There is a dichotomy at the heart of the work of textile and social practice artist Sonya Clark. The simplicity of her everyday materials such as hair, textiles and language is at odds with her urgent exploration of the legacy of craft, history and race. Drawing on the complexity of her Afro-Caribbean family with a Jamaican mother, Trinidadian father and a Scottish great-grandfather, she has a unique vantage on the notion of American identity: forged through slavery, immigration, love and an intergenerational linking of cultures.
Her work is grounded in the exchange of stories and skills that underpins the transmission of craft techniques between individuals and generations. The personal is political. This is evident in her performance Unraveling, in which she and participants slowly unravel a Confederate battle flag, thread by thread. As Clark has explained, “The intent is not to destroy a Confederate battle flag but to investigate what it means to take it apart, a metaphor for the slow and deliberate work of unraveling racial dynamics in the United States.”
Clark is currently Professor of Art and the History of Art at Amherst College, and formerly a Distinguished Research Fellow in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. She earned an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also holds a BA from Amherst College where she received an honorary doctorate in 2015. She is the recipient of the Rappaport Prize, a United States Artist Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner award, an 1858 Prize, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award.