Two visual artists, Winfred Rembert and Raven Chacon, received Pulitzer Prizes for Biography and Music

Two artists were among the winners of the 106th Pulitzer Prize which was announced last night. The late Winfred Rembert won the award in the biography category and sound artist Raven Chacon won the award in the music category.

Rembert’s winning autobiography, Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, as told to Erin I. Kelly, was published by Bloomsbury six months after her death in March 2021.

“The story of his life and the creative and compelling way in which it unfolded will live with me forever,” said Pulitzer Board Member Kevin Merida, “The Pulitzer for this work will serve as a reminder of the magnificence and artistic genius that can emanate from racism and incarceration.

Rembert grew up in Georgia, joined the American civil rights movement as a teenager, was arrested after a protest, and survived seven years in chain gangs. It was his wife Patsy who encouraged him to become an artist at the age of 51.

In his work, he recreated scenes from his life using the leather tooling skills he learned in prison. His estate is represented by Fort Gansevoort and Adelson Galleries.

“I painted a lot of pictures of the chain gang,” Rembert said in a New Yorker article published posthumously in May 2021, before the release of his book. “I thought a lot of people in the free world thought badly of the chain gang. They looked at the chain gang workers, working on the highways and in the ditches, and I think they thought all the guys were killers. With the paintings, I tried to show that it was not so.

Raven Chacon, still from three songs, (2021). Image courtesy of the artist.

Chacon, whose work is featured in the “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet As It’s Kept, is a founding member of the First Nation’s Composers Initiative and a member of the Navajo Nation. He was rewarded for his sound piece Mass without voice.

member of the board of Pulitzer and New Yorker David Remnick, Editor-in-Chief, said: “Chacon dives deep into his musical thinking, and when he sits down to compose, he draws on a variety of traditions and modes of musical expression. The result, its overall composition, Mass without voiceis quite captivating.

“By exploiting the architecture of the cathedral, Mass without voice considers the futility of giving voice to the voiceless, when ceding space is never an option for those in power,” Chacon said of the work which was commissioned by the concert by Present Music’s Thanksgiving written for performance at the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ and Plymouth Church in the United Church of Christ.

Meanwhile, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded to The Netanyahus: account of a minor and ultimately even negligible episode in the history of a very famous family, a satirical novel by Joshua Cohen about the father of ousted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the drama prize went to James Ijames for fatty ham, a comic riff on Shakespeare Hamlet.

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Briana R. Cross