Spelman College Museum of Fine Art Organizes Special Exhibition of 20 Women Artists and Fashion Designers

Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s fall exhibition “AFRICA FORECAST: Fashioning Contemporary Life” draws bold inspiration from trends in African style. The result is an original multidisciplinary exhibition, on view September 15 through December 3, 2016, which explores how 20 women artists and designers from Africa and of African descent shape, imagine and redefine the influence of fashion on everyday life. The show, curated by Museum Director Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., C’93, and Seattle-based co-curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi, Ph.D., commemorates the Museum’s 20th anniversary season. A significant objective of the exhibition project is identifying financial support to acquire works by several of the featured artists.

Fabiola Jean-Louis "Amina" 2016. 22 x 22 inches. Archival pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Alan Avery Art Company.

Fabiola Jean-Louis “Amina” 2016. 22 x 22 inches. Archival pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Alan Avery Art Company.

During the two years “AFRICA FORECAST” was in development, Dr. Brownlee and Dr. Massaquoi carefully considered a blend of overlapping perspectives about fashion. “The first consideration took into account how fashion is an ever-changing global marketplace,” explained Dr. Brownlee. “Secondly, we considered the unique ways fashion informs the artistic practice and lives of contemporary artists; and, finally, the ways that Black women, who reside throughout the African Diaspora, use creative practices to fashion their behavior and construct their lives.”

Informed by these foundational perspectives, the resulting exhibition is layered and expansive. “The women in ‘AFRICA FORECAST’ promote an aesthetic of renewal as they transmit—through the lens of fashion—pop art, avant-garde and experimental strategies,” said Dr. Massaquoi. “The discourse of fashion, in the context of the exhibition, acts like a genre, a style, or category in which the artists amplify their identity to communicate their truth. Fashion and design are not created in a vacuum—we made a specific ask to the artists that they communicate, through their work, the relentless stimulation, innovation and objects of fascination that stir their practices.”

With two women of color at its helm, the exhibition embodies the significance and impact of African Americans in the curatorial field. It also reflects Spelman College’s role as a leader in the education and cultivation of African Americans in the area of curatorial studies. In January 2016, the College established one of the few curatorial studies programs in the U.S. focused on addressing the lack of diversity in the museum profession. The nine students in Spelman’s program will assist with the installation of “AFRICA FORECAST” and participate in roundtable conversations with the curators as they prepare to open the exhibition.

“The curatorial studies program offers our students a unique opportunity to learn first-hand what it takes to create a first-class exhibition,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “It’s also a prime example of the College’s mission to develop programs and spaces much like the Museum and our planned arts, innovation and entrepreneurship center that harness the power of a liberal arts education.”

Featuring photography, garments, performance, video, painting and sculpture, “AFRICA FORECAST” is a dynamic blend of influences that departs from solely commercial interpretations of fashion and industry trends. Instead, it offers interdisciplinary and poetic coverage of style and widespread approaches to dress, socialization and activism. The exhibition provides a vibrant snapshot of the current mood, lived experiences and distinct socio-cultural perspectives of the featured artists who are highly engaged, connected and global citizens.

The featured artists and designers in the exhibition examine a variety of timely and enduring topics including innovation, the body, gender roles, portraiture, beauty, style, embellishment, documentary methodology and the power of manipulating artistic mediums. Their work encourages visitors to imagine how fashion shapes their lived experiences.

“AFRICA FORECAST” showcases more than 50 works, which have been completed in the last three years—15 of which will be presented at the Museum for the first time and several created specifically for this exhibition. “Another great quality of the show is the infusion of color throughout the galleries, which work to qualify fashion’s feeling: freedom, beauty, magic,” said Dr. Massoquoi. “The goal is to entice audiences and immerse them in a lyrical enclave of style.”

Opening Reception: Celebrate the Museum’s 20th anniversary and the opening of “AFRICA FORECAST: Fashioning Contemporary Life” on Thursday, September 15, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. This special event features Artists Talk, a conversation with artists Vanessa German, Ayana V. Jackson and Fabiola Jean-Louis moderated by exhibition co-curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi, Ph.D.

Since the Museum was established in 1996, it has presented more than 45 exhibitions that honor its unique emphasis on art by women of the African Diaspora. “Like previous exhibitions, “‘AFRICA FORECAST’ presents timely and important perspectives and promises to garner popular and critical acclaim,” said Dr. Brownlee. “It continues the Museum’s legacy of introducing new artists to Atlanta audiences and invites all viewers to stretch their perceptions about the range of works that Black women artists create. Acquiring work by a selection of the exceptional artists that are featured in this exhibition is in perfect alignment with the Museum’s goals and growth.”

About Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
“Six Reasons to Love Atlanta,” CNN.com praised the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art for its “fantastically curated exhibitions” that focus on art by and about women of the African Diaspora. Since the Museum opened in 1996, it has established an impressive track record for organizing first-rate, mission-specific, art exhibitions that expand art offerings in Atlanta and the southeast region. It has garnered a reputation for organizing exhibitions that merit national and international attention. Milestones include being selected as the first institution from the United States that jointly (along with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) represented the United States at the 2012 Havana Biennial in Havana, Cuba. The Museum is poised to continue its trajectory of pursuing ambitious relevant projects that have a lasting impact. For more information visit museum.spelman.edu