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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2019, Artists and American Communities, Then and Now: Part 1: Keynote Address: Boarding the Voyage

Robin Coste Lewis, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and writer-in-residence, University of Southern California. In her National Book Award–winning debut collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus, poet Robin Coste Lewis both narrates and investigates the experience of black women across time and geography. To create the section that gave the book its title, Lewis first conducted countless hours of research in museums and compiled the titles and descriptions of works of art and craft (dated between 38,000 BCE and the present) that featured the images of black women. She then rearranged the titles to create what is at once an elegy for the black women in these artworks and an indictment of the violence done in the writing of Western art history. For the keynote lecture of the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, “American Communities, Then and Now,” held on February 8, 2019, Lewis presented “Boarding the Voyage,” the epilogue to a new edition of Voyage of the Sable Venus, discussing the ways her project blends poetry, art history, and autobiography.