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AT UMD'S DRISKELL CENTER, PORTRAITS OF WHO WE ARE CELEBRATES THE LONG HISTORY OF BLACK PORTRAITISTS

"Self-Portrait with Pipe" by William H. Johnson (1937)

Shantay Robinson | Washington City Paper

"The Driskell Center at the University of Maryland opened Portraits of Who We Are—an exhibition of self-portraits by African American artists—the same month that President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery. The Obama’s non-traditional Presidential portraits make a statement about their time in the White House as the first African-American family to hold such privilege, which is what good portraits should do.

As artists, the portraitists of Portraits of Who We Are are constantly aware of the viewer, and through portraiture, we see them in a way they want us to see them. The portraits convey a kind of vulnerability the artists typically expect from their subjects. While portraits by Mickalene Thomas and Barkley Hendricks are photographs and Meta Vaux Walker Fuller’s portrait is a sculpture, most of the self-portraits in the exhibition are drawings and paintings where the artists’ hand is evident, and they tell us things with each stroke of their instrument."

Photo: "Self-Portrait with Pipe" by William H. Johnson (1937)

Date of Publication: 
3/14/18