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American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Friday, October 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM - Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 4:30 PM (EDT)

American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora

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Type End Quantity
Symposium General Admission Ended Free  

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Event Details

Due to the federal government shutdown, the symposium, American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora, has been moved offsite to the auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), located four blocks from the museum at 1250 New York Avenue N.W. The NMWA auditorium seats 200, which will limit the number of registered participants who can attend. Preference will be given to speakers and their registered guests, pre-registered Smithsonian Fellows and curators, and those registrants who have traveled from outside the Washington, D.C. metro region. After that, seating will be available to pre-registered individuals only on a first-come, first-served basis. No stand-by seating will be available for waitlisted individuals or non-registered guests. Doors will open a half hour before each day’s opening session. Please note: the schedule for the event has been condensed (see below). The event will not be webcast live, but will be recorded for later webcasting.

If you have pre-registered and plan to attend, please note that, regardless of government status, downtown stops on Metro's Red Line will be closed on Saturday due to track work, so you must take the Orange, Blue, Yellow, or Green lines or find alternate transportation to our venue that day (see

Thank you for your understanding and patience.


This two-day symposium examines the role of Africa and its diaspora in the development of art of the United States, from nineteenth-century portraiture to American modernism; from the Harlem Renaissance to the contemporary art world. Speakers include Chika Okeke-Agulu of Princeton University; Krista Thompson of Northwestern University; Jeffrey C. Stewart of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Celeste-Marie Bernier of the University of Nottingham; James Smalls of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and artist and distinguished scholar David C. Driskell.

For speakers' bios and abstracts, please visit


Friday, October 4


9:30 a.m., Welcome

Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Johnnetta Cole, Director, National Museum of African Art


10:00 a.m.–noon, Opening Session

Respondent: Renée Ater, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Maryland, College Park


Tobias Wofford, Assistant Professor of Art History, Santa Clara University

“Feedback: Between American Art and African Art History”


Ikem Stanley Okoye, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Delaware

“The Americanist Quandary: Of the History of African Art in the Work of the American Artist”


Krista Thompson, Associate Professor of Art History, Northwestern University

“Reframing American Art: An African Diasporic Perspective”


1:15–2:45 p.m., Nineteenth-Century Portraiture

Chair: Renée Ater, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Maryland, College Park


Anne Lafont, Associate Professor of Art History, Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée

“Paris-Philadelphia: African Figures around 1800, or Portrait of Yarrow as a Mameluke


Shawn Michelle Smith, Associate Professor of Visual and Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“Augustus Washington’s Liberian Daguerreotypes and the Civil Contract of Photography”


Camara Dia Holloway, Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Delaware

“‘Aglow in the Darkest Vistas’: Africa, Racial Fantasy, and the Modernist Self-Fashioning of F. Holland Day”


3:154:45 p.m., Primitivism and Modernism

Chair: TBD


James Smalls, Professor of Art History and Theory, University of Maryland, Baltimore County “Féral Benga: African Muse of Modernism”


Mia Bagneris, Assistant Professor of Art History, Newcomb Art Department, Tulane University

“Fighting the Fetish for Fétiches: Africa in the Work of Palmer Hayden”


Nicholas Miller, PhD Candidate in Art History, Northwestern University      

“‘To Paint His Own People’: William H. Johnson’s Avant-Garde Gambits and the Orientalized Black Female Body”


Saturday, October 5


10:00 a.m., Welcome

Ruth Fine, Curator, National Gallery of Art, Washington (1972–2012), and Board Member, Terra Foundation for American Art


10:10 a.m., Opening Remarks

David C. Driskell, Professor Emeritus of Art, University of Maryland, College Park


10:3011:30 a.m., Developing a Trans-African Aesthetic

Chair: Kelly Quinn, Terra Foundation Project Manager for Scholarly and Educational Initiatives, Archives of American Art


Jeffrey C. Stewart, Professor of Black Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

“From Transnational to Trans-African: The Circulation of Culture in the Work of Winold Reiss and Romare Bearden”


Rebecca Keegan VanDiver, Senior Lecturer, Vanderbilt University

“Routes to Roots: Loïs Mailou Jones’s Engagement with Africa and the African Diaspora, 1938–70”


1:002:30 p.m., Artists Travel to Africa

Chair: TBD


Anne-Grit Becker, PhD Candidate in Art History, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

“Toward a Language of Material: Cy Twombly’s North African Sketchbooks”


Chika Okeke-Agulu, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Art, Princeton University

“Living in Color: Jacob Lawrence and the Osogbo Experience in the Early 1960s"


Peju Layiwola, Associate Professor of Art and Art History, University of Lagos, Nigeria

“Transcultural Conversations: American and Nigerian Art in Dialogue”


3:004:30 p.m., Reframing the Traditional/Historical in Contemporary Art

Chair: TBD


Celeste-Marie Bernier, Professor of African American Studies, University of Nottingham

“Imaging the ‘Face of the Fugitive Slave’ Artist in Black Diasporic Self-Portraiture”


Venny Nakazibwe, Dean of The Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

“African Textiles in Dialogue with Contemporary Fiber Art”


Daniel Haxall, Associate Professor of Art History, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

“In the Spirit of Négritude, or, Kehinde Wiley Goes to Africa”


This symposium is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in partnership with the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Part of the Terra Symposia on American Art in a Global Context, it is supported by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Have questions about American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora? Contact Smithsonian American Art Museum

When & Where

Smithsonian American Art Museum; hosted by National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

Friday, October 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM - Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 4:30 PM (EDT)

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Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, iTunes U and ArtBabble. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website:

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