Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 6, 2011

Art by Whitfield Lovell

More Than You Know, a moving collection of about fifty works connecting objects and faces, memory and the present, by artist Whitfield Lovell, is showing at the Smith College Art Museum.  until May 1. Born in the Bronx in 1959 with a father from Barbados and a mother who grew up in the southern U.S., Whitfield Lovell says that his desire to show hidden lives stems partly from a 1993 residency in Italy, where he stayed in a mansion formerly owned by someone in the slave trade. He drew on the walls as a way to leave a mark as if from those kept there against their wills.

Much of the show features a series called Kin, done in the last six years, after Whitfield Lovell was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Gorgeouslly rendered drawings of heads were inspired by pictures from old passports, photo booths, and mug shots. Whitfield Lovell worked in conte crayon or charcoal to bring out personalities that the harsh lighting of those photos obscured. Some portraits are wreathed in barbed wire or put above nails, knives, silk flowers, or the figurines put on top of wedding cakes. All the portraits are black and white and most are somber, a style that apparently grew from his interest in monochrome photographs as well as a response to deaths in his family.

We also saw slightly older, larger tableaux with bodies as well as heads. These two dimensional works are extended with objects bought from flea markets or antique shops. Many are painted on old wood and its grain and nail holes adds poignance. There’s a woman with a variety of vessels displayed on the floor, and a girl shown reading, beside a stack of actual old books.

Some almost seem to talk. I wasn’t surprised to read in The Art of Whitfield Lovell: Whispers from the Walls ed Lucy R. Lippard et al (Pomegranate) “There is no way I could draw someone’s face without somehow feeling that person’s spirit. There have been times when I felt that it was important for me to ask permission to use their images.”



  1. Oh my goodness. That first one is absolutely stunning!

  2. beautiful! thank you so much for sharing this!

  3. I’m nearly speechless.
    As was intended by Lovell, probably.
    Thank you for sharing. xoxo

  4. It’s a gorgeous reproduction, and to see the marks on actual old wood is something.

  5. Thanks for looking, Laura. If you happen to get to Northampton, let me know!

  6. Thank you for the candles, Melodye!

  7. wow!
    VERY cool and most powerful!

  8. I thought the first portrait in particular was gorgeous. It felt as if you could reach out and touch the richness of her skin. And I like the words, “There is no way I could draw someone’s face without somehow feeling that person’s spirit.” I’ll bet you felt like that when you were writing the stories of the three women and their mothers for BORROWED NAMES.

  9. Re: wow!
    I’m glad you like these, Kevin!

  10. xoxo

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