The body of work dances between playful and self-revelatory.

Southern Intersections  In Lost Underground (2021), GeoVanna Gonzalez uses movement through an experimental dance film to examine the role of communal caregiving, creating space for and providing care inside queer nightclubs as a revolutionary, liberatory practice. The sculpture that houses the film forces the viewer to think about their bodies and their relationship to the built environment. Gonzalez uses the built environment to speak to social space and its relationship to marginalized communities.

Hannah Chalew is asking us to think about our relationship to the natural environment and how disregard for the environment impacts communities. Chalew
makes visible the often unseen effects of climate disasters on marginalized communities. In work ranging from large-scale installations to smaller works on
paper, Chalew uses detritus from the environment to outline what it means to live in an era of global warming. Chalew calls on the viewer to examine the relationship of fossil fuels and plastic production to capitalism and white supremacy. There is a delicate seduction at play.

Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo works with urban and rural detritus to create sculpture and sculptural installations that capture the nature of how she wishes to engage the idea of “American exceptionalism.” Lush surfaces invite you close, only to discover objects designed to keep you at a distance. Cornejo invites the viewer to a conversation but dictates how close you can get, setting the parameters for the conversation as a direct response to the notion of white privilege that says, “I can do what I want, have what I want.”

Brittany Watkins examines the contemporary world by recontextualizing what we discard. Watkins mines the community for discarded domestic objects (chairs, sofas, and lamps) placing them in a configuration that gives rise to a detailed cataloging of human emotion and identity. Nostalgia and trauma populate the social and psychological space created within the installations. The objects stand in for humans, posturing and posing, hiding and asserting themselves, dominating and
submitting. Color heightens the experience, adding new layers of hierarchy among the objects. Watkins reminds us to mine our surroundings and memories to
maneuver the present and set course toward the future. We navigate public and private spaces by examining what we remember of the past; sometimes grief is the muse for the work that is developed.

Antonio Darden and Jenny Fine each focus on family and tell the stories of lost loved ones. Darden uses humor and wit to examine his experience of grief. In 2018 David Darden, In 2018, Darden’s older brother David was killed by the police. His death was preceded by the death of his mother and followed by the death of his father. Darden’s work explores the grief of being the only remaining member of his immediate family. The family he was raised in. He refers to himself as “Last One Left” the acronym of which is LOL, the prevailing and dominant expression of humor in text, tweet and social media posts. Darden places humor at the center and uses meme culture and imagery to take a closer look at the range of emotions he experienced as part of the grieving process, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. In DNKMBF12 (2019), Darden creates a Google sketch of a helicopter scene from his memory of having watched it on the news. In Road Block (2022), Darden references Officer John Slugfish--from children’s animated series SpongeBob SquarePants--to interrogate notions of blame, ridicule and finger-pointing.

Fine uses photography as the stage for performance expanding what the photograph could be in her work. By reenacting family narratives, Fine creates a
collision of time, marrying the past to the present. For years Fine’s grandmother was at the center of the work. The narratives were her stories, and she considered her grandmother a collaborator. When she died, Fine struggled with how she would keep working with her grandmother in her absence. In this struggle, the “Flat Granny” was born. The Flat Granny is modeled after a Flat Daddy, a life-sized cardboard cut-out of deployed military personnel, left in the home during deployment. Flat Granny populates Fine’s works initially as a flat cut-out, eventually becoming a costume for live performance. Fine examines the feminine body, the aging body, myth, memory, Southern culture, and her grief in layered complicated installations involving sound, objects, and performance, mirroring the complicated layers of grief and self-examination.

What is clear, is that Southern artists are continuing to record and examine the world. They are examining the lived experience of the South but are deeply engaged in global issues. The work of this moment is contemplative, addressing serious concerns for the wellbeing of the planet, the condition of humans. It is filled with wit and humor, sensitivity and joy. While examining some of the darkest moments, it is not without hope and light. It asserts the right to take up space. It pushes for recognition. It colors the myriad of ways that we identify the self and celebrate it.

Michaela Pilar Brown is the curator of the South Arts 2022 Southern Prize and State Fellows exhibition. She is executive director of the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, SC, and an award-winning mixed-media artist.