Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo – 2022 State Fellowship Recipient

From Ivan Schustak, South Arts –

Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo

South Arts has named sculptor, Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo of Memphis as one of nine visual artists as 2022 State Fellows, part of the Southern Prize and State Fellowships program. Each fellowship – one per state in the South Arts region of AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, and TN – comes with a cash award of $5,000 and inclusion in an exhibition at the Bo Bartlett Center in Columbus, Georgia, from September 2 – December 10, 2022, before touring to additional locations across the region. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are adjudicated awards recognizing artistic excellence that reflects and represents the diversity of the region.

Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo is an interdisciplinary artist based in Memphis, TN. She is currently a co-founder and co-curator of BASEMENT, a provisional artist-run space in Chapel Hill, NC. Her work has been shown throughout the eastern United States and internationally including the Mint Museum, Ackland Art Museum, and Duke University among others. She received her MFA in Interdisciplinary Studio from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her BA in Studio Art and English Literature from Davidson College. She was most recently a ten-month resident at Crosstown Arts, a 2021 New Public Sculpture Fellow with the Urban Arts Commission in Memphis, and a 2021 recipient of TriStar Arts’ inaugural Current Art Fund project grant.

Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo’s sculptural work utilizes the possibilities within hybridity to speak of a hypothetical place where humans have evolved into hybrid beings with animals, insects, and discarded human-made materials. The resulting physical evolution of this voluntary merging challenges social discomfort around bodies that are not easily categorized by blurring the boundaries between animal and human, living and dead, animate and inanimate. She uses Latin-American history, abject theory, and environmental distress to investigate notions of human exceptionalism and humanity’s trajectory. Drawing upon her own experiences, her work investigates identities that straddle cultures and utilizes that hybrid state as an opportunity for reckoning. The resulting sculptural narrative aims to disrupt notions of human hierarchy, testing the phenomenon between humanity, mammality, and technology in a chimeric future.

The State Fellows are also now in consideration for the two larger Southern Prize awards. One fellowship recipient will be named the Southern Prize winner receiving an additional $25,000 cash award, and another fellow will be named the Southern Prize Finalist receiving an additional $10,000; both Southern Prize recipients also receive a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences. The two winners will be named at the opening reception for the exhibition this fall.

The 2022 State Fellowship recipients are:

  • Jenny Fine. Multidisciplinary. New Brockton, Alabama.
  • GeoVanna Gonzalez. Multidisciplinary. Miami, Florida.
  • Antonio Darden. Sculpture. Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Crystal Gregory. Sculpture. Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Hannah Chalew. Mixed Media. New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Gloria Gipson Suggs. Painting. Holly Springs, Mississippi.
  • Marcus Dunn. Painting. Fayetteville, North Carolina.
  • Brittany M. Watkins. Mixed Media. Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo. Sculpture. Memphis, Tennessee.

“The 2022 State Fellows are a testament to the robust creativity across our region,” said Susie Surkamer, President and CEO of South Arts. “Each State Fellow speaks to what it means to be an artist who lives, works, and creates in the South. Through their work, we are exploring themes vital to our regional understanding, including climate change, cultural assimilation, self-identity, and police violence. South Arts is grateful to celebrate their vision with these awards.”

Launched in 2017, the Southern Prize and State Fellowships acknowledge, support, and celebrate the highest quality art being created in the South. Approximately 600 artists applied for consideration this past fall and winter, and jurors reviewed each application to recommend the State Fellowship recipients. Another national panel of jurors will review the State Fellows to determine the Southern Prize winner and finalist, both of whom will be named at a reception this fall.

Visual artists living in South Arts’ nine-state region and producing crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and multidisciplinary work were eligible to apply. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships program is made possible through the generous financial support of many donors.

To view work by the 2022 State Fellowship recipients, please visit To learn more about South Arts’ grants, programs, and conferences, visit