Sculpture and performance artist Senga Nengudi was awarded the 2023 Nasher Prize for her powerful and meaningful art, bringing attention to the talent of both women and the Black community, and her current exhibit is worth a visit.
Nengudi is the seventh laureate of the Nasher Prize, which honors outstanding contemporary sculpture art. Her passion and thoughtfulness can be seen in her works, which are currently displayed in the Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas until April 30, only a 20-minute drive from campus.
A prominent figure in the world of sculpture art for five decades, much of Nengudi’s art serves to portray the human body and its movement in unique methods. Her use of unconventional materials, such as plastic bags and pantyhose, allow for a modern, human touch, unlike most other sculpture art, which is usually made using metals or other moldable materials. While her art can be appreciated in many ways, it isn’t until you see it in person that you feel the careful intention in each of her works.
In her piece “R.S.V.P. Reverie Scribe,” Nengudi utilizes pantyhose stockings filled with sand to represent the weight of the human body. The contrast of the stockings against the dragging of sand evokes an empathetic response as viewers can almost physically feel what she is portraying. Past her work in sculpture, Nengudi also delves into performance art in collaboration with other artists. While only photos of her performances are present, written explanations offer more insight into the symbolism of her work.
The world of contemporary art is one of controversy, with some people regarding it as not “true” art. However, a look at Nengudi’s art shows that the genre requires thought and effort just like any other. Her strange use of materials may puzzle you at first, but with observation, the relationship between her art and physical feelings of the human body is slowly revealed.
Relating to Nengudi’s work and feeling it is a form of art in itself and offers a nice refresher from the stiffness of college life. For the best experience, consider visiting the Nasher Center yourself in the historic Dallas arts district, located near the Dallas Museum of Art and Crow Museum of Asian Art.