Betty Tompkins and Kate Gilmore are among the ten artists who will receive unrestricted $25,000 grants from the Anonymous Was a Woman awards, dedicated to women artists over the age of 40. This year’s recipients range in age from 42 to 80, with artists specializing in such varying mediums of painting, installation, performance, photography, and film.
“I am delighted to, for the first time, personally and publicly congratulate this year’s award recipients,” said award founder Susan Unterberg in a statement. “I founded Anonymous Was a Woman to fill a void that I witnessed myself: support for women artists in the middle stages of their careers. I am thrilled to continue this mission by recognizing this year’s group of remarkable women at a moment that there is heightened discussion about the vitality of women’s voices.”
The 77-year-old artist began the award in 1996, after the National Endowment of the Arts eliminated its grants for individual artists. In keeping with the Anonymous name, Unterberg kept her identity a secret for over two decades, only stepping forward earlier this year.
Unterberg named Anonymous after a line from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own that makes the case that anonymous works are by women who knew revealing their gender would set them at a disadvantage.
Anonymous solicits nominations from some 130 women working in the visual arts firmly ensconced in the middle of their careers. This year, they received nominations for 73 different women—Unterberg, who no longer votes on the awardees, spends a few weeks reviewing the materials. Then, an anonymous five-woman selection committee will spend a day deliberating to pick the 10 winners.
In its 23 years, Anonymous Was a Woman has given 230 women artists a total of more than $5.8 million in unrestricted grants.
“I have wanted an AWAW since it started in 1996 when I was 51,” one of this year’s winners, artist Betty Tompkins, told artnet News. “I just loved the idea of the grant and its specificity to women over 40. It is a thrill to get it now. I am forever in debt to the person who nominated me and I really wanted to get this grant as a measure of respect to that person’s generosity to me and my work. Susan Unterberg called me up herself to tell me that I was going to be a grant recipient. This is the first time she was able to do it and, as you can imagine, it was a fun conversation.”
The full list of 2018 award recipients is below, followed by examples of their work.