Art League Houston (ALH) has announced that Dallas-based artist Victoria (Vicki) Meek has been selected as its 2021 Texas Artist of the Year. The announcement also states that Dr. Alvia Wardlaw will receive the ALH’s biennial 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts Leadership.
In the years since the award was first handed out in 1983, 36 artists have been given the Texas Artist of the Year honor, including Rick Lowe, Margarita Cabrera, Francesca Fuchs, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Terrell James, Amy Blakemore, Havel Ruck Projects, Rachel Hecker, Aaron Parazette, Mary McCleary, Joseph Havel, Melissa Miller, Al Souza, The Art Guys, Dick Wray, Luis Jiménez, Bert L. Long, Jr., Jesús Moroles, James Surls, and Dr. John Biggers, among others. Meek is the first Black woman to receive the Texas Artist of the Year honor from Art League Houston.
ALH’s jurors for the awards this year were: Dr. Kanitra Fletcher (Associate Curator of African American and Afro-Diasporic Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.); Elyse Gonzales (Director, Ruby City, San Antonio, TX); Rick Lowe (Artist, Houston, TX); and Darryl Ratcliff (Artist and Co-Founder of Gossypion Investments and Ash Studios, Dallas, TX).
States Jennie Ash, Art League Houston Executive Director:
“We’re proud to be an integral part of Texas’s rich cultural community, supporting artists and artistic practices at its core through our 38th year of the Art League Houston Awards. Both honorees have contributed significantly to the visual arts in Texas throughout their distinguished careers. Dr. Wardlaw is a pioneering scholar in the field of African, African American, and Modern and Contemporary art and Vicki Meek is one of the strongest and most singular artistic voices working in Texas today. Both women are much loved by the community in which they live and work and continue to serve as mentors for the next generation of practitioners through their respective practices. At such a critical time for artists and arts communities, we feel honored to have the opportunity to recognize their longstanding and unwavering commitment to deepening our knowledge of contemporary art of the African Diaspora and creating avenues for discourse around contemporary culture.”
Says Meek, in a conversation with Glasstire: “I’m thrilled to be recognized in this way and I’m really looking forward to my September exhibition A Journey to Me. Houston is my art home.” Meek describes her upcoming ALH show, which will encompass all three galleries: “The show will explore how my aesthetic developed over the years, and give homage to the late artist Elizabeth Catlett. I’m going to reimagine 20 of Catlett’s most iconic works of political art as well as how my own work evolved from a more confrontational emphasis to include spirituality and the embrace of African cosmologies.”
Among her many roles as an artist and advocate for the arts, Meek was the 2020 Juror of the Texas Vignette Art Fair, awarding five $2,000 grants to female-identifying, Texas-based artists.
Meek’s ALH exhibition will open September 10 and be on view through November 27, 2021. A limited-edition catalog will accompany the exhibition, and an essay on Meek’s career by Dr. Lauren Cross (College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas) will be featured in the publication, as well as images of Meeks’s work over the years.
On Friday, October 15, 2021 during ALH’s annual gala at Hotel ZaZa in Houston’s Museum District, the awardees will be celebrated. For more about the honorees and about Art League Houston, please go here.
In a career that spans five decades, including 22 years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and nearly 50 years at Texas Southern University, art historian and curator Dr. Alvia J. Wardlaw has presented exhibitions rewriting the canon of American art with major, overdue chapters for African American artists, especially John Biggers, Thornton Dial and Kermit Oliver.
Meek’s multimedia, interdisciplinary practice focuses on cultural memory, identity, and social issues in relation to the African diaspora, underscored by an underlying hope and emphasis on collective healing. Her exhibition at Art League Houston, The Journey to Me, will thematically visualize her development as an artist through a curated series of three site-specific installations extending throughout the ALH galleries. In a recent Dallas Morning News review by Lauren Smart of Meek’s 2021 Nasher Public installation for the Nasher Sculpture Center, Stony the Road We Trod, Meek states: “I want people to start thinking about the Black community in the affirmative. We didn’t just survive. We thrived in spite of everything.” This sense of hopefulness is highlighted throughout much of Meek’s practice, which prioritizes and supports forgotten, left behind histories and identities.