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Sonya Clark

by Synatra Smith, Ph.D. on 2022-08-04T12:00:00-04:00 in Black Artists | 0 Comments

Sonya Clark is an Afro-Jamaican American fiber artist and educator born in 1967 in Washington, DC. She earned a BA in psychology from Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1989, a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993, and an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in 1995. Clark has worked with sugar to explore the transatlantic slave trade and her own family history in Africa, the Americas, and the United Kingdom. She has also made art from hair, usually her own but also that of others. Recalling how her friend Mariama cut off her locks and gave them to her, Clark said, “She didn’t grow up with a Jamaican mother who said, ‘Be careful what you do with your hair.’ So, she cut off her dreadlocks and gave them to me. I said, ‘Is this OK? That I make this into an artwork?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that.’ And I thought, We grew up differently.”[1] Clark was a professor of environment, textiles, and design at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 1997 to 2005. She was also presented an honorary doctorate in 2015 from Amherst College, where she is currently a professor of art. She was a distinguished research fellow, professor, and chair of the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, from 2006 to 2017. She participated in artist residency programs at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2016 and the McColl Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2011. She also attended the American Academy in Rome and Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, both in 2017.

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[1] Clark quoted in Painter 2021, 15.



Cassel Oliver, Valerie, ed. 2020. “About the Artist.” In Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, the Flag We Should Know, 92. Exh. cat. Philadelphia: Fabric Workshop and Museum. 

Cassel Oliver, Valerie, et al. 2021. “Artist Biographies.” In The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, 238–62. Exh. cat. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Halper, Vicki, and Diane Douglas, eds. 2009. “Sonya Y.S. Clark, 2004.” In Choosing Craft: The Artist's Viewpoint, 37–39. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 

Jerger, Holly, et al. 2019. Raw: Craft, Commodity, and Capitalism, 55–63. Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Craft Contemporary.

Painter, Nell. 2021. “In Conversation with Sonya Clark.” In Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend, edited by Elizabeth Lynch, 11–23. Washington, DC: National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Wilkinson, Michelle Joan, ed. 2011. “Sonya Clark.” In Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists, 20–21. Exh. cat. Baltimore: Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.

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