Three win 2022 Ford Family fellowships

Artists Brenda Mallory, Arvie Smith, and John Houck are named to this year's fellowships, which come with a $35,000 award.


From left: John Houck, Brenda Mallory, and Arvie Smith, winners of the 2022 Ford Family Foundation fellowships in visual arts. Photos: Sam Gherke

Portland artists Brenda Mallory, Arvie Smith, and John Houck have been named 2022 Ford Family Foundation Fellows in the Visual Arts, the foundation announced Tuesday. The three were chosen from a field of 175 applicants, and each receives an unrestricted $35,000 award.

The annual fellowships, which began in 2010, are awarded for “demonstrated excellence,” and this year’s winners easily meet the requirement. “These three artists share a sincere self-awareness that brings confidence in their choices as makers,” Anne Kubisch, President of the Ford Family Foundation, said in a prepared statement. “They are working quite personally but making globally relevant and impactful artworks.”

Brenda Mallory, “Soft Focus #4,” 2018. Waxed cloth, hog rings, welded steel armature, 66 x 100 x 2 inches. Courtesy Ford Family Foundation.

Mallory, born in 1955, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and grew up in Oklahoma. In her contemporary sculptural art she often uses reclaimed materials, creating beauty out of abandoned or destroyed objects. “Brenda Mallory’s work is a healing influence,” Rebecca Dobkins, Curator of Native American Art at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, said in a release from the foundation. “She is a constructor, a maker of connections. Her work provides an important reminder that ‘contemporary Native American art’ is not limited to narrowly defined iconographies.”

Arvie Smith, “Cupid and Psyche,” oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches, 2021. Courtesy Ford Family Foundation.

Smith, born in 1938, is celebrated for his colorful, often satirical paintings about Black life in America, blending historical, political, and pop-cultural elements into images that are at once provocative and pleasing to the eye. His work and that of seven other African American artists is included in an affiliate exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennale. “Smith has been unusually prolific late into his career and it is one that deserves greater recognition,” Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum, said in the foundation’s release. “Smith has continued to maintain the use of taboo or uncomfortable images consistently focused on the message at-hand.”

John Houck, “Pure Colour,” 2022. Oil on canvas, 21 x 28 inches. Courtesy Ford Family Foundation.

The multidisciplinary artist Houck, who was born in 1977 and relocated to Portland from Los Angeles in 2018, has a background in architecture and software engineering, and has exhibited extensively internationally. “His paintings and photo-based works are a metaphor for our memories, which we assume to be precise, like digital technology, but are in fact malleable, changing over time,” curator Pedro Alonzo is quoted in the foundation’s release. “His work points to humans as emotional beings whose memory and sense of reality can easily be distorted by feelings.”

Jurors on the 2022 selection panel were: Amy Adams, Owner, Adams & Ollman (Portland); Erin Christovale, Associate Curator, The Hammer (Los Angeles); Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring Curator, New Museum (New York); Victoria Sung, Associate Curator of Visual Arts, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis); and Abigail Susik, Associate Professor of Art History, Willamette University (Salem).

Mallory, Smith, and Houck are the 47th, 48th, and 49th artists chosen since the Ford Family Foundation visual arts fellowships began in 2010. Last year’s winners were Rubén Garcia Marrufo, Rainen Knecht, and Ka’ila Farrell-Smith. Fellows in the original class of 2010 were Daniel Duford, David Eckard, and Heidi Schwegler. You can see all 49 winners here.

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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