The High Museum of Art has named artist Renee Stout as the 2010 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize. Named after the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize is an annual award that recognizes a scholar or artist in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history. Based in Washington, D.C., Stout works in a variety of media including photography, sculpture, painting, drawing and printmaking. As the sixth Driskell award recipient, Stout will be honored at the Driskell Prize Dinner in Atlanta on Monday, April 19, 2010.
“Renee Stout is a visual artist fully incorporating every available resource to create works relevant to both past and present,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High. “Her ability to draw upon the implications of the African Diaspora and highlight African culture through her imaginative and distinctive art exemplifies the qualities of a David C. Driskell Prize recipient. We are pleased to support her vision and development through this award.”
Stout’s mixed-media works examine the impact of the African Diaspora and the traditions of her African heritage as well as the themes of self-exploration, empowerment and healing. Using a variety of media and visual languages—including African aesthetics and secondhand materials—Stout pieces together narratives that tie history to contemporary society.
Imaginary characters recur in Stout’s work, adding whimsy and humor to the challenging and often depressing subject matter. The character Madame Ching appears in many works, including the 1993 piece Traveling Root Store #2: Madame Ching Goes High Tech, in which Stout pits a vintage doctor’s bag, vials and herbs against Madame Ching’s new-age custom computer. The keyboard on the computer is altered to Madame Ching’s needs, with various buttons being replaced to assist her in reaching deities. Also present in many works is Stout’s alter-ego Fatima Mayfield. “Fatima Mayfield, a fictitious herbalist/fortuneteller, is the vehicle that allows me to role-play in order to confront the issues, whether it’s romantic relationships, social ills or financial woes, in a way that’s open, creative and humorous,” said Stout.
Renee Stout received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980 before moving to Washington, D.C., where she began to study her African American heritage, the wellspring of her subsequent work and career. As an arts advocate, Stout served on the panel of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities as well as George Washington University’s panel “Art School, Confidential: Rethinking Art Education.” In 1999 she won the Anonymous Was a Woman award and her second Pollock-Krasner Foundation award. Recent awards and recognition include the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant and a fellowship as the first artist-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University (2009). Throughout her career, Stout’s participation in numerous solo and group exhibitions has been met with international success. She currently lives and works in Washington, D.C.
The selection process for the 2010 recipient of the Driskell Prize began with a call for nominations from a national pool of artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians. The final winner was chosen from these nominations by review-committee members Richard Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art History, Duke University; Jacquelyn D. Serwer, Chief Curator, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution; and Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Learn more about the David C. Driskell Prize and other previous winners.