Exhibition Introduction

First Lady Michelle Obama

Women of the African diaspora are the bearers of some of the most interesting narratives and stories.  Unfortunately, however, a lot of these stories have been misconstrued, undervalued, or completely undiscovered. Each artist featured in Black Heroines: Under-told or Untold has acknowledged this deprivation of history and has, in turn, created works of art that will educate all who experience it. 

The works of art within this exhibition span several decades (1972-2019) and address a number of themes that are in relation to Black women and their complex identities and histories. These themes include, but are not limited to, slavery, hair, fertility, and respectability. 

Kara Walker’s large scale site-specific sculptures, A Subtlety (Fig. 7) and Fons Americanus (Fig. 6), no longer exist physically. They are, however, included in the exhibition through the use of videography. Kara Walker is most known for her work about race. These two objects of hers on display are not the exception. There are three portraits in the exhibit. One being a drawing by Lava Thomas (Fig. 1) that takes viewers back to the Civil Rights era of the United States. Faith Ringgold’s portrait (Fig. 2) pre-dates the Civil Rights movement, and addresses issues of slavery and the violence that were carried out on Black women slaves. The third portrait (Fig. 3) was created by Amy Sherald and is of First Lady Michelle Obama, the first Black First Lady of the United States. Like Ringgold, Alison Saar also discusses the impacts of slavery on Black women. Sonya Clark, an artist commonly known for her works of art where she uses hair as both the subject and the medium, contributes two objects (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5) to Black Heroines: Under-told or Untold. Among the objects displayed are works from the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s Smyth-Haith Collection (Fig. 8 and Fig. 9) which consists of African objects. 

Black Heroines is only a small selection of objects that makes up a significant form of art-making. It is said that art imitates life. If this is true, art about Black women contributes to some of the most important aspects of life. 

Exhibition Introduction