October 26, 2022
3 minute read

Gina M. Contreras Named Winner of John S. Knudsen Prize

Gina M. Contreras (American), Protection for Past Memories and Future Fantasies, 2022. Acrylic, gouache, and graphite on stretched canvas, 48 x 60 in. Crocker Art Museum, John S. Knudsen Fund, 2000.44.1.

The Crocker is pleased to announce the 2022 John S. Knudsen Prize winner, artist Gina M. Contreras. Contreras' work examines the complexity of traditional and cultural standards through the lens of her conventional Chicana upbringing and highlights an admiration for modern lowbrow culture, self-awareness, and body acceptance.

"Seeing a nude in a painting can have so many meanings,” explains Contreras. “It can be brave and strong, convey vulnerability, or loss and grief. I want people to make that connection with my work."

As part of the award, the Crocker will acquire Contreras' work Protection for Past Memories and Future Fantasies, a self-portrait that uses artifacts from Contreras’ life. “Gina’s paintings are so deeply personal that viewers are able to feel like they know the artist without having met her. We are fortunate to now have a wonderful example in the Crocker’s collection. I look forward to sharing it with our visitors,” notes Scott A. Shields, the Crocker’s Ted and Melza Barr Chief Curator & Associate Director. The piece will be on view in the Crocker galleries in the coming month.

In addition to the purchase of the painting, Contreras receives a $25,000 cash award that can be used to work in the studio, travel, purchase materials for a specific body of work, and/or pursue other creative endeavors. "The award has given me room for personal growth and the time to develop in my craft,” says Contreras. “My work is getting bigger, and I have an amazing balance. I feel like I'm on the path I should be on."

Two upcoming public programs celebrate Contreras’ work and provide opportunities for public engagement.

Artist Workshop with Gina M. Contreras
Saturday, January 29
Meet nationally renowned artist and Knudsen Prize Winner Gina M. Contreras for an afternoon of exploratory acrylic painting techniques and informal conversation in a small group setting. All supplies are provided, and previous experience is not necessary.

Upstart: Gina M. Contreras
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Crocker Art Museum’s Setzer Foundation Auditorium
In conversation with Museum staff and program attendees. Contreras will discuss her creative practice and where she sees her career heading next.

Contreras, who currently lives and works in San Francisco, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the San Francisco Arts Institute. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. 

The John S. Knudsen Prize was established in late 2012 by a gift from the estate of art collector John Knudsen to support an emerging or mid-career California artist while also funding programs, exhibitions, acquisitions, and other endeavors related to the artist’s work at the Museum. Awarded by a committee of review, the prize is open to all artists in California who have not yet had a solo exhibition at a major art museum. Previous recipients include the late Cyrus Tilton (2017), Mark Dean Veca (2018), Jamie Okuma (2019), and Alex Anderson (2021).

Gina M. Contreras