While selected for the strengths of their individual projects, all three prize-winning artists—Jazmine Harris, Julia Gutman, and Cathy Hsiao—capture in their work a resiliency of both self and community. In layered photographs and news clippings; through stitched threads and patchworked textiles; and in combining the hard materials of cast sculpture with organically-derived dyes, and sound: these artists give shape to a sense of collectivity despite the challenges of our current moment.
Acknowledging measures of distance that have come to sit with weighted presence in our lives—whether from social separation, political struggles and silencing, or personal loss—their work finds form in a tender intertwining of individual memories and the evolving, shared histories of those with whom they identify. It is in fact in honoring, amplifying, and giving voice to others that these artists craft visual languages distinctly their own, and works that carry with them a sense of vitality stronger for having endured. Gutman transforms the worn and discarded garments of friends into tactile compositions where touch is primary: limbs reach out, overlap, and entangle. Hsiao turns to inherited traditions of indigo dyeing to reclaim the color blue, used as a chemical tool of mass detention during public protests in Hong Kong, and to create an audio archive that represents resistance while circumventing visual identification. In her video work and collages, which place personal recollections and photographs alongside published accounts of racial inequity and increasingly dire economic disparity, Harris documents the way that the self takes shape both in dialogue with others and with circumstances beyond one’s control. Even the empty spaces within her photographs hold resonance, framing a life rooted by and accumulated in small slips that mount with meaning. As one of Harris’s penned, adopted mantras states: “Don’t worry about what you ain’t got . . . you got a lot.”
In reviewing all portfolios, the strength and breadth of work submitted to The Hopper Prize was generous and impressive. Like those of the prize-winning artists, these projects demonstrate abundance within constraint, underscoring the continued importance of artistic voices in creating new avenues for dialogue, reflection, representation, and—in times when distance seems most prevalent—connection across divides.
Caitlin Julia Rubin is the Associate Curator & Director of Programs at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. Since joining the Rose, she has organized exhibitions and projects by Mark Dion, Rosalyn Drexler, Jennie C. Jones, JJ PEET, Tuesday Smillie, and Caroline Woolard, among others; collaborated with visiting artists to foster new, site-responsive initiatives; and curated numerous collection-focused presentations. She earned an undergraduate degree in Art History from the University of Chicago and an MA in Art History from the University of Texas, Austin.