This exhibition brings together paintings, photographs, textiles, and sculpture by mainly self-taught African American artists from the museum’s permanent collection, spanning from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. Each work explores the artist’s experiences as a person of color in the United States: while many were inspired by simple moments of everyday life, others drew from transformative experiences including imprisonment or religious visions. These artists, many of whom were born or practiced in the South, operated outside of the mainstream art world as defined by New York galleries and museums. For many, there was no choice, as the majority of the artists in this exhibition grew up during segregation and were unable to access higher education. Instead, these artists created the space to discover their craft themselves, defining and asserting their own artistic identity and vision in the process.
Gordon Parks, American, 1912-2006, The Fontanelle Family: Beddie With Her Children Kenneth, Richard, Norman Jr., And Ellen at The Poverty Board in New York, 1968, Gelatin silver print, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase, funds provided by Mahnaz and Sia Shahriari, Ph.D., M.D., Kitty Cannon, Mrs. William F. Outlan, Peggy Metz, Margaret Metz and Bill Stegall, and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Belz in honor of Kaywin Feldman (Director 1999-2007). 2007.31.1