Dorner Prize 2020
One of two 2020 Dorner Prize winners, Lost in Translation celebrates linguistic diversity. To be installed on the Benefit Street exterior facade of the RISD Museum, this interactive public installation will consist of a series of five bilingual, augmented-reality (AR) posters, each displaying a word whose meaning cannot be easily translated across languages. Through typographic abstractions, the posters will progress between each word’s native script and its Latin characters, expressing what we often lose in translation: emotions, ways of seeing the world, colors, and memories. Lost in Translation is created by Vaishnavi Mahendran (RISD MFA 2020, Graphic Design), Alba Lara Granero (Brown PhD 2024, Hispanic Studies), Maria Victoria Taborelli (Brown PhD 2025, Hispanic Studies), and Sophia Petros (Brown BA 2020, Global Politics & Art).
The second Dorner Prize winner focuses on an object in the RISD Museum collection. In 1945, the director of the museum acquired an odd piece—the 1864 bill of sale for Sam, an enslaved person who lived in Georgia. This document has since troubled the museum’s archive. Is it art? Does it belong in an art museum? What’s the best way to steward painful historical documents for future generations? The performance piece Evidence of Slave Sale will resituate this document in the museum’s Grand Gallery, amidst lavish paintings of European landscapes and nobility. The bill of sale, rum bottles filled with water from the Atlantic Ocean, a garment made from replica slave cloth, and the performer’s brown body recall the violent and inhumane methods of wealth production that made Providence, RISD, and the museum’s collection possible. The artists creating Evidence of Slave Sale are Bobby Joe Smith III (RISD MFA 2020, Graphic Design), Sharanya Aggarwal (RISD MFA 2020, Textiles), Jarret Key (RISD MFA 2020, Painting), Kim Nguyen (RISD MFA 2020, Glass), Will Mianecki (RISD MFA 2021, Graphic Design), Aryana Polat (RISD BFA 2021, Sculpture), and Sadia Quddus (RISD MFA 2022, Graphic Design).
The Dorner Prize, a juried competition for Rhode Island School of Design degree candidates, was first established in 1995 as the Sitings exhibition. Two Dorner Prize winners receive cash prizes of $500 each and implementation funds up to $1000. The winning artists work with Museum staff during each phase of the development process and are celebrated with online promotion and public events. The Dorner Prize, named for distinguished RISD Museum director Alexander Dorner (tenure 1938–1941), is made possible by a generous anonymous gift.