Juana Valdés Wins Anonymous Was A Woman Award for Significant Contributions in Art

A report from UMass at Amherst.

Juana Valdés, associate professor in the department of art, recently received a 2020 Anonymous Was A Woman Award, which recognizes “women-identifying artists over 40 years of age who have made significant contributions, while continuing to create new work, and who are each at a critical juncture in their practice.” Valdés is one of ten artists to receive the unrestricted award of $25,000 this year.

At UMass Amherst, Valdés focuses her teaching on printmaking. Her multi-disciplinary practice combines elements of printmaking, photography, sculpture, performance and ceramic. Valdés’ work examines “the post-colonial history of the Americas and the current representation of Latinos, Caribbean citizens, Blacks or what constitute ‘Other’ in mainstream America.” According to Valdés, her work functions “as an archive” that “analyzes and decodes experiences of migration as a person of Afro Caribbean heritage.”

Born in Cuba, Valdés emigrated to the U.S. in 1971. She holds an MFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts and her BFA in sculpture from Parsons School of Design. Valdés also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1995. Past acknowledgements include a Pollock-Krasner grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in sculpture, and a National Association of Latinos Arts and Culture Visual Artists Grant.

According to a press release from Anonymous Was A Woman, winners are “chosen from among a competitive pool of applicants recommended by a group of distinguished art historians, curators, writers and artists who serve as anonymous nominators. The 2020 award recipients range in age from 45 to 81, and work in mediums including painting, installation, performance, photography, film, and social practice. The ‘no strings-attached’ award is intended to provide them freedom to continue development of their creative vision.”

Anonymous Was A Woman is an unrestricted award that enables women artists at a significant junction in their lives or careers to continue to grow and pursue their work. The award is given to ten artists a year “in recognition of an artist’s accomplishments, artistic growth, originality, and potential.” The name “Anonymous Was A Woman” refers to a line in Virginia Woolf’s poem entitled “A Room of One’s Own.” Anonymous Was a Woman was founded by artist Susan Unterberg in 1996, partly in response to the decision of the National Endowment for the Arts to cease support of individual artists. In 2018, after more than two decades of anonymity, Unterberg revealed her identity as the founder and sole patron of the award program, which led to a significant increase in nominations. Each year, an outstanding group of distinguished women—art historians, curators, writers, and previous winners from across the country—serve as nominators. In the 25 years since the award was founded, over 600 notable women have participated as nominators and panelists and the award has been given to 250 artists.

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