National Museum of Women in the Arts
Senga Nengudi
September 18 1943 - present
Photograph of Senga Nengudi by Sanza Pyatt Fittz, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
SIN-gah n-GOO-dee
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Performance Art , Photography, Sculpture, Installation Art
Artistic Role(s):
Assemblage Artist, Installation Artist, Mixed Media Artist , Performance Artist, Photographer, Sculptor
Conceptual Art, Feminist Art
Artist's Biography:
One of the most provocative black avant-garde artists of the 1970s and early 1980s, Senga Nengudi became known for her use of natural and unconventional materials in her sculptures, installations, and performance pieces.

Born in 1943 as Sue Ellen Irons in Chicago, IL, Nengudi moved with her mother to Southern California at the age of seven after the death of her father. After graduating from California State University at Los Angeles in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in art and dance, she spent a year at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan exploring her interests in Eastern cultures and aesthetics and studying Japanese avant-garde art movements. She returned to the United States and to California State University to pursue a master’s degree in sculpture. While studying in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Nengudi worked as a teaching assistant at the Pasadena Art Museum where she was exposed to a wide array of experimental art forms including Happenings, dance, poetry, and performances. She also was a teacher at the Watts Towers Art Center, which focused on community-based art and the exploration of non-traditional media. After earning a graduate degree in 1971, Nengudi moved to East Harlem, New York, where she joined a vibrant community of African-American artists.

Nengudi’s experiences as a woman and her participation in the stimulating artistic environments of Los Angeles and New York fostered her feminist aesthetic. In the 1970s, she began experimenting with materials taken from everyday life including inner tubes, bicycle tires, rope, and nylon. Nengudi’s biomorphic sculptures made from nylon stockings filled with sand or rubber that suggested parts of the body were the first works to bring her critical attention.

Nengudi left New York in the 1980s to return to the West Coast to raise her family. She eventually settled in Colorado Springs, CO where she currently works as an instructor at the University of Colorado. Nengudi has expanded her oeuvre to include photography, which she exhibits under the pseudonym Propecia Leigh. She has received numerous awards and honors including an Anonymous Was A Woman Award in 2005 and an artist-in-residence position at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, PA in 2006.

Other Occupation(s):
Choreographer, Dancer, Poet, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Colorado Springs
Place(s) of Activity:
New York
Los Angeles
Where Trained/Schools:
California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1969-1971) Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan (1966-1967) California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1962-1966)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of, influenced by, and collaborated with Charles Abramson friend of, influenced by, and collaborated with David Hammons friend of, influenced by, and collaborated with Maren Hassinger friend of, influenced by, and collaborated with Franklin Parker friend of and influenced by Ulysses Jenkins friend of and influenced by Houston Conwill
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Artist-in-Residence, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA (2006) Anonymous Was A Woman Award, Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation, New York, NY, USA (2005) Biennial Award, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, New York, NY, USA (2005)
Earliest exhibition:
Eight Afro-Americans, Musée Rath, Geneva, Switzerland (1971)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Artist retrospective(s):