Artists Jeffrey Gibson, Mel Chin, and Cameron Rowland are among this year’s MacArthur “genius” grant winners. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation honored 26 individuals this year, ranging in occupations from guitarist to marine scientist. Along with a great deal of prestige, the winners of the award receive $625,000 over five years, to be spent however they wish.
Cameron Rowland, one of the two youngest fellows at age 30, works in a conceptual vein to examine prison labor and systematic racism. He displays objects implicated in these systems, either in being seized by civil forfeiture or in being created by prison inmates themselves. The oldest fellow is Mel Chin at age 67; Chin’s work focuses on social and environmental issues in a wide range of media, including collages, sculpture, video games, and public installations.
Another of this year’s MacArthur fellows, Jeffrey Gibson, is a Choctaw-Cherokee artist, combines Native American materials and forms with Western contemporary art. He was featured prominently at this year’s Whitney Biennial and has been the subject of several recent solo exhibitions. According to the Washington Post, Gibson was driving when he found out he had received the fellowship, his phone dying moments later.
Other winners include Walter Hood, a landscape and public artist working to honor communal histories, and Lynda Barry, a graphic novelist and cartoonist teaching her students to use drawing to think through complex topics. Last year’s winners included performance, installation, and video artist Wu Tsang, painter and sculptor Titus Kaphar, and conceptual artist and curator Julie Ault. Some of the biggest names in the art world today have won MacArthur grants in the past, including Carrie Mae Weems and Nicole Eisenman.