Exhibiting Artist Conversation with Bob Dilworth, Nafis M. White, Melaine Ferdinand-King and Claude Elliott

September 20, 2023 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm In the Cushing Gallery

The first artwork I remember that truly made me see the power of painting was a piece by John Biggers. It was a work belonging to his “Shotgun Series”. In it, he told an American story from a Southern Black point of view. It resonated not just because I was from the South, or that I grew up in neighborhoods with those “shotgun” houses, or that the women depicted resembled the women of my neighborhood, but that it told a profound story in a profound way through the art of painting. I, too, wanted to tell American stories that were culled from the experiences of strong-minded, courageous and determined people. I wanted to tell unique stories that provided an opportunity to re-examine the aesthetic that gives voice and traction to my community. – Bob Dilworth

Please join us for an illuminating discussion with exhibiting artist Bob Dilworth in conversation with contemporary artist Nafis M. White, scholar and curator Melaine Ferdinand-King and arts consultant and long time curator Claude Elliott.

Seating is limited, RSVP highly recommended.
This talk will be recorded.

Our Guests:

Bob Dilworth is a Professor Emeritus from University of Rhode Island where he taught painting and served as Chair and Director of the Main Art Gallery and Director of Africana Studies. He received his BFA and MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design and School of the Art Institute of Chicago respectively. He has exhibited his work extensively and has received grants, awards, and residencies from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts, Iris Project Residency, National John Biggers Award, Playa Artist Residency, and Anderson Ranch Art Center among others.

Nationally recognized and exhibited, Bob Dilworth’s works have won many awards including the 2014 Rhode Island State Council for the Arts Fellowship in painting, and also grants from the Rhode Island Foundation; University of Rhode Island Center for the Humanities; University of Rhode Island Council for Research; National John Biggers Award in drawing; and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. He has received fellowships from the Iris Project Residency; Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts; Angels Gate Cultural Center in association with Marymount California University; Playa Artist Residency; Anderson Ranch Art Center; Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences; the Klaus Center for the Arts; Contemporary Artist Center; the African American Master Artist in Residence Program, Northeastern University; and Le Cité International des Artes, Artist Residency in Paris. His work is in corporate and private collections, as well as many Chicago libraries and public institutions.

Dilworth earned an MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught at Princeton University, Brown University, and Columbia College in Chicago. He recently retired from position as Professor of Art in Painting, Drawing, and Design, in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Rhode Island, where he also served as Chair and Director of the Main Art Gallery and Director of Africana Studies. Bob Dilworth is represented by Cade Tompkins projects.

Nafis M. White is an interdisciplinary, multihyphenate artist whose recent body of works are created from objects commonly found in beauty supply stores, industrial sites and the seemingly limitless horizons of our global and political landscapes. Through weaving, hairdressing, sculpture and installation, White centers the uncanny audacity of self- affirmation and love by means of repetition as a form of change. White is inspired by raw materials and their transformative properties and abilities to tell dynamic stories when in congress. White’s formal training is in sculpture, printmaking and digital media. She uses concept as anchor and medium as message in her work moving within conceptual and durational realms. Community engagement, beauty and the political root deep in White’s work.

White draws inspiration from the rich Diaspora of experiences and traditions of Black beauty and self care built upon centuries old histories of embodied knowledge that honors, celebrates, and values the innovation, technology and imagination carried through and passed on by the fingertips of Black people. Through play and continuous exploration, White employs her research on the intricate customs of Victorian Hair Weaving and mourning traditions and appropriates them using Black hair, beauty products, and hairstyling techniques where they were never imagined to take up space and esteem. She exaggerates pattern and scale with keen emphasis beholden on colors and textures to draw viewers into her creative process, while simultaneously honoring the resilience and power of a people whose very existence and aesthetics have been the subject of ridicule, persecution and systemic erasure since their harrowing and iniquitous arrival upon these shores.

White’s work is in the permanent collection of the Newport Art Museum, RISD Museum and University of New Mexico Art Museum, and has been exhibited at the Newport Art Museum, The de Young Museum, The RISD Museum, National Queer Arts Festival, The List Gallery at Brown University, New Museum, Goldsmiths University, Autograph ABP, OXO Tower in London, Overture Center for the Arts Madison and the Rhode Island School of Design, among many others.

White holds an MFA and BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

Melaine Ferdinand-King is a Providence, RI-based scholar and multi-form creative practitioner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Spelman College and is a Ph.D. candidate in Africana Studies at Brown University, where she received her M.A. and a certificate in Collaborative Humanities.  Melaine’s practice is informed by African-American thought and culture, particularly their critical visual, musical, and literary traditions. Last year, Melaine co-curated the inaugural Black Biennial at RISD Museum, Gelman Gallery in Providence, RI, and Black Sonic: Heritage as Heresy at FADA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa. Partnering with the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art, she most recently curated the exhibition Poiesis: Street Culture & the Art of the City, at WaterFireArts Center this year. Her independent work includes creative project management, archiving, and hosting workshops on issues of race, culture, and aesthetics.

Claude Elliott is no stranger, he has lived in Rhode Island twice. First as Director of Human Services at the John Hope Settlement House. He left in 1992 and returned in 1997 as Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the RISD Museum where he organized the 2000 exhibition Pressing On: The Graphic Art of Wilmer Jennings which traveled to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA.

In 2000 he became a Rhode Island Foundation Program Officer, managing New Works Grants and the Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Artists Fellowships. He re-envisioned the Expansion Arts Program to provide both technical assistance and grants to strengthen the capacity of culturally diverse arts organizations. In 2003 to make art more accessible to the public, he curated with Wanda M. Miglus the exhibition New Works: An Exploration of the Creative Process at the Rhode Island Foundation Gallery.

Elliott moved to Washington, DC in 2006 to become the first Deputy Director for the dance company Step Afrika! He has curated Robert Dilworth: Memories of Inhabited Spaces at Rhode Island College, Home Grown, at DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Washington, DC, River and Memories: Evangeline J. Montgomery and Lilian T. Burwell, at Brentwood Arts Exchange, Brentwood, MD, Printed Images/Sculptural Editions, at Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Black, Brown and Tan: A Cross Cultural Experience, at Warwick Museum, Warwick, RI.

Elliott has a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Mississippi, Master of Human Services Management from Brandeis University, and Master of Social Work from Clark Atlanta University. He had internships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library of Congress, and National Gallery of Art.

He is currently conducting an oral history project focused on DC Black owned and managed art galleries and art spaces that played an important role in the development of Black artists beginning careers during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movement.