WBGO Gallery Exhibition


Works by Nell I/ Painter

On display through June 30, 2016

Join us for a free gallery reception on Thursday, April 21, 2016, 6PM - 8PM at the WBGO Art Gallery. View the exhibit and enjoy live entertainment.

abstract swirl of sand"Motherwell in Dedham"

About the Artist

Nell Painter (the painter formerly known as the historian Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People, Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol, and Creating Black Americans and the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, Princeton University) lives and works in Newark, New Jersey.

Artist's Statement

My work carries discursive as well as visual meaning, and I make it in my characteristic manual + digital process. My art conveys visual sense but visual sense not only. Using found images and digital manipulation, I reconfigure the past and revision myself through self-portraits. My work, therefore, carries meaning that isn't stable, for the viewer makes meaning as well as the artist. After a life of historical truth and political engagement with American society, my artwork represents freedom.

Artist's Comment on each series

Many Clement Prices All At Once, 2016

I made this collage especially to commemorate the memory of my dear friend, the deeply missed, highly esteemed historian and leading Newark citizen, Clement A. Price. Clement means so much to so many, but for my husband and I remain personally grateful to him for having guided our move from Princeton to Newark in 2002 and introduced us to Newark people and institutions that enrich our lives in our adopted city. This collage, inspired by Andy Warhol's celebrity portraits, combines Clement Price's intellect, celebrity, and the manifold ways he made all our lives more meaningful.

Motherwell in Provincetown, Motherwell in Dedham, Motherwell in the Adirondacks, 2016

This series of paintings and digital collages were initially inspired by paintings by Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), a leading abstract expressionist who spent forty summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the end of Cape Cod. I made several drawings in pastel, graphite, and ink on paper, which became my Motherwell in Provincetown series. Two of the Motherwell in Provincetown drawings inspired two further series of digital collages: Motherwell in Dedham Motherwell in the Adirondacks, made in the places noted in their titles.

Venus + Serena lino prints, 2015

This series originated in lino prints I made alongside my Princeton students in an art course I taught in the fall of 2015. Deeply moved by the 2015 Forest Hill tennis match between Serena and Venus Williams that ended with Serena's victory and the two sisters' heart-felt embrace, I revisioned the sisters' hug. While one print survives here without further elaboration, I hand colored several others, five shown here.

Black Sea Composite Maps, 2012

My Black Sea Composite Maps belong to a larger project called Odalisque Atlas that maps the territory female beauty, slavery and subjection over the course of millennia. The term odalisque refers to a beautiful white harem slave, but the deadly combination of female beauty, slavery and subjection knows no boundary-in place, in time.

Tracing river tributaries pouring out of Moldova, Haiti, the Caucasus, Thailand, Ukraine, West Africa, the United States South, Turkey, Bulgaria, and islands of the Black and Caribbean Seas, my maps pull together places that history separates but that beauty, sex, and slavery unite, in history and memory and human trafficking.

American history has obscured the eastern European slave trade that made Slav the root of the word slave. Yet the slave trade through the Black Sea began millennia earlier and lasted longer than the Atlantic trade to the Western Hemisphere.


WBGO is a wheelchair accessible facility.


Special thanks to:
Palm Bay International (Fine Wine & Spirits)
Harlem Brewing Company
Jersey Artisan Distilling (Busted Barrel Rum)