2nd Place recipient

Renee Stout

Through my work, I aim to present my perspective on this society from the point of view of a person who happens to be a woman descended from myriad cultures, but primarily African American. I observe, I experience, I process and I eventually feel compelled to construct a narrative that expresses thoughts, ideas and experiences that are simultaneously personal and universal. In the work I do, I seek to tell an ongoing story as a way of bearing witness to the efforts of marginalized people who make do to get through and the strength and creativity that often comes with that persistence. In previous bodies of work I have often told the story through an alter ego who is a conjure woman, seer and spiritual advisor, who offers her services to those in her community who may not be able to afford healthcare for physical or mental health issues. Of course, the narrative was inspired the same issues that face real communities all across the country on a daily basis. I started my career as a realist painter, but as my work evolved I found that I needed to branch out into other media in order to make the story inside of my head into something that could pull the viewer into this inner world with me and make them a part of the parallel universe inside of my head. As my work became more sculptural I realized that my tendencies toward realism, carried over into my approach to sculpture. The objects and environments I construct are often made of a combination of found and constructed objects and the challenge for me is to make the viewer wonder which is which. What the viewer may assume is a blackboard, with with notations written in chalk, can turn out to be a construction consisting of a wood panel, black latex paint and oil stick and what looks like a pair of of lady’s slippers will actually be something I constructed of leather covered foam-core board, and fabric that I painstakingly hand-beaded. This metaphorical universe I’ve created, filled with mysterious visionaries, guardians and strange technological devices, provides me a kind of transcendence to a state of empowerment that I wish to share with the viewer. Through my work I aim to convey the idea that while all human beings may have to function within this theater of the absurd, we don’t have to be of it and the ability to imagine and an open mind is the escape route.

The work I’ve presented in my portfolio ranges from the years of 1988 through 2018. My exhibitions usually contain a mixture of painting and sculpture, but since the focus of this grant is sculpture only, I have selected some of my favorite pieces from various bodies of work.