Afro-Cuban American artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, who holds the Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair of Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, received the 2021 Pérez Prize — from the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, Florida.
The award recognizes “the acclaimed professor and artist, who has touched so many through her work exploring history, race, and culture.” Through deeply poetic and haunting imagery, Campos-Pons evokes stories of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, indigo, and sugar plantations, Catholic and Santeria religious practices, and revolutionary uprisings. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada.
Campos-Pons grew up on a sugar plantation in the Matanzas province of Cuba, and her family has Nigerian, Hispanic, and Chinese roots. She was a pioneer of the New Cuban Art Movement that opposed Communist repression in Cuba during the late 1980s. Campos-Pons immigrated to the United States in 1991 and joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2017.