Hugo Crosthwaite Named First-Prize Winner
of the Fifth Triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition


The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced artist Hugo Crosthwaite as the first-prize winner of the fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Crosthwaite is the first Latinx artist to receive this prestigious award since the national competition was founded in 2006. His prize-winning stop-motion drawing animation, A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (2018), recounts a woman’s journey from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of the American dream. It will be on view in the exhibition The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, which features nearly 50 portraits by the finalists of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Held every three years, the competition encourages artists to submit works that challenge the definition of portraiture. This year’s competition received more than 2,600 submissions from 14 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Selected by a blind jury based on artistic merit, the featured works reflect the state of contemporary portraiture in the U.S. and will be on view in Washington, D.C., from October 26 through August 30, 2020, before traveling to up to four venues across the United States.



A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (3:13), 2018

"A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez" (2018) is part of a series based on artist Hugo Crosthwaite’s interviews with people who are living in or are passing through Tijuana. The resultant improvised drawings represent the collective memories and oral histories from that part of the Mexico-U.S. border. Set to the soundtrack of a dissonant guitar and a raspy voice singing in Spanish, this animated video reveals the dreams and experiences of a young woman who seeks to take part in the American Dream. Black ink, gray wash, and white paint—applied by the invisible hand of the artist— take turns to expose Berenice Sarmiento Chávez’s humble background and the threat of violence in her home country that pushed her to immigrate to the United States. The film suggests that the immigration journey is seeded with constant danger.

"We are defined by the stories that we tell ourselves," says Crosthwaite, "either real or imagined, to deal with difficult situations in our lives. The story of Berenice, as I interviewed her, had elements of exaggeration, perhaps even fantasy, but it also speaks to universal truths about the disenfranchisement and vulnerability of immigrants and the violence that is prevalent against women in the U.S./Mexico border. Rather than playing the role of journalist where I recount a factual event, I have left the video open to interpretation just as Berenice left me with her vague and unsettling story."



(left) Hugo at National Portrait Gallery with prize-winning video; (right) Taína Caragol, curator at National Portrait Gallery; Hugo Crosthwaite; Luis De Jesus; Harry Gamboa Jr., artist, writer and co-director of the program in photography and media at the California Institute of the Arts.

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Press Release, Smithsonian News Desk
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY AWARDS HUGO CROSTHWAITE ITS $25,000 TRIENNIAL PRIZE, Artforum