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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Anwar Floyd-Pruitt explores self identity through ‘SUPERNOVA’

UW graduate student showcases exhibit at Chazen, ‘SUPERNOVA: Charlotte and Gene’s Radical Imagination Station’

If you’ve passed by the Chazen Museum of Art recently, you may have noticed a large screen on the second floor with videos of people smiling and dancing. This is only a glimpse of the magical, colorful world of “SUPERNOVA,” created by artist and University of Wisconsin master’s student Anwar Floyd-Pruitt.

Floyd-Pruitt began his professional life in the general workforce but discovered that it wasn’t exactly for him. As a child, he was involved in many art practices, including violin, ballet and acting. It wasn’t until his 20s that he realized his potential within the art world.

“Creating art gave me this opportunity to take a look inside rather than always working toward some sort of external goal,” Floyd-Pruitt said.


With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard, he re-entered school more than a decade later to earn a bachelor’s in sculpture and digital studio practices at UW-Milwaukee. He recently finished his master’s at UW-Madison. “SUPERNOVA” being the culmination of his studies.

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Floyd-Pruitt dedicates his success to the hours of practice he put in through his master’s degree, creating many works that may not see the light of a gallery.

A lot of that work sparked my interest in the flexibility of identity,’ Floyd-Pruitt said. “Particularly how we see ourselves and how the view of oneself is impacted by how others view us.”

He is also grateful for the community of professors, professionals and classmates that helped him expand his artistic ability and discover this major theme of his practice.

His latest exhibit, “SUPERNOVA: Charlotte and Gene’s Radical Imagination Station” is the winner of the 2020 Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize, and this earned it a spot in the Chazen’s exhibiting season.

The process began when the art department brought on curator and writer Glenn Adamson from the Yale Center of British Art, who would be the juror of the honor. Master’s students wrote a 200- to 300-word proposal for the exhibit along with images of each artist’s previous work. Finalists were interviewed and they gave tours of their studios and artworks. Floyd-Pruitt was then chosen as the winner of the MFA Prize and artist of the Chazen exhibit. While it was scheduled to appear in May 2020, the opening was moved to late October due to the pandemic.

The full name of the exhibit is vibrant and full of inspiration. The word supernova is a metaphor relating to the artist’s name, Anwar, which means “light” or “most luminous” in Arabic. The supernova is the most luminous event in our universe, and Anwar sees the people and events leading to his birth as the catalyst and even part of the supernova.

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Charlotte and Gene are Floyd-Pruitt’s parents and some of the ultimate creators of this supernova. The “Imagination Station” is a play on words relating to “Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station,” a show that taught kids how to draw and which played a part in Floyd-Pruitt’s youth. And for the “radical” element, he remarks there is quite some effort involved in piecing everything together.

“I’m taking what is my parents’ history, my grandparents’ history, my history and trying to create something new from that,” Floyd-Pruitt said. “I think that requires not just imagination, but some radical imagination.”

Going off his major theme, “SUPERNOVA” explores his identity through three different parts, all connected to form a look into Floyd-Pruitt’s creation. But unlike his projects of the past, “SUPERNOVA” looks from a different angle.

“One of the biggest differences is in all those previous bodies of work, I am always the subject and I’m using my own image as the source material,” Floyd-Pruitt said. “In ‘SUPERNOVA,” it’s more about my family and my family history.”

The first space follows Supernova and his siblings, Mickey and Bird, who use elements from their past, specifically a framed mirror from their youth, to travel back in time to their own parents’ youth. The calming, meditative tune in the background is a piano version of their favorite song, ”Purple Rain” by Prince, played backward.

Supernova’s birth is illustrated through a large piece made of photographs from his life acting as his cells before birth. As with this artwork, some pieces in the exhibit were recycled from previous projects Floyd-Pruitt created.

Those previous bodies of work are like building blocks that I use to create ‘SUPERNOVA’ in terms of exploring different media and techniques or combining faces to make new faces,” Floyd-Pruitt said.

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The hallway between the rooms leads you to “Fishing with Uncle Gene,” an autobiographical short story created by Supernova’s younger cousins. There are two versions facing each other and separated by a decade’s time.

The second and final space represents an 8-year-old “Supernova’s breakdance birthday party.” It features collaged versions of his family celebrating the event through different art mediums.

On one wall, Supernova’s siblings are dressed as their favorite cultural references, and on the other, there is footage of different family members dancing. The art is expressed in beautiful and colorful groups of varied media. It’s somewhat of a child’s dreamscape, an almost innocent and heartfelt look at the past and present.

And then you see the Black Lives Matter wall and discover the overall complexity. Floyd-Pruitt’s addition is a compilation of puppets from Making Justice, “a community-based learning program for at-risk and court-involved teens,” surrounded by a BLM logo. It provides commentary on what it’s like growing up in a world charged with injustice, especially for a kid. Even in this reflection of wholesome memories and colorful artworks, politics instill a sense of gravity and realism to a child’s imagination.

Floyd-Pruitt included this wall to commemorate what his parents and grandparents taught him about these injustices, and what it means to stand up and help others through them.

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When reflecting on his exhibit as a whole, Floyd-Pruitt claimed that it hadn’t scratched the surface of defining the supernova as an extension of himself.

“This feels very much like the beginning of something,” Floyd-Pruitt said. “And with the show closing [soon], I think the next iteration of the supernova story is really starting to emerge in my mind and in some of my work.”

Hopefully, we’ll see extensions of the “SUPERNOVA” journey in the time to come.

“SUPERNOVA: Charlotte and Gene’s Radical Imagination Station” will be open until March 12 on the second floor of the Chazen. Check out Floyd-Pruitt’s exhibit within Chazen hours, Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 P.M. to 5 P.M. and Thursday and Friday from 12 P.M. to 7 P.M., and celebrate the birth and continual growth of Supernova.

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