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Photo of Sonya Y.S. Clark

Sonya Y.S. Clark

Born: 1967 (Washington, DC)

Sonya Clark received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees in the early 1990s from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Of Caribbean heritage, Clark is an artist who draws upon the traditions of West African textiles. Her work, which includes hats, headpieces, sculpted coiffures, and beaded talismans, explores the nature of personal identity as shaped by culture. Her art is inspired by a fascination with the creative handwork of women that perpetuates a community’s common memories and rituals. One of her most important works is the Beaded Prayers Project, which she began in 1999. Marked by the artist’s lectures and hands-on workshops, it is a worldwide collaborative project that allows people of all ages and backgrounds to create sealed beaded jackets that contain written wishes, hopes, dreams, and prayers. Conceived as modern amulets, they draw upon a West African tradition of protecting warriors and hunters with charms attached to their clothing.

In its concerns for race, ethnicity, and gender and in its appropriation of craft-based materials, Clark’s art is characteristic of those artistic concerns that help define contemporary art.