Awardee: Maria Elena Gonzalez

Visual Arts, 2000

Maria Elena González’s work is included in public and private collections throughout the world, and has been exhibited in major museums and galleries in the United States, Switzerland and Cuba, where she was born. She has received numerous awards, including the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Maria Elena is best known for her sculptural installations that are architecturally as well as personally informed. In 1999, she received widespread acclaim for her site-specific outdoor sculpture, Magic Carpet/Home, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund and installed first in Brooklyn and subsequently in Pittsburgh and in Los Angeles. You & Me premiered in 2010 at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, and Re: Public in 2011 at Bex Arts Triennale in Bex, Switzerland. Maria Elena has taught at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where she is a board member, and the Cooper Union School of Art. She is the sculptor member of the Public Design Commission of the City of New York. She earned a BFA from Florida International University and an MA in sculpture from San Francisco State University.

Project: Magic Carpet/Home

Maria Elena González created large sculptures in parks mimicking the floor plans of apartments in the adjacent public housing projects. Each structure has a wavy shape to resemble a magic carpet, installed to appear as if it was floating above the ground. The work's surface, made of a soft, fire retardant, black rubber material, is the same one used in playgrounds and provides an outdoor-carpet-like texture, with the floor plans carefully demarcated on its surface.