Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance
February 18, 2023 — May 14, 2023
Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery
Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance examines the American dream through the lives of Black Americans from the late eighteenth century to the present time. Using labor as a backdrop, Towns highlights the role African Americans have played in building the economy, and explores how their resilience, resistance, and perseverance have challenged the United States to truly embrace the tenets of its Declaration of Independence.
Towns has created paintings and story quilts that expand the historical narratives of enslaved and free people who toiled under the most extreme hardships, yet persevered through acts of rebellion, skillful guile, and self-willed determination. Within this arresting body of work, Towns also shows the beauty and love that Black people possess beyond the grips of White supremacy.
- Healers, Guardians, and Nurturers
February 18, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
- Reynolda On the House
February 23, 4–7 p.m.
- Reynolda On the House
March 19, 1:30–4:30 p.m.
- A Study of Self-Emancipation: Poetry Workshop with Authoring Action!
March 31, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
- Community Day
April 29, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina and lives and works in Baltimore. He trained as a painter with a BFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina, and has also developed a rigorous, self-taught quilting practice. In 2018, The Baltimore Museum of Art presented his first museum exhibition, Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning. His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Artforum, The Washington Post, Hyperallergic, Cultured, Forbes, AFROPUNK, and American Craft. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize, and in 2021, Towns was the first Black Artist in Residence at The Fallingwater Institute, at the Architect Frank Lloyd Wrights’ infamous Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. In 2021 Towns was also awarded the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award.
Towns’s work is in the collections of Art + Practice, Los Angeles, CA, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, Boise Museum of Art, Boise ID, City of Charleston, Charleston, SC, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI, Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, Asbury, NJ, The Rockwell Museum of Corning, NY, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA and Wichita Museum of Art, Wichita, KS, and is held in private collections nationally and abroad.
Kilolo Luckett is a Pittsburgh-based art historian and curator. With over twenty years of experience in arts administration and cultural production, she is committed to elevating the voices of underrepresented visual artists, specifically women and Black and Brown artists. Luckett is founding executive director and chief curator of ALMA|LEWIS (named after abstract artists Alma Thomas and Norman Lewis), an experimental, contemporary art platform for critical thinking, dialogue, and creative expression dedicated to Black culture. She recently served as an Art Commissioner for the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission for twelve years. She is also currently writing an authorized biography on Naomi Sims, one of the first Black supermodels.
Before or after you view the Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance exhibition, you are encouraged to select and explore a text from Stephen Towns and Kilolo Luckett’s suggested book list:
A People’s History of the United States
by Howard Zinn
Black Days, Black Dust: The Memories of an African American Coal Miner
by Robert Armstead
Gone Home: Race and Roots Through Appalachia
by Karida L Brown
Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America
by Joe William Trotter
by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops
by Susie King Taylor
The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom
by James Green
An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
by Henry Wiencek
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson’s Recipes and Memories
by Suzanne Martinson
by Vanessa M. Holden
A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See
by Tina M. Campt
Listening to Images
by Tina M. Campt
Two Centuries of Black American Art
by David C. Driskell
African American Art and Artists
by Samella Lewis
Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice
by bell hooks
White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness
by Maurice Berger
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 – 2019
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Mary McLeod Bethune Building a Better World, Essays and Selected Documents
by Audrey Thomas McCluskey
The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin
Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom
by Keisha N. Blain
The Taste of Country Cooking
by Edna Lewis
The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
by Toni Tipton-Martin
Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
by Kelley Fanto Deetz
Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South
by Stephanie Camp
The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture
by Kevin Quashie
One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris
by Stanley Crouch
Teenie Harris, Photographer: Image, Memory, History
by Cheryl Finley, Laurence A. Glasco, and Joe W. Trotter
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson
More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the
by Imani Perry
Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance is organized and toured by
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA
Curated by Kilolo Luckett
Support for this exhibition has been provided by:
Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance is supported by Eden Hall Foundation; Arts, Equity, & Education Fund; De Buck Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Hillman Exhibition Fund of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art. This exhibition is completed in partnership with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area with funding provided in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.