School of Art

What began as a way of understanding her nightmares has turned into an art project that Emily Kray hopes will act as “a portal” to help others cope with mental illness, trauma and stressors.

Kray, a School of Art graduate student, is the recipient of the 2022 Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize. She will use the $10,000 award to expand her project, “N is for Nightmare,” into an edition of 66 three-volume large accordion books and three art installations to serve as mental health spaces within the University of Arizona and community.

Kray wins Centennial Award
“N is for Nightmare” (Photos courtesy of Emily Kray)

Kray wins Centennial Award for nightmare project

As Kray tried to analyze her nightmares, she said she started to write and create illustrations that depicted her dream-self conquering “the monsters.” But when that didn’t help her heal, Kray began to depict the monsters not “as villains, but instead as comrades, friends and lovers,” and she began to organize and curate the illustrations into alphabetical order.

Kray wins Centennial Award, Emily Kray
Emily Kray

“With this process, not only did I allow myself to cope with my mental illness, trauma and stressors in a compassionate way, but I also see it as a portal for others to see and understand this process themselves,” said Kray, 26. “My experience is not unique, and knowing this, I hope that this project allows others to reflect upon their own inner monsters.”

For more than 30 years, the Centennial Sculpture Prize has been given to an MFA candidate, specifically to support the completion of sculptural/3D artwork. The recipient is determined by a committee of staff and faculty through a proposal process. Recent honorees included Mariel MirandaBenjamin Dearstyne HosteMarina Shaltout and Karlito Miller Espinosa.

“I’m honored and so excited about this project being financially supported,” Kray said. “This project, when compared to my other recent works, is highly personal and talks about feelings and modes of expression that took me a while to become comfortable enough with to share.

“It feels incredibly validating to have this body of work recognized because it means that my personal story can be made available to share with a larger audience for years to come.”

Visit 2022 Centennial Prize winner Emily Kray in her studio at the Visual Arts Graduate Research Lab.

Originally published on University of Arizona School of Art website on Aug. 1, 2022.
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