Walls of Wonder

Dr. Sarah Griffin Shines a Light on Black Southern Women Working in Abstraction

Abstract art by female artists is a staple at Well + Wonder. We adore our artists who are inspired to create in this genre and take such joy seeing these pieces find homes amongst our community of Well + Wonder collectors.

This past summer we turned our eyes and ears to stories of black artists forging their way in the mainstream art world. Stories that we have always valued and were thankful for the reminder of their significance amongst all artists and the world around us. We reached out to Sarah Mantilla Griffin, PhD, founder of Art House Market and most recently co-founder of UNREPD, for a deeper understanding of the vital role Southern black female artists are playing in museums, galleries and collections across the country.

(Sarah with Tricia Beanum, her co-founder at UNREPD)

We’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with Sarah in the past. She was featured as a Guest Curator back in February of 2019 and has acquired Well + Wonder art over the years. Being a brilliant art historian and advocate for underrepresented artists, Sarah wrote an incredibly insightful article to help us gain a better understanding of the topic at hand. The title is Resisting “Thingness”: Black Southern Women’s Abstract Art. 

This article is just as relevant as it was last summer, maybe even more so. In honor of Black History Month, join us in celebrating black Southern women working in abstraction.

HERE is a link to the full article (photos and footnotes included!). Read on below for a summary...

  • In recent years, black abstract art has gained a foothold in the mainstream art world. Major museums and galleries have begun to feature the work of black abstract artists in a way never before seen. Check out the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit, “History Refused to Die”. These moments of recognition are long overdue; for decades, black abstract artists have been shut out of conversations in mainstream art institutions as well as black artistic circles.  

(Lanecia Rouse Tinsley, "Silent Things I Know" 2018)

  • Despite this rejection from both sides, black female artists have continued to create and cultivate new conversations where abstraction is a powerful tool to convey emotion, spirituality, and the self.
  • Deborah Dancy, born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1949, has noted that while many black women artists have “formal connections” to largely recognized artistic movements, “we have operated out of pretty different experiences.”
  • Black Southern abstract artists today are producing exciting work that pulls from, builds on, and continues the conversations begun (and still being shaped) by the women like Deborah Dancy. A few artists who would make meaningful additions to a collection of contemporary art include Aimee Everett, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Lanecia Rouse Tinsley and Brittney Boyd Bullock. These artists, and many more, use abstraction to draw, paint, collage, weave, and sculpt themselves into being. 

(Stacy Lynn Waddell, "Women Are Powerful and Dangerous" 2017)

  • As the art establishment attempts to write more inclusive histories, it is necessary not only to recognize black Southern women’s contributions to noted artistic movements, but also to consider how these women expand notions of what these movements were and are. In black women’s abstract art, long histories and deep emotions combine to create meaningful, hopeful new beginnings.

Dr. Griffin, we cannot thank you enough for enlightening us with your knowledge and research on this very important segment of the art world. We are grateful for your friendship and look forward to cheering you on at UNREPD!