Louisiana-born artist highlights the role of African heritage in Western art | Arts
In this series, Lagniappe presents a different work from the collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art each week, with commentary by a curator.
A singular 1954 self-portrait of St. Rose-born painter, poet, printmaker, political activist and institution builder Margaret TG Burroughs is now on display at NOMA.
Burroughs has spent much of her professional career living and working in Chicago, where she co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American History, the nation’s first independent museum celebrating black culture, with her husband, Charles.
Acquired from the collection of Dr Stella Jones, the painting is Burroughs’ only self-portrait and reflects his lifelong commitment to highlighting the contributions of black artists to art history and the role that African art played in the history of modern art.
Here, she paints herself looking directly at the viewer, surrounded by an Mbuya mask from the Pende culture of Congo on the left and a framed abstract painting on the right. The Mbuya mask is associated with strengthening female ancestral ties. By juxtaposing this mask with the tools of European painting (brushes, framed canvas and palette), Burroughs shows how his work merges different cultural traditions.
Throughout his art, Burroughs forges an alternative lineage for his work – and for modern art in general – rooted in African rather than European art history.
CORRECTION: Last week’s Artbeat was misattributed. It was written by Lisa Rotondo-McCord.
Katie Pfohl is Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at NOMA.