Senga Nengudi Makes History As First Black Woman To Win Nasher Prize

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For the first time in history, a Black woman has received the Nasher Prize, which awards $100,000 to “a living artist who elevates the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities.”

According to the Washington Post, Chicago-born artist Senga Nengudi is the 2023 recipient of the Nasher Prize from the Nasher Sculpture Center, a Dallas-based museum.

Nengudi’s work transforms inexpensive, everyday materials into artistic expressions that address the feminist and Black arts movements.

In one of her pieces, Nengudi draped “fabric spirits” fashioned from flag material on fire escapes in Harlem as a representation of the souls of the people she met in the city.

Most notably, she created a sculpture out of worn-out pantyhose as a dedication to the female body.

“I was looking for material that kind of reflected the female body,” Nengudi previously told curator Elissa Auther about the piece. “And then, finally, I found the pantyhose. Right after that, I went, ‘Wow,’ because the whole birthing experience — you’re expanding, and then all of a sudden, after it’s over, you’re contracting, and your body kind of goes back into shape. I really wanted to somehow express that experience.”

Nasher director Jeremy Strick applauded Nengudi for her innovation and engagement with social issues.

“In more recent years, the extraordinary creativity of the Black art community — which, in the ’70s and ’80s, was in many ways marginalized — is now being recognized,” Strick said. “And so she occupies a critical place in the history of Black arts but also of art, period.”

“At a moment when the right of women to control their bodies has been taken away, she’s an artist whose exploration of female identity through works made with pantyhose speaks with great power and relevance,” he added.

A ceremony honoring Nengudi and her work is set to take place in April 2023.

Along with the monetary prize, her art will be featured at Dia Beacon next year.

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