Maryam Turkey receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design for her practice that seeks to bridge cultural and societal divides while simultaneously challenging established norms; through organic sculptural forms and surfaces she deconstructs gender norms, revealing a powerful humanity.
“My journey as an immigrant informs my work in many ways,” she says. “Most of all, it gives me the drive to achieve anything I put in my mind.” Born in Iraq, her immigration to the United States as an adolescent has had a profound influence on her practice and work.
Central to Turkey’s work is the use of mixed media to create surfaces and sculptural elements that reference man-made structures and organic elements. She combines organic and industrial materials from paper pulp, sand, and pigment, to metal, rebar, circuitry, and lumber.
Turkey’s design ethos is deeply rooted in questioning and commenting on the patriarchal system, particularly through reclaiming symbolism and the deconstruction of architecture. She sees architecture as a symbol of patriarchal authority, characterized by the cyclical process of building civilizations and destroying them through wars to assert dominance. Turkey’s work dismantles traditional architectural forms, and repurposes and reimagines architectural elements like concrete blocks and pipes as idiosyncratic furniture and unconventional planters.
One of her most notable projects, “Between Rise and Fall,” is a sculptural furniture collection that constructs an imagined cityscape inspired by her hometown of Baghdad and her current home, New York City. Using paper pulp, she creates forms that evoke the imagery of vacant buildings, reflecting both the abandoned homes in war-torn Baghdad and the empty skyscrapers of a pandemic-stricken Manhattan. This project symbolizes the perpetual human cycle of building, destroying, and rebuilding, illustrating the cyclical nature of civilizations.
Turkey holds a Bachelor of Industrial Design degree from New York’s Pratt Institute, where she is currently a visiting professor. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and at prominent art fairs throughout the United States, as well as with institutions where she has held artist residencies.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Socrates Annual Fellowship Award (2023)
- For Freedoms Fellowship Award (2023)
- NYC Culture Club Artist in Residence (2022)
- LMCC Artist in Residence (2022)
- Silver Arts Artist in Residence at WTC (2020)
- MAD Museum Artist in Residence (2019)
- Public Vote Winner of RADO Award Prize (2018)
- Winner of Domaine de Boisbuchet Art Design Competition (2017)