Deanna Bowen is an interdisciplinary artist born in 1969 who makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. A descendant of two Alabama and Kentucky born Black Prairie pioneer families from Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta, her family history has been the central pivot of her auto-ethnographic interdisciplinary works since the early 1990s. In recent years, her work has involved close examination of her family’s migration and their connections to Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley and Black Strathcona, the “All-Black” towns of Oklahoma, the Kansas Exoduster migrations and the Ku Klux Klan in Canada and the US.
The artistic products of her research have been presented at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, the Contemporary Art Gallery and Western Front in Vancouver, the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery and Mercer Union, a centre for Contemporary Art in Toronto. Deanna has also received numerous awards, including a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. Deanna is represented by MKG127 and lives in Toronto, Ontario.
“Deanna Bowen’s multidisciplinary practice is an almost forensic practice. Deploying a wide range of media, the result is a body of work that distills and integrates several sources of truth into remarkably compelling artworks across a wide range of media that are diagnostic of the ways in which embedded racism informs our culture.
It’s as though this artist has two mirrors: one looking deeply inward and as far back as possible, the other looking outward, reflecting with great perceptiveness the embedded patterns of prejudice as they impact Canada’s Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities. With an uncanny ability to discover in an archive the heartbeat of the lives it recounts, its masked agendas, and the implications of decisions taken along the way, Deanna Bowen creates videos, installations and performance works that allow us to experience these grave and startling meanings as if for the first time.”
Nominator: Vera Frenkel, FRSC, multidisciplinary artist, GGArts winner, 2006
“With an uncanny ability to discover in an archive the heartbeat of the lives it recounts, its masked agendas, and the implications of decisions taken along the way, Deanna Bowen creates videos, installations and performance works that allow us to experience these grave and startling meanings as if for the first time.”