Skip to Main Content

Visitors enjoy Lucy P. Pettway’s Housetop - Nine-Block Half-Log Cabin Variation, 1950s, cotton, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund and Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2020.28.14

The Work in the World: Thinking through “Called to Create”

Conversations with Artists

  • Friday, March 10, 2023
  • 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • East Building Auditorium
  • Talks
  • Hybrid
  • Registration Required

Registration is now open.

Join us for an afternoon of presentations, conversations, and performances featuring artists and scholars whose practice is in dialogue with the exhibition Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South.

Called to Create highlights remarkable stories of art and their makers. From their origins in yards, porches, and homes across the American South, these works now exert a profound influence on the culture at large. This program will explore how the exhibition’s themes, artists, and their practices have entered various new worlds—from galleries, to museums, to artists’ studios, to academia—and to what extent they have transformed one another.

Book reading, 2:00–2:30 p.m.

Lisa Gail Collins, photo by Spencer Ainsley.

Lisa Gail Collins

Lisa Gail Collins is Professor of Art on the Sarah Gibson Blanding Chair and Director of the American Studies Program at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her teaching and research interests center around interdisciplinary American art, social, and cultural history with an emphasis on Black lives; movements for social justice; communities of creativity and care; tenderness; and art and everyday life. Centering a quilt in the National Gallery’s collection, Collins will be reading an excerpt from her upcoming book, Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee’s Bend Quilt, to be released in September 2023.

Artist conversation, 2:30–4:00 p.m.

Sanford Biggers, photo by Matthew Morrocco.

Sanford Biggers

Raised in Los Angeles and currently residing in New York City, Sanford Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective, and history that speaks to current social, political, and economic happenings while examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often-overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Most recently, Biggers was awarded the 2023 Bennie Achievement Award by Morehouse College. In 2022, he was honored by the Orange County Museum of Art, Art Production Fund, and The Studio Museum in Harlem for his monumental public commissions and contribution to the arts. He has also received the Heinz Award for the Arts (2021), the Guggenheim Fellowship (2020), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (2018), and the Rome Prize in Visual Arts (2017). He was appointed the 2021–2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor and Scholar in the department of architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last year, he joined the Souls Grown Deep board and was appointed Board President at SculptureCenter in Queens, New York, in 2020.

vanessa german, photo by Joshua Franzos.

vanessa german

vanessa german is a self-taught citizen artist working across sculpture, performance, communal rituals, immersive installation, and photography in order to repair and reshape disrupted systems, spaces, and connections. Her practice proposes new models for social healing, utilizing creativity and tenderness as vital forces to reckon with the historical and ongoing catastrophes of structural racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, resource extraction, and misogynoir. In summer 2023, german will be part of the exhibition Pulling Together, which will explore the role of monuments in the telling of American history and mark the first organized group exhibition on The National Mall.

Tau Lewis, photo by Hannah Price. Courtesy of the artist and 52 Walker, New York.

Tau Lewis

Tau Lewis (b. 1993, Toronto Canada) was most recently on exhibition at The 59th Venice Biennale and at 52 Walker, New York, NY. She has exhibited in several museums and institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON; MoMA PS1, New York, NY; New Museum, New York, NY; Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, UK; College Art Galleries, Saskatoon, SK; and elsewhere. Lewis’s work has been acquired to the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library Collection, New York, NY; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Miami, FL; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Quebec; among others. Lewis currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers is an artist and writer whose work across disciplines is rooted in storytelling. Myers delves into the past to build narratives that speak to the slippages between history and mythology. His diverse practice spans textiles, performance, film, and sculptural objects, often created in collaboration with artisans from around the globe. He has worked with traditional shadow puppet makers in Jogjakarta, silversmiths in Khartoum, conceptual video artists in Ho Chi Minh City, young musicians in New Orleans, woodcarvers in Accra, weavers in Luxor, metal workers in Kenya, and textile printers in Copenhagen. These collaborations are driven by his interest in understanding the ways in which globalization is intimately intertwined with notions of self and community.

Renée Stout, photo by Grace Roselli.

Renée Stout

Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Renée Stout has been based in Washington, DC, since 1985. Originally trained as painter, Stout’s work has evolved to include mixed media sculpture, photography, and installations. She is the recipient of many awards, including a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art and most recently, the 2020 Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award and a Virginia A. Groot Foundation Award. She has shown nationally and internationally, and her work is in several national and international public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Art.

Musical performance, 4:00–4:30 p.m.

Lonnie Holley

Lonnie Holley

Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events.

Related events