Sonya Clark ’89 receives an honorary degree from President Biddy Martin on May 24, 2015
Doctor of Arts
Sonya Clark is an award-winning contemporary artist and educator renowned for her original use of common materials to address culture, race, class and history. She has described her work as a type of storytelling, saying, “Many of my family members taught me the value of a well-told story, and so it is that I value the stories held in objects.” Clark’s works have incorporated human hair, combs, copper, beads and cloth. She gained prominence two decades ago with the exhibition of her highly acclaimed beaded headdresses and series of assembled/braided wigs. Since she graduated from Amherst in 1989, her work has been displayed in 300 museums and galleries on six continents, and it earns consistently favorable reviews from publications such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Among the many honors Clark has received are a United States Artists Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Italy, a Red Gate Residency in China and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. Most recently, Clark was one of two winners of ArtPrize, an annual monetary award that is one of the industry’s largest.
After studying psychology at Amherst, Clark earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago and a master of fine arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She received tenure with distinction as the Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, since 2006, has been chair of the Department of Craft/Material Studies in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, a department consistently ranked as one of the top in the nation.
Throughout her career, Clark has given her time to a number of boards, including those of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C.; Wisconsin’s Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. Her connection to Amherst has remained constant, as she has shared her passion with students as a mentor for nearly a decade.
Hear talks given by the honorary degree recipients over Commencement Weekend.