Tom Jones and Pao Houa Her win NPG’s Outwin Prizes

Tom Jones, Elizah Leonard
inkjet print with beads, rhinestones, and shells, 2019

Tom Jones and Pao Houa Her have claimed second and third prizes in the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, a triennial contest hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Jones was honored for Elizah Leonard (2019), a portrait of a champion dancer wearing a Fancy Dance shawl and beaded necklace and earrings. Jones then affixed beads, rhinestones, and shells to the image’s surface in patterns from his Ho-Chunk heritage, “a metaphor for the spirits of my ancestors who are constantly looking over us.” Part of Jones’s Strong Unrelenting Spirits series, the image is featured on the cover of the Outwin exhibition catalogue.

Her’s untitled (man) (2019) features a Hmong elder, photographed at a senior center in St. Paul, who fought on behalf of the US in Vietnam’s Secret War. Against a studio backdrop supplemented with fake flowers, the setting evokes the aesthetic of both Hmong portrait studios and memories of Laos shared by the artist’s grandmother. “Both sitter and viewer enter into an ‘imagined landscape,’ one that bridges the historical realities of the Hmong elder’s past and present.”

Pao Houa Her, untitled (man)
inkjet print, 2019

Top honors went to Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s Anthony Cuts Under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning (2020), a “marquetry hybrid” that depicts an outdoor COVID-era haircut by stylist Anthony Payne created using paints, inkjet prints, and wood veneers.

The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today, showcasing works by all 42 competition finalists, is on view through February 26, 2023.