Skip to content
Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR


Artist Tanya Aguiñiga asks people who cross US-Mexican border communities to participate in the realization of her artistic project Quipu border.

Gina Clyne


hide caption

toggle legend

Gina Clyne

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Artist Tanya Aguiñiga asks people who cross US-Mexican border communities to participate in the realization of her artistic project Quipu border.

Gina Clyne

After immigration became a major issue in the 2016 campaign, artist Tanya Aguiñiga began walking among cars and pedestrians lined up at the US-Mexico border and handing out postcards with the question “What do you think?” you when you cross that border? »In English and Spanish.

Attached to the cards were two strands of fabric to tie together. The result was Quipu border – named after the Inca device for organizing information using knotted threads.

The artwork, a cascade of thousands of recycled bikinis and dress straps in various colors and prints, was one of the works cited by this year’s Heinz Award judges to select her for the cash prize of $ 250,000.

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

The Quipu border artwork on display above the AMBOS storefront in San Ysidro, Calif., given the traffic crossing the border.

Gina Clyne


hide caption

toggle legend

Gina Clyne

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

The Quipu border artwork on display above the AMBOS storefront in San Ysidro, Calif., given the traffic crossing the border.

Gina Clyne

New York-based Sanford Biggers was the other recipient of the award, named after the late US Senator John Heinz, which recognizes excellence and achievement in fields such as the arts, economics and the environment.

Artists who have won the award in the past include 2008 winner Ann Hamilton, known for her large-scale multimedia installations, public projects and performance collaborations, and artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson who received the price in 2019.

Aguiñiga was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. As a child in the 1980s, she crossed the border to go to school. She later attended San Diego State University, where she was introduced to art as a form of activism, but then went on to design furniture because it was something that “my working family could identify”.

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Tanya Aguiñiga has worked with indigenous communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and Alaska, but has always felt drawn to the border.

Justin lubke


hide caption

toggle legend

Justin lubke

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Tanya Aguiñiga has worked with indigenous communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and Alaska, but has always felt drawn to the border.

Justin lubke

“But slowly I started to feel like it wasn’t enough to just create or just design or just think of things and do something that looked more like a luxury market,” he said. she declared.

She worked with indigenous communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and Alaska, but felt drawn to the border and therefore founded the AMBOS project. While the word means “both” in Spanish, the letters mean “Art Made Between Opposite Sides”.

Creating Quipu border, Aguiñiga said she wanted to do something with the AMBOS team about the mental state of those crossing the border at a time when then-candidate Donald Trump was pledging to build a wall along the border .

When Trump claimed that most Mexicans were rapists, criminals, or drug dealers, Aguiñiga took it personally.

“I was so upset because we constantly have to carry a lot of the weight of America’s labor needs, cleaning people’s homes, looking after children.”

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

People crossing the border were asked to write their thoughts and tie a knot to symbolize the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

Gina Clyne


hide caption

toggle legend

Gina Clyne

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

People crossing the border were asked to write their thoughts and tie a knot to symbolize the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

Gina Clyne

Some of the postcards she received contained the following thoughts written in Spanish:

“Many risk their lives crossing the United States and it is very difficult to live on the border. Many end up in the desert.

“Whatever you can do there, you can also do it here in Mexico with a lot of effort instead of being enslaved to work.”

“I’m crossing with a passport and I feel like the happiest man in the world.”

“These border towns are very dependent on each other. There is a ‘knot’ that unites the two countries and makes them stronger.”

The performers said the quipu itself was initially displayed on a billboard above the AMBOS storefront in San Ysidro due to traffic waiting to cross the border.

She said it was meant to represent the US-Mexico relationship and also what she does to people who cross paths frequently.

“To be who we are then suddenly when we cross the United States and become this different thing. We hold our breath and we become this really different, scared person who is suddenly stigmatized.”

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Sanford Biggers watches his Oracle sculpture during its exhibition at Rockefeller Center last spring.

Daniel Greer / Artistic Production Fund


hide caption

toggle legend

Daniel Greer / Artistic Production Fund

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Sanford Biggers watches his Oracle sculpture during its exhibition at Rockefeller Center last spring.

Daniel Greer / Artistic Production Fund

Aguiñiga says she wants to use the power of art to transform the US-Mexico border from a place of trauma into a creative space for collective healing and expression.

Tanya Aguiñiga and Sanford Biggers win Heinz Art Awards: NPR

Artist Sanford Biggers’ sits in front of his Manuscript, a textile work that includes paintings and sculptures made directly on or from old quilts.

Justin lubke


hide caption

toggle legend

Justin lubke

“A lot of my work stems from a place of emotion and trying to heal trauma. Trying to do some of this messy work in public so that many of us can benefit, not just me- same.”

She called the Heinz Prize “a huge validation of the work I have done over the past 20+ years.”

In December, Aguiñiga plans to travel across the US-Mexico border to set up shrines made by people who are part of AMBOS ‘“Trauma-Informed Ceramics Program” for LGBTQ + asylum seekers. The goal is to create spaces for people to pray and honor those who lost their lives to come to the United States.

Biggers’ works encompass painting, sculpture, textiles and sound and use a variety of mediums ranging from antique quilts to marble.

Earlier this year, it received its largest order to date, the third installation of its Chimera series, Oracle. The 25-foot-tall sculpture, weighing over 15,000 pounds, was on display at Rockefeller Center in New York City until June.

The seated body of the sculpture is inspired by the ancient temple of Zeus, and the head is based on masks and other sculptures from various African cultures, including Luba art and the Masai religion.

He says he is intrigued by the recent findings that many well-known marble sculptures from antiquity were in fact painted in brilliant and even garish colors, and he compares this to the “black wash” of African works of the beginning of the 20th century “, in which the objects were” stripped of all material adornment and all ritual and cultural residue “.

“Chimera’s sculptures challenge the erasure of history in both cases and recognize the impact this revisionism has had on nationalist propaganda, cultural understanding and relations between the West and the rest of the world,” said he declared.

Biggers said he believed his award was recognition of this deeper story.

“It’s just a great honor to know that there are foundations like Heinz that are there to support ambitious work,” he said.



Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.