2020 Betty Bowen Award winner Dawn Cernys Screen from Leisure Activity Area at Eden Lake.
2020 Betty Bowen Award winner Dawn Cerny's "Screen from Leisure Activity Area at Eden Lake." Courtesy of the Artist
This morning, the Seattle Art Museum announced that Seattle-based multidisciplinary artist Dawn Cerny won their 2020 Betty Bowen Award. Each year, the juried award honors a Northwest artist for their work and includes $15,000 of unrestricted fund$ for the artist to do with as she pleases as well as a solo exhibition at the SAM in 2021.

"When I found out I was completely in shock," Cerny wrote to me about her win. "I am still in shock. Like, comically dim-witted and wildly humbled and then shocked again."

A 2015 Stranger Genius Award nominee (former Stranger art critic Jen Graves described her work as "messy, pulpy, direct, and poetically profound"), Cerny creates sculptures from inexpensive and readily available materials like wood, wire, and cardboard, often using them to intervene on luxurious-looking glass vessels. The results are colorful and delightfully weird objects that could furnish a fantastical domestic space.

Winning this accolade only pushes Cerny to ask even more questions when looking ahead in her practice. "With or without the award I ask myself: How can I confound the narrative I made up about my current circumstances? How do I use what I have to serve?" she said. "How do I be wily with what I have to help turn the volume up on voices that aren't mine? What am I going to make for dinner?"

Cerny beat out five other strong finalists for the award, whose runner ups included Portland-based filmmaker Elijah Hasan and beloved Seattle artist Tariqa Waters. Both received special recognition awards and $2,500 each. In a new move this year, the rest of the finalists received $1,250 as recognition of the financial difficulties faced by artists due to the pandemic.

Though Cerny's exhibition dates have yet to be announced, last year's Betty Bowen Award winner Lynne Siefert's solo exhibition will open on October 16. In the meantime, you can learn a little bit more about Cerny's practice in Museum of Glass's "Meet the Artist" video series: