Artists in Conversation | Sonya Clark


September 29, 2023

Sonya Clark in conversation with TK Smith, Assistant Curator: Art of the African Diaspora, the Barnes Foundation

About Sonya Clark

Born in 1967 in Washington, DC, Sonya Clark is an African American artist of Caribbean heritage. Intersections of textiles—flags, in particular—and hair are recurring materials in her work. Through these, Clark celebrates Blackness and reclaims freedoms while interrogating historical and contemporary injustices. Her work is grounded in the exchange of stories and the transmission of craft techniques between individuals, communities, and generations. She is known for collaborative artworks that honor hairstylists, center marginalized communities and incarcerated individuals, and hold space for the grief of communities hard-hit by COVID. Her braided wig series of the late 1990s, which evokes African traditions of personal adornment, moved these common forms into the realm of personal and political expression.

Clark received a BA from Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she received an honorary doctorate in 2016. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received an honorary doctorate in 2023. Her MFA is from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Rappaport Prize (2020); Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2016); the United States Artists Glasgow Fellowship (2011); and the Pollock Krasner Grant (2006). She has exhibited her work in more than five hundred solo and group exhibitions worldwide and her work is in the collections of many museums, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Clark lives and works in Amherst.