BY Noah Washington/Originally published The Atlanta Voice/Image

Pride and joy. Those are the two words best used to describe the Black American Portraits series, currently in exhibit at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.

Each wall and corner was illuminated by the beautiful art, which many came to see. The exhibition, which spans more than two centuries from around 1800 to the present, included 120 pieces to trace the various ways Black Americans have utilized portraiture to see themselves. 

Liz Andrew, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art executive director and co-curator of the exhibit, along with her partner Dr. Karen Comer-Lowe, curator in residence at the Spelman College Museum.

The show initially took place in Los Angeles, debuting in 2021 with Andrews at the stead, conceived as a companion piece to Kehindle Wiley’s, Obama Potraits. The Black American Potrait series was meant to provide a history,

“There is a whole history of Black-Americans using photography, sculpture, painting to create images that are not the stereotypical negative images that the vast majority of this country have been made to see”. 

A true statement, the room was lite up with wonder as each viewer walked in child-like amazement from piece to piece. 

Displaying extraordinary images of Blackness, at its most refined, but also, at its most vulnerable. Images that reflect more than just Black Americans, but Blackness as a whole. From the Yoruba inspired murals to Bisa Butler’s Chadwick Boseman inspired, Forever.

Bringing the exhibit to Spelman was a challenge, Andrews and Lowe, had to figure what would travel and what wouldn’t was a daunting task all in its own, with a reward well worth it. A quartet of new acquisitions now align the exhibit walls, with the lion-share being from the previous exhibit in Los Angeles.

“I hope people seeing this exhibit, people take a love, and appreciation for themselves, through what they see. I also hope they appreciate art made by people from the diaspora, and finally, to know that there is something made specifically with them in mind, so that they know they are seen,” said Dr. Lowe.

The Spelman Museum presentation of Black American Portraits will include a slate of public programs including Black American Portraits: A Symposium on March 2-3, 2023. Speakers at the symposium include Amy Sherald, Calida Rawles, Bisa Butler and Deborah Willis. The exhibit will run through June 30, 2023.

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