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Shanna L. Smith

poet, dramatist, and artist, was born Estella Marie Conwill in Louisville, Kentucky, the only daughter of the six children of Mary Luella (Herndon) and Adolph Conwill, of whom little else is known. Growing up during the 1950s civil rights era had a profound impact on the burgeoning writer. Struggling to articulate radical changes in her segregated Louisville community and to explain those changes as one of a handful of blacks in a local Catholic school honed her particular and peculiar voice. Language, ideas, and the spoken word titillated her passion for storytelling. In 1980 that singleness of vision led her to be among the first scholars to earn a doctorate in African American literature from the University of Iowa and to pen several books, including Come Out the Wilderness: Memoir of a Black Woman Artist (1999).

An early portion of her memoir related her ...

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Jennifer Lynn Headley

cultural critic, historian, performance and installation artist, photographer, writer, and activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Lena, emigrated from Jamaica to Boston in the 1920s. She earned a BA from Wellesley College in Spanish and Economics and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Iowa, studying-in its renowned Writers' Workshop. From Iowa, she moved to New York City and began writing for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone as a rock critic. She changed her career course with her first performance pieces in the 1980s and her critical writings about art and its effect on students and peers.

O'Grady's first performed as Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire, loosely translated into Ms. Black Middle Class; her alter ego was a rowdy uninvited guest to numerous high-profile art exhibitions. Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire Goes to JAM (1980), Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to ...

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Leora Maltz Leca

curator and artist, was born in the Bronx, New York. His mother and father, both native New Yorkers, were of Caribbean and African American descent respectively. While Wilson identified with the analytical and critical capacities of his civil engineer father, he credited his mother, an art teacher, with nurturing his creativity from a young age. Growing up in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and suburban Westchester County, Wilson attended New York's High School of Music and Art, and frequented the New York City museums throughout his youth. He received a bachelor of fine arts from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase in 1976 though even as an art student he seemed to have been more interested in spatial relationships and performance than in a traditional medium such as painting In his senior year of college he traveled to West Africa spending time in Ghana Nigeria Togo and ...