IMPACT: The Research Magazine for John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Select Page

In Her Own Image

Lisa Farrington shows how African-American artists make history

For more than a decade, John Jay Distinguished Professor Lisa Farrington has been on a mission to ensure that black female artists get the attention they deserve. Farrington is one of only six full professors of African-American art history in the nation. Her seminal work in the field, African-American Art: A Visual and Cultural History, explores the long history of African-American creative work, situating black artists in the larger canon of American art history and showing them first as participants and creators.

Farrington—also the author of the first comprehensive history of black women artists, Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists—was called upon last year to make sure women received their share of the spotlight in a New York City exhibition.

“On Such a Night as This” celebrated the contributions of African-American artists to American art over the past two centuries. Blending rare masterworks from the 19th century and pivotal contemporary pieces of both painting and sculpture, the show represented well-known artists like Faith Ringgold, Richard Mayhew, Gaye Ellington, Romare Bearden and more. It was no surprise that Lisa Farrington was invited to assist in curating the show; considered the foremost specialist in female African-American artists, her expertise lies at the intersection of African-American and female artistic identity, uniquely qualifying her to champion and guide women’s inclusion in exhibitions like this one. She left her mark on the show, choosing the works by Gaye Ellington.

Farrington writes and lectures with the goal of elevating the voices and work of black artists, women in particular. She is currently working on two projects; the first is a monograph on painter Emma Amos, who also appeared in “On Such a Night as This,” while the second is a book titled Black and White: An American Family. The book will continue to look deeply at African-American stories, combining U.S. sociopolitical history with the true chronicle of an interracial family that spans the breadth of the 20th century.

—Rachel Friedman

“On Such A Night as This” hung in ACA Galleries in New York City, a gallery whose tradition of showcasing work by African-American artists goes back to its founding in 1932.

Photo: Courtesy of ACA Galleries, New York