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03.06.20 – MVS alumna Deanna Bowen wins a Governor General's Award

A graduate of the Daniels Faculty's Master of Visual Studies program has just been awarded one of the highest Canadian honours for work in the visual arts.

It was announced on February 19 that Deanna Bowen (MVS 2008) was one of eight winners of this year's Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. She is the first graduate of the Master of Visual Studies program to receive this particular award.

Bowen, who has lived and practiced in Toronto for over two decades, is known for multimedia, multidisciplinary artwork that explores racial prejudice and the history of black communities in Canada and the United States. Her work often draws on her own family history, which she traces to ancestors who were enslaved in the pre-Civil War American south.

Photograph of On Trial The Long Doorway.

Among Bowen's recent accomplishments are a Guggenheim Fellowship and a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. She recently completed a curatorial residency at the Thames Gallery, in Chatham, Ontario. And she's currently a lecturer in the Master of Fine Arts program at Goddard College, in Vermont.

She has produced a steady stream of critically lauded artwork in a variety of media over a span of 30 years. Her recent output is typically diverse. On Trial The Long Doorway, created in 2017 for Mercer Union and later re-mounted at the Contemporary Art Gallery, consisted of a series of film sets. Within those sets, Bowen staged live rehearsals and recordings of her own adaptation of a 1956 CBC teledrama about a black legal aid lawyer who is tasked with representing a white student. Her 2017 video work, We Are From Nicodemus, blends art and documentary to tell the story of African American migration to the Canadian Prairies, using Bowen's own family history as an example.