2020 Winner

Stephen L. Hayes

The Gibbes Museum of Art is proud to announce Stephen L. Hayes Jr. as the 2020 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. A North Carolina-based artist, Hayes makes works—woodcuts, sculptures, installations small and large—from found materials that draw on social and economic themes ingrained in the history of the U.S. and African Americans. Hayes will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize and will be recognized at the Society 1858 Amy P. Coy Forum scheduled for February 5, 2021.

“Amidst the challenges of 2020, Society 1858 and the Gibbes are thrilled to be able to continue celebrating the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art,” says Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “We are also excited to announce Stephen as this year’s winner. His creations contribute to the understanding of the South and demonstrate a powerful vision from an artist on the forefront of contemporary southern art. We were extremely impressed by all of the finalists this year and would like to thank everyone who submitted an application for the Society 1858 Prize.”

Stephen L. Hayes Jr. grew up in Durham with his older brother, Spence, and his mother, Lender, who were pivotal in shaping and sparking his creative approach. When Hayes was in first grade, he broke a remote-control car. His brother took it apart and attached the motor to a battery, bringing it back to life. Amazed, Hayes began breaking all kinds of things to see how they worked and what he could create with the pieces. By second grade, his mother had given him a real workbench; she and Hayes’ brother would also bring home abandoned equipment for tinkering. Working with his hands took many forms and by high school, he learned to crochet.

Hayes went to North Carolina Central University, aiming to transfer to North Carolina State University in order to study mechanical engineering. Instead, through a friend, he discovered graphic design. His new major led to a ceramics course, where his enthusiasm and skill allowed him as much time as he wanted on the wheel. He threw enough pots to develop a strong portfolio, leading to a residency at the acclaimed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hayes earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His thesis exhibition, “Cash Crop,” has been traveling and exhibiting for nearly a decade. In his work, Hayes uses three symbols: a pawn, a corn, and a horse to explore America’s use (or misuse) of black bodies, black minds, and black labor. Artists, he believes, are as much translators as they are creators. He started teaching at the college level in 2011; currently, he is a professor of sculpture at Duke University.

“Thank you to the Gibbes Museum and Society 1858 for the honor of receiving the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art,” says Hayes. I initially began creating as a way to impress my mom and brother and now I use my works to tell stories, connect people across generations and ignite intercultural dialogue. I am passionate about my work, so seeing it also resonate with others makes the endless hours of work worth it.”

Hayes is currently in the middle of creating a monument of the United States Color Troopers that marched through Wilmington, NC that is slated to be unveiled in November 2021. Hayes has always been known to say that he wants to make his artwork famous and his name legendary.

2020 Finalists

Namwon Choi

2020 Finalist

Namwon Choi is an artist and educator based in Savannah, Ga. Choi has a Master of Fine Arts in drawing and painting from Georgia State University and a Master of Fine Arts in oriental painting from Hongik University of Seoul, Korea. Since her move to the U.S., Choi’s life in-between two countries, embodying affiliation and alienation, has been the inspiration of her art. Her interest in the spatial and temporal condition of in-betweenness led her to view the highway as the space of transience that (dis)connects one place to another. She creates drawings and paintings of highways on canvas paper and uses tires as a means of portraying her life in transition. She has been an artist in residence at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hambidge and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art studio. Her most recent solo exhibitions were at the Artist Homes Gallery in Berlin and Stanely Beaman & Sears Gallery in Atlanta. Currently, she is a professor of foundation studies at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Stephen L. Hayes

2020 Finalist

Stephen L. Hayes Jr. creates masterpieces—woodcuts, sculptures, installations small and large—from found materials that draw on social and economic themes ingrained in the history of the U.S. and African Americans. His approach is simple: “If I can’t find it, I’ll make it. If I cannot make it, I’ll find it.” He went to North Carolina Central University, aiming to transfer to North Carolina State University to study mechanical engineering. Instead, through a friend, he discovered graphic design. His newfound major led to a ceramics course, where his enthusiasm and skill granted him unlimited access to the pottery wheel. He threw enough pots to develop a strong portfolio, earning him a residency at the acclaimed New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Hayes received a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His thesis exhibition, “Cash Crop,” has been traveling and exhibiting for nearly a decade. Frequently in his work, Hayes uses three symbols: a pawn, corn and a horse to explore America’s use (or misuse) of black bodies, black minds and black labor. Artists, he believes, are as much translators as they are creators.

Jennifer Shaw

2020 Finalist

Jennifer Shaw is a fine art photographer whose work is based on both a world observed, and a world constructed, often focusing on the fleeting and personal within the sphere of her immediate surroundings. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Upon graduation, she moved to New Orleans in pursuit of the artist’s life, where she currently teaches the disappearing art of darkroom photography at the Louise S. McGehee School. Shaw’s photographs have been featured in B&W, American Photo, Shots, Light Leaks, The Sun and Oxford American magazines, and online publications including NPR, Fraction Magazine, Lenscratch and One, One Thousand. Her first monograph, “Hurricane Story” (Chin Music Press), was named best photo book of 2011 by Photo-Eye and Brain Pickings. North Light Press published her second monograph, “Nature/Nurture,” in 2012. Shaw’s work is exhibited widely and held in various museum collections, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.