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17 March 2017

Rising Above - African American History and Culture Lecture Series:
“Set Adrift: Lois Mailou Jones and the Fluidity of Blackness”

Dr. Ivy Wilson
Associate Professor, Department of English

Location: Fung Ping Shan Building, University Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
Date: 17 Mar 2017 (Fri)
Time: 6:30 pm

click to see poster

Abstract:
Perhaps now most well known for her painting “The Ascent of Ethiopia” (1932) which captured the frenetic, if not transhistorical and transnational, movements that seemingly characterized the urban modernity of the Harlem Renaissance, Lois Mailou Jones would in the 1940s turn to paint African American seaside communities of Martha’s Vineyard in sedate scenes of quiet repose and tranquility. On the one hand, Jones’s paintings depict variations of African American bourgeois life that would increasingly establish themselves in similar enclaves such as Sag Harbor and Idlewild, putting the painter in figurative conversation with writers like Dorothy West. On the other hand, Jones’s “Martha Vineyard” body of work compels a reconceptualization of the relationship of African Americans and the sea (well outside the histories and tropes of the Middle Passage) and, more broadly, how the subtexts that circumscribe how bucolic scenes of black subjects are initially visualized and subsequently interpreted. Focusing particular attention on “Fishermen, Fishing Boats and Women Sketching” (1947), this essay seeks to limn how a rethinking of Jones’s Martha Vineyard work in relation to her later work on Haiti evinces important political questions about theories of extraterritoriality, archipelagos, and the black diaspora.


Bio:
Ivy Wilson is associate professor in the Department of English, as well as a faculty affiliate in the Department of Art, Theory, and Practice, at Northwestern where he teaches courses on the comparative literatures of the black diaspora and U.S. literary studies with a particular emphasis on African American culture. He is the author of Specters of Democracy (Oxford UP) and editor or co-editor of four other volumes.

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