Sonya Clark is an educator and textile artist who makes installations, performances, and sculptures that employ materials and objects like combs, beads, flags, and human hair to celebrate Blackness, interrogate the roots of injustice, and address historical imbalances. She was elected into the College of Fellows in 2020.
Clark has created works highlighting notable African American figures, including entrepreneur and activist Madam C.J. Walker and former President Barack Obama. Her fiber art has also extended into the craft of hairdressing, which has been called “something generative that deserves consideration in the realm of the art object, and that touches intimately on race and cultural worth.” Clark’s work also explores the various functions and connotations humans assign to things. “Objects have personal and cultural meaning because they absorb our stories and reflect our humanity back to us. My stories, your stories, our stories are held in the object,” says Clark.
Clark is a professor at Amherst College. Previously, she was a distinguished research fellow in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University where she served as chair of the Craft/Material Studies Department for over a decade. She earned an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award. She has a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her first college degree is a BA from Amherst College where she received an honorary doctorate in 2015. Her work has been exhibited in over 350 museums and galleries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia. She is the recipient of a number of awards (e.g. United States Artists, Pollock Krasner, Art Prize, Anonymous Was a Woman) and residencies (e.g. Red Gate in China, BAU Camargo in France, Rockefeller Bellagio in Italy, Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in DC, the Knight e Civitella Ranieri in Italy, Yaddo, and an Affiliate Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome). Her work has been favorably reviewed in several publications including the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sculpture, Artforum, Los Angeles Times, Hyperallergic, Mother Jones, and Huffington Post. She has served on the board of the American Craft Council and is currently on the board of Haystack.