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Revisiting Dawn Williams Boyd Lecture, “Perspective of the Other”

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In celebration of Black History Month, we are sharing a lecture given by Dawn Williams Boyd in 2021 called “The Perspective of the Other.” In it, Boyd discusses an ongoing series that she has worked on over the last 25-plus years called The Sins of the Fathers. The series currently consists of over twenty acrylic paintings and cloth paintings that tell stories of racial violence committed against Black Americans. With scenes ranging from the four hundred year-long atrocities of the slave trade to the twenty-first century rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Boyd’s work captures pivotal moments from American history. The titles of the works include the location and date of an actual historical event, which Boyd hopes viewers will use to further educate themselves.

As she opens this lecture, Boyd states, “The purpose of The Sins of the Fathers series is to record in a visual way some of the key points in the history of the United States, from the perspective of its African American citizens.”

She continues, “Unlike many of my age peers, the college that I went to, Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, did not offer a Black Studies program, or African American histories, or bid whist tournaments, or anything mildly cultural like that, and so I came out of there without a lot of information that would turn out to color my artistic career from that point on. So while sitting at the card table with my friends and listening to them discuss the history that they had learned while in school, it piqued an interest in me, and I began this series.”

Three works from The Sins of the Fathers series are currently on view at the Everson in the exhibition Dawn Williams Boyd: Woe.

Dawn Williams Boyd, Waiting for Medgar, Jackson, MS 1963, 2004, fabrics, cotton embroidery floss, beads, and sequins, 80 x 56½ inches, Everson Museum of Art; Museum purchase, Deaccession Fund, 2020.11

Dawn Williams Boyd, The Middle Passage, 2007, Mixed media, 93 x 46 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort