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Panelist Biographies

2018 Symposium | “Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South”
February 16 + 17, 2018

Dr. Sarah Lewis
Sarah Lewis is an Assistant Professor at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of African and African American Studies. Lewis is the guest editor of the “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture (2016) which received the 2017 Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research from the International Center of Photography. The widely reviewed issue was also made required reading for all incoming freshman at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for the 2016-2017 academic year. Her articles on race, contemporary art, and culture have been published in many academic journals as well as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Artforum, and Art in America, and for the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art, and Rizzoli. Her current book project is under contract with Harvard University Press. Lewis is also the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (2014) which has been reviewed widely, translated into seven languages, and was the Provost’s reading selection at the University of Houston and Hofstra University, making it required reading for all incoming freshman. Lewis is a frequent keynote speaker at many universities and conferences from TED, SXSW, PopTech, ASCD and for a wide range of organizations from the Aspen Ideas Festival to the Federal Reserve Bank. Her work has been profiled in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Her scholarship has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Milton Fund, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard, an M.Phil from Oxford University, and her Ph.D. from Yale University in the History of Art. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, she held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Modern, London. She also served as a Critic at Yale University School of Art. She currently serves on the board of Creative Time and the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts and has served on the board of The Brearley School and The CUNY Graduate Center. She lives in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

McArthur Binion
Artist and Professor of Art at Columbia University McArthur Binion was born in Macon, Mississippi. He holds a BFA from Wayne State University (1971) in Detroit, Michigan, and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Binion’s work primarily consists of minimalist abstract paintings, created using crayons, oil stick, and ink, often on rigid surfaces such as wood or aluminum. For many years, Binion has been incorporating laser-prints as a collaged ground on top of which he applies other mediums. Although his paintings appear to be works of abstract minimalism, his work is deceptively complex, drawing on numerous influences. His work can be found in the following public collections: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfields, Michigan; Detroit Institute of Art; The Burt Aaron Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, Michigan; Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Detroit); City of Detroit, Michigan; among others. His painting, DNA, Black Painting: IV, is featured in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s bicentennial exhibition, Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, on view through July 8, 2018.

Sheila Pree Bright
Sheila Pree Bright is an acclaimed fine-art photographer known for her photographic series Young Americans, Plastic Bodies, and Suburbia. She received national attention shortly after earning her MFA in Photography from Georgia State University, and describe herself in the art world as a visual cultural producer portraying large-scale works that combine a wide-range of contemporary culture. Bright’s most ambitious project to date, #1960Now, examines race, gender, and generational divides to raise awareness of millennial perspectives on civil and human rights. #1960Now is a photographic series of emerging young leaders affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement which premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia on September 25, 2015. She is the recipient of a proclamation from the city council of Atlanta, naming September 25th Sheila Pree Bright Day. The series is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Smithsonian National Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. Bright’s work is included in the book and exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture (Deborah Willis, W. W. Norton, 2009). Bright’s photographs appeared in the 2014 feature-length documentary, Through the Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, directed byThomas Allen Harris. Venues that featured her work include the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; Smithsonian Anacostia Museum in Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio; FotoFest in Houston, Texas; and the Leica Gallery in New York, New York. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Santa Fe Prize (2006). Her work is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; the Oppenheimer Collection at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland, Kansas; the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia; The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia; The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Bright is also featured in the documentary film Election Day: Lens Across America, which follows seven photographers on Election Day 2016.

Torkwase Dyson
Torkwase Dyson was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. Traversing these regions helped develop a fundamental sensitivity towards urban development, Southern landscape, and black spatial justice. During her years at Tougaloo College, where she majored in sociology and double minored in social work and fine art, she began to examine the spatial dynamics of black history and environmental justice. Over the next 10 years, Dyson traveled to Africa and South and Central America to strategize with communities of color on ways to attain resource equality. During this time, she earned her BFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University and her MFA in painting from Yale School of Art. In 2016, Dyson designed and built Studio South Zero (SSZ), a solar-powered mobile studio where the context of nomadicity became the framework for learning and making art about the environment. Traveling with SSZ inspired her experimental project The Wynter-Wells Drawing School for Environmental Justice where she explores contemporary theorizations of space, architecture and the infrastructure of extraction economies. Though working through multiple mediums, Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter who uses distilled geometric abstraction to create an idiosyncratic language that is both diagrammatic and expressive. The works are deconstructions of natural and built environments that consider how individuals negotiate and negate various types of systems and spatial order. Dyson’s work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Dyson is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors award, the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, a Visiting Artist grant to the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, the Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practices, an Eyebeam Art and Technology Center Fellowship, and the FSP/Jerome Fellowship. Dyson’s work has also been supported by The Drawing Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, The Laundromat Projects, the Green Festival of New York, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, The Kitchen, and the Rebuild Foundation. In 2016, Dyson was elected to the board of the Architecture League of New York as Vice President of Visual Arts. Torkwase is now based in Brooklyn, New York, and is a visiting critic at Yale School of Art.

Nona Faustine
Photographer and Visual artist Nona Faustine was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography at Bard College MFA program (2013). Faustine’s first solo exhibition took place at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn (2016), and her second solo exhibition took place at Baxter Street at the Camera Club of New York (2017). Her work focuses on identity, representation, and our collective relationship to history. Faustine’s images from the White Shoes, My Country, and Mitochondria series have received worldwide attention. They have been published and exhibited in a variety of national and international media outlets, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Elle, and Artforum. Faustine’s work has been exhibited at institutions around the country, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the International Center of Photography, The Studio Museum of Harlem (New York), The Institute of Fine Arts (NYU), the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York, Sprüth Magers in Los Angeles, the University of Connecticut, and Boston University. Faustine’s work is in the permanent collection of The Studio Museum of Harlem and the David C Driskell Center at Maryland State University.

Robert Luckett
Dr. Robert Luckett received his BA in political science from Yale University and his PhD from the University of Georgia with a focus on modern civil rights movement history. A native Mississippian,he returned home, where he is a tenured Associate Professor of History and Director of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African American Experience at Jackson State University. His book, Joe T. Patterson and the White South’s Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement, was published by the University Press of Mississippi (2015). Along with several publications and presentations at numerous academic conferences, he has appeared in documentaries, including the Independent Lens film Spies of Mississippi as well as An Ordinary Hero about the life of Joan Trumpauer Mulhollhand. He is an Advisory Board member for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and serves as Immediate Past-Chair of the Board of Trustees of Leadership Greater Jackson, and he is on the Board of Directors of Common Cause Mississippi and the Association of African American Museums. In 2017, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba appointed him to the Board of Trustees of Jackson Public Schools. He has three children: Silas, Hazel, and Flip.

Noah Saterstrom
Raised in Mississippi and educated at Scotland’s Glasgow School of Art, Noah Saterstrom is a lecturer at Belmont University. His paintings, drawings, and animations have been shown most recently in Nashville, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina; New York, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; Seattle, Washington; Brooklyn, New York; Tucson, Arizona; and Glasgow, Scotland. He has published essays and book collaborations with writers including Laynie Browne, Anne Waldman, and Kate Bernheimer. He is the founder of the online art journal Trickhouse.org and is a regular contributor to Nashville Arts magazine. Saterstrom’s work hangs in private and public collections throughout the United States as well as Canada, Scotland, England, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and Panama. He has been Artist-in-Residence for HRH Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland; Morris and Spottiswood in Glasgow, Scotland; the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (Amherst); and Exploded View Microcinema in Tucson, Arizona. Saterstrom is currently represented by the Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana; Fischer Galleries in Jackson, Mississippi; Julia Martin Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee; and the Dorpstraat Galery in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He lives in Nashville with his wife Julia and kids Vivian and Guston. Saterstrom’s painting Road to Shubuta is featured in the Mississippi Museum of Art bicentennial exhibition, Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, on view through July 8, 2018.

Felandus Thames
Felandus Thames is a conceptual artist living and practicing in the greater New York area. Born in Mississippi, Thames was also the recipient of the 2005 Mississippi Individual Artist Fellowship, which is awarded to one artist per discipline annually. Subsequently, he attended the Graduate program in Painting and Printmaking at Yale University, where he received his MFA in 2010. He has been included in exhibitions at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Kravets Wehby Gallery, Tilton Gallery, International Print Center in New York, Wright Museum, National Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Museum of Art, Columbia University, Yale University, Aspen Museum of Art, Art Hamptons, Art LA, and Miami Basel. Thames was recently a Louis Comfort Tiffany Prize Nominee. He has been mentioned in numerous print and digital periodicals including The New York Times, International Review of African American Art, Politico, and Art in America. Thames’ work can be found in myriad of private and public collections both in the United States and abroad. Thames serves as a Visiting Critic in the MFA printmaking program at Rhode Island School of Design.

Dell Upton
Dr. Dell Upton is professor of architectural history and chair of the Department of Art History at UCLA. He is the author, most recently, of What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (Yale, 2015) and of the forthcoming second edition of Architecture in the United States (Oxford, 2019). His published scholarship ranges from topics as diverse as colonial Anglican churches in Virginia to the ancient temple complex at Baalbek, Lebanon. Upton’s current research is focused on African-American cemeteries and churches in the early twentieth-century rural South.

Elizabeth Abston is a native Mississippian and has served as the Curator of the Collection at the Mississippi Museum of Art since 2015. Abston organizes exhibitions related to the permanent collection, most recently Hank Willis Thomas: Flying Geese, Sunlight and Shadows: The Paintings of Kate Freeman Clark, and Common Passages: Reconsidering the American Scene. She was also a contributor to Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise. In addition, she oversees the Affiliate Network of small curated traveling exhibitions loaned from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection to museums and non-profit galleries throughout the state. Her prior experience includes work as a museum educator at Artpace and collections management assistant at the McNay Art Museum, both in San Antonio, Texas. She is a graduate of Rhodes College with a BA in art history and received her MA in art history from the University of Texas San Antonio with an emphasis in contemporary art.

La Tanya Autry is the inaugural Curator of Art and Civil Rights at the Mississippi Museum of Art and Tougaloo College. During her recent fellowship at Yale University Art Gallery, she curated the national touring exhibition Let Us March On: Lee Friedlander and the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom that features photography of a groundbreaking civil rights demonstration. Through her graduate studies at the University of Delaware, where she is completing her Ph.D.in art history, Autry has developed expertise in art of the United States, photography, and museums. In her dissertation The Crossroads of Commemoration: Lynching Landscapes in America, which analyzes how individuals and communities memorialize lynching violence in the built environment, she concentrates on the interplay of race, representation, memory, and public space. Social justice is central to her work. Autry advocates for equity in museums and is the co-founder of The Art of Black Dissent, an interactive program that promotes public dialogue about the African-American liberation struggle.

LeRonn P. Brooks is an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY). His interviews, essays, and poetry have appeared in publications for BOMB Magazine, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Socrates Sculpture Park, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the International Review of African American Art, and the Aperture Foundation, among others. He has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and Callaloo Journal, and is a curator for The Racial Imaginary Institute and the Bronx Council on the Arts. He is also the creator and executive producer of Culture/Context, an online conversation series currently featuring major African-American and African artists.

Betsy Bradley was appointed Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art in December, 2001. At the Museum, she oversees the Museum in Jackson which has 30 affiliates statewide. Since arriving at the Museum, Bradley has overseen significant growth of the institution, shepherding two capital campaigns, totaling $20 million, that resulted in a move to a completely renovated facility and the creation of The Art Garden, the first new public green space in downtown Jackson since the 1970s. Participation at the Museum has quadrupled under Bradley’s leadership, and an aggressive schedule of public programs attracts a growing audience of Mississippians and tourists alike. Committed to making the Museum relevant to its immediate community, Bradley works in partnership with many local cultural, social services, and history organizations to create opportunities for collaborations that benefit the entire community. This work has resulted in prestigious federal and national foundation grant awards and recognition for the Museum, including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for Leadership, the Mississippi Tourism Association Travel Destination of the Year Award, the Visionary and Attraction of the Year Awards from Visit Jackson, the MS AIA Friend of Architecture Award, the Global Arts and Culture Award from the MS World Trade Center, and the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission for six years after four years as its Deputy Director and Community Arts Director. Under Bradley’s direction, the Commission’s budget grew to $3.8M annually, and she secured legislation to fund a $6M program to support capital improvements to cultural facilities throughout the state. Bradley is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a master’s degree in English, and of Millsaps College with a bachelor’s degree in English. Elected to membership in the Association of Art Museum Directors in 2012, Bradley has also served on the boards of Americans for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Southern Arts Federation. She has served as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Bradley was selected to participate in the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program and the Innovation Lab for Museums. She was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Advisory Panel of the Mississippi School for the Arts and the Mississippi Commission for Volunteerism. She has chaired the boards of the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, Millsaps Arts and Lecture Series, and Jackson Servant Leadership Corps. She has also served on the Steering Council for the Mississippi Economic Council’s Blueprint Mississippi Project, the 50th Reunion of the Mississippi Freedom Riders, and is currently on the executive committee of Downtown Jackson Partners. She was named one of the state’s Top 50 Business Women by the Mississippi Business Journal, is a graduate of Leadership Jackson, and is a member of the International Women’s Forum in Mississippi.

Rhiannon Giddens
2017 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award-winner Rhiannon Giddens is a singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter enriching our understanding of American music by reclaiming African American contributions to folk and country genres and revealing affinities between a range of musical traditions, from gospel and Celtic to jazz and R&B. In her recordings and live performances, Giddens has mined the history of the African American string band tradition, introducing new audiences to the black banjoists and fiddlers whose influences have been left out of popular narratives of the lineage of folk and country music. Giddens is a native of the Piedmont region of North Carolina, and she trained as an opera singer before returning to North Carolina to immerse herself in traditional American roots music through study of archival recordings and the mentorship of the octogenarian fiddler Joe Thompson. Having honed her skills on the fiddle and 5-string banjo, she co-founded with two other bandmates the Carolina Chocolate Drops to share this tradition with a new generation of listeners. Their albums include Genuine Negro Jig (2010) and Leaving Eden (2012), both with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. More recently, Giddens has released two solo albums. Tomorrow Is My Turn (2015) offers riveting interpretations of songs that were written or made famous by women, spanning folk, bluegrass, country, gospel, jazz, Celtic, and other genres. Freedom Highway (2017) consists mainly of original compositions by Giddens, and the album traverses the experience of African Americans from slavery to the present. Drawing inspiration from slave narratives, early twentieth-century songwriters such as Mississippi John Hurt, and even a rap about police violence written by her nephew, Freedom Highway is at once a recuperation of suppressed voices and a history lesson. With extraordinary vocal abilities and emotional range afforded by her classical training, Giddens is a powerful presence on stage, and her explanations of the historical and social contexts for the music she performs further demonstrate how discrete musical approaches can inform one another. Giddens’s drive to understand and convey the nuances, complexities, and interrelationships between musical traditions is enhancing our musical present with a wealth of sounds and textures from the past. She has performed at national and international festivals and venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the White House, the Spoleto Festival, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the Aarhus Festival in Denmark, and the National Folk Festival, among others.

The bicentennial symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required.