Gibbes Museum’s Society 1858 Declares Leo Twiggs Winner of 2018 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art

Leo Twiggs

The Gibbes Museum of Art this week announced artist Leo Twiggs from Orangeburg, SC as the 2018 winner of the Society 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. Twiggs is the first artist from South Carolina to win the prestigious prize.

“I am on cloud nine,” said Twiggs. “It is an unbelievable feeling at this time in my career. For it to happen at the Gibbes, in a city where my ancestors were first brought ashore as slaves, and just 45 miles from where I was born and did my first drawings on the back side of discarded wallpaper, is humbling and heartwarming.”

Each year, the 1858 Prize is presented by Society 1858, a member auxiliary group of the Gibbes Museum of Art comprised of young professionals. The $10,000 cash prize is awarded to one artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media, while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South. This year, more than 247 artists from across the South submitted applications. Along with Twiggs, this year’s short list of finalists included María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Stephen Hayes, Birney Imes and Susan Worsham.

Sarah Remembered (1997) by Leo Twiggs

Born in the Lowcountry town of St. Stephen, South Carolina in 1934, Twiggs studied art at Claflin College in Orangeburg and went on to earn a Masters degree from New York University and a doctorate in art education from the University of Georgia. In 1964 he began his thirty-four year teaching career at South Carolina State University. A year later he began experimenting with batik, a wax-resist method of dyeing textiles. He was attracted to the medium for its rich tradition and improvisational nature.

Much of Twiggs’ work explores family history, cultural heritage, and how the past is manifest in contemporary life. His series titled “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” recently traveled throughout the southeast, earning acclaim as a powerful tribute to the nine church members slain during the horrific shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The Gibbes Museum currently has three of Twiggs’ works in its collection: The Omen, Sarah Remembered and Requiem for Mother Emanuel #3.

Requiem for Mother Emanuel #5 (2016) by Leo Twiggs

Twiggs will be celebrated at the Amy P. Coy Forum and Prize Party hosted by Society 1858 on September 19 at 6 p.m. at the Gibbes Museum. The event will begin with remarks from Twiggs, followed by a panel discussion about plans for collaboration and expansion of the three Southern art prizes. Panelists will include: Darla Moore and Wim Roefs from ArtFields, Suzi Surkamer from South Arts and Angela Mack from the Gibbes. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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