Liz Waldner

Foundation for Contemporary Arts Recognizes Liz Waldner with Inaugural Dorothea Tanning Award

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts announced today that it has established the Dorothea Tanning Award, which recognizes outstanding artistic achievement and potential, with a $1 million endowment gift from The Destina Foundation. The endowment will sustain a $40,000 annual award in honor of Tanning, a self-taught artist and poet who died in 2012 at the age of one hundred and one. Poet Liz Waldner was named the inaugural winner of the prize.

“Dorothea believed strongly in FCA’s mission and programs,” Pamela S. Johnson, president of The Destina Foundation, which is charged with distributing the assets of Tanning’s estate, said. “She considered John Cage and Merce Cunningham among her dearest friends from their early days as struggling young artists in 1940s New York, so supporting future generations of artists through FCA has a special significance.”

Born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1910, Tanning taught herself how to paint while living in Chicago. In the early 1940s, she moved to New York, where she met Max Ernst who would later become her husband. The artist is best known for her Surrealist paintings and her set and costume designs for the ballets of George Balanchine and other performances. As her career progressed, Tanning began working in other mediums, including sculpture and printmaking. In the 1980s, Tanning focused primarily on her writing and published a number of poems as well as two memoirs.

Each year, the award will be administered by the FCA’s Grants to Artists program, which will invite a group of artists and young professionals to nominate a deserving candidate. A separate selection committee will then choose the winner. Waldner’s nominator said that her work “embodies the kind of unpredictability, the kind of resistance to consecutive, conventional, expository prose meaning, that I associate with the language poets and with other branches of the American avant-garde.”

A Mississippi native, Waldner earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics before receiving her master’s in fine arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She published her first book of poems, Homing Devices in 1988. Her second book, A Point Is That Which Has No Part (2000), received the 2000 James Laughlin Award and the 1999 Iowa Poetry Prize. Her most recent collections of poems include Play (2009), Her Faithfulness (2016), and Big House, Little House (2016).