State Artists for 2021 & 2022

The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) is pleased to announce the Texas State Legislature’s 2021 and 2022 appointments to the positions of state poet laureate, state musician, state two-dimensional artist and state three-dimensional artist.

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Photo: Rambo Elliott

Leon Bridges honed his talent performing in and around his native Fort Worth at open mic nights. Signed to Columbia Records, Bridges’ first singles, including a rich ballad written about his mother, appeared in February 2015 with a sound that evoked classic R&B and soul. His debut album, Coming Home, followed four months later. It debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA. Bridges has performed at the White House for President Obama and at the Library of Congress, and has toured globally. He co-wrote and was featured on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Kevin,” Nick Waterhouse’s “Katchi,” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Present Without a Bow.” Additionally, he recorded “On My Own” with Lecrae and connected twice with Gary Clark, Jr., for Live North America 2016 and on a collaborative cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio.” Bridges’ contemporary and stylistically broader second album, Good Thing, was released in May 2018. Critics heralded Good Thing for its modern R&B sound, lush production, and joyous songwriting. Bridges, who has been nominated for four GRAMMY Awards, took home his first win for Best Traditional R&B performance for “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand.”

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Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, Cyrus Cassells has won the National Poetry Series, a Lambda Literary Award, a Lannan Literary Award, two NEA grants, a Pushcart Prize, and the William Carlos Williams Award. His 2018 volume The Gospel according to Wild Indigo was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award and the Balcones Prize. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan, was awarded the Texas Institute of Letters’ Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translated Book of 2018 and 2019. His 7th book, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak, a lyric cycle about his stay in a Benedictine desert monastery in northern New Mexico, was published by Nine Mile Books in 2020. His eighth book, The World That the Shooter Left Us, will be published by Four Way Books in March 2022. He is a tenured full professor of English at Texas State University.

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Photo: Christopher Blay

Annette Lawrence’s art transforms raw data into drawings, objects, and installations. The data accounts for and measures everyday life. Her subjects of inquiry range from body cycles to ancestor portraits, music lessons, unsolicited mail, and journal-keeping. She addresses questions of text as image, and the relationship between text and code. Her work is grounded in examining what counts, how it is counted, and who is counting. Her work has been widely exhibited and is held in museums and private collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Dallas Museum of Art; Rachofsky Collection; ArtPace, San Antonio; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; American Airlines; and the art collection of the Dallas Cowboys. She received a 2018 MacDowell Fellowship, the 2015 Moss/Chumley Award from the Meadows Museum, and the 2009 Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Award from the Dallas Museum of Art. Her work was included in the 1997 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She received a BFA from the Hartford Art School and an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Lawrence recently retired from her post as a Professor of Studio Art at the University of North Texas. She will begin a Visiting Faculty position at Vermont’s Bennington College in August 2021.

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Photo: Clint Datchuk

Jennifer Ling Datchuk is an artist born in Warren, Ohio and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is an exploration of her layered identity – as a woman, a Chinese woman, as an “American,” as a third culture kid. Trained in ceramics, Datchuk works with porcelain and other materials often associated with traditional women’s work, such as textiles and hair, to discuss fragility, beauty, femininity, intersectionality, identity, and personal history. Datchuk holds an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a BFA in Crafts from Kent State University. She is an Assistant Professor of art at Texas State University and lives and maintains a studio practice in San Antonio. She was awarded a residency through the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum to conduct her studio practice at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Germany and has participated in residencies at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, Vermont Studio Center, European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands and Artpace in San Antonio. In 2017, she received the Emerging Voices award from the American Craft Council and in 2020 was named a United States Artist Fellow in Craft.

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Eva Ybarra, the “Queen of the Accordion,” is one of only a few professional women accordionists in conjunto music. As the leader of Eva Ybarra y Su Conjunto, Ybarra has specialized in writing and composing original conjunto music while also exploring non-standard chord progressions, advancing the art form’s evolution. Born on San Antonio’s westside, Ybarra took up the accordion at age four. She taught herself by listening to the radio, old LPs, and her older brother. When she was 14, Ybarra received a record deal with Rosina Records in San Marcos, launching a prolific recording career. In the 1990s, awareness of her stature in conjunto music grew with several notable recordings which showcased her original songs and virtuosity. Ybarra is also a music educator. In 1997, she was the artist-in-residence at the University of Washington, where she taught accordion, bajo sexto, and guitarron. She has been an accordion instructor at Palo Alto College’s (San Antonio) conjunto program. Currently, she teaches at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s music education program in San Antonio. In 2016 and 2021, she participated as a master teaching artist in Texas Folklife’s Apprenticeship Program. Ybarra is in numerous Texas music halls of fame, and in 2015 she received the South Texas Conjunto Association Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017 she was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Originally from Galveston, Lupe Mendez (Writer//Educator//Activist) is the author of Why I Am Like Tequila (Willow Books, 2019), which was the winner of the 2019 John A. Robertson Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Mendez earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. He has been awarded fellowships from CantoMundo, the Macondo Foundation, and the Crescendo Literary/Poetry Foundation’s Emerging Poet Incubator. Mendez’s work can be seen in print and online formats including Aster(ix) Journal, the Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast Journal, the Texas Review, Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week, Poetry Magazine and Poem-A-Day from the Academy of American Poets. When he is not working as an educator, he serves as the founder of Tintero Projects, which works with Latinx writers and other writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with Houston as its hub.

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Photo: Celia Álvarez Muñoz

Celia Álvarez Muñoz is a conceptual multi-media Texas artist known for her diverse works including artist’s books, photography, installation, and public art. She is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Awards in Photography and New Genres, the CAA Committee on Women in the Arts Recognition Award, the Honors Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts by Women’s Caucus for Art, the Outstanding Centennial Alumnus by the University of North Texas College of Arts and Sciences, and many others. Her work has been nationally and internationally exhibited, including in the Whitney Museum of American Art 1991 Biennial. Her art is in numerous private and public collections. Álvarez Muñoz’s work has recently been featured in the cataloged exhibition, “Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985,” which toured internationally 2015-2018. Recent books covering her art include Art and Politics Now: Cultural Activism, by Susan Noyes Platt, 2011; Shooting from the Wild Side: A Study of Chicana Art Photographers, by Asta M. Kuusinen, 2006; Art of the Found Object: Texas Artists, by Robert James Craig, Texas A&M University Press 2017; Icons and Symbols of the Borderlands, by Diana Molina of Juntos Art 2020; and Celia Álvarez Muñoz, by writer/poet Roberto Tejada. Obras, published by Cattywampus Press, marked Álvarez Muñoz’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts Award from Art League Houston.

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Photo courtesy of Deborah Colton Gallery

Jesse Lott is an African-American sculptor of great distinction, and a long-time resident of Houston’s 5th Ward. Jesse Lott works in paper, metal, and wood as well as with armatures and wire, building a capacity for emotional power and creating an awareness for the Black Arts Movement. His technique is derived from collecting and recycling discarded materials, as a type of urban archeology fused with scientific methodology. A solo exhibit, “Jesse Lott: Urban Frontier Artist” visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Washington, DC, and the Art Car Museum in Houston. His work has also been shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Alternative Museum (now closed) in Lower Manhattan. He has influenced many artists, including James Surls, Bert Long Jr., Rick Lowe, Robert Pruitt, Angelbert Metoyer and Robert Hodge. The all-ages workshops that he has held over the years in his studio as a community service have inspired many students who would otherwise have no exposure to art. Lott’s community-oriented philosophy and his Artists in Action program helped spark the creation of the now-famous Project Row Houses. In 2016, Art League Houston named Lott the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts Award.