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Senga Nengudi is the first African American woman to win the Nasher Sculpture Prize

Nasher Sculpture Center
Senga Nengudi in a 1978 performance piece

With the international award, the 79-year-old Nengudi will receive $100,000 — along with a trophy designed by the center's architect, Renzo Piano.

The Chicago-born, California-raised Senga Nengudi is known for pushing the boundaries of sculpture into performance art, notably with "Ceremony for Freeway Frets" from 1978. Nengudi and a group of fellow artists, often donning items she designed, climbed under a Los Angeles freeway overpass. While they performed music and danced, she distributed artworks made from what has been a signature material, pantyhose.

Nengudi has often used pantyhose to evoke women, the boundaries that encase them, human flesh in general and the fragility of that flesh (the pieces can decay — and disappear, just like her performances). Even so, "Freeway Frets" transformed a typical, rocky, barren, urban bypass into a scene of movement, music and life — if only temporarily.

Nasher Prize-winner Senga Nengudi
Nasher Sculpture Center
Senga Nengudi is the third American to win the Nasher

Nengudi has knotted and stuffed pantyhose, suggesting sagging human bodies as well as discarded materials and discarded lives. The artist herself has performed with her sculptural pieces. Clearly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement as well as feminism, these works have had Nengudi tied down or restrained in webs of stretched pantyhose. Nengudi often records these ephemeral works with film, video, photography — and in her own journals.

In February, Nengudi's works will recieve an extended, major exhibition at Dia Beacon, the former Nabisco plant on the Hudson River north of Manhattan that serves as the museum for the Dia Art Foundation's extensive sculpture and installation collection.

The Nasher comes with the largest cash award of any international sculpture prize. Nengudi was chosen by an 8-member panel that included the previous winner, Nairy Baghramain, and longtime Nasher jurist, Sir Nicholas Serota, the chair of Arts Council England.

Senga Nengudi's Ceremony for Freeway Frets
Timo Ohler
Nasher Sculpture Center
A scene from Senga Nengudi's 1979 performance piece, "Ceremony for Freeway Frets"

The Nasher's complete information about Nengudi can be found here.

Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks at You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.

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Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.