Shepherd University Art Exhibit Highlights Black Women

An art exhibit featuring artwork by black women from different backgrounds came to Shepherd University earlier this week. The exhibit, titled “Physical and Spiritual Bodies,” features nine paintings of influential black figures in different fields. Each painting represents an element of nature that the subject personifies. Painter Chiquita Howard-Bostic says she connects these elements to the personal and cultural bonds of black women.

“It creates a deconstruction of depressed representations of black women, because then people who see themselves as powerful can walk through those same shoes and they can positively align with black women,” Howard-Bostic said.

Subjects depicted include prominent black figures like environmental activist Wangari Maathai and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, a native of West Virginia. The elements involved in the exhibition include water, air, fire, earth and vacuum. For example, Maathai is depicted in association with the land because of her conservation efforts.

For Howard-Bostic, the art exhibit is also a way to showcase black women in predominantly white spaces. As the university’s associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, she is the first African-American woman to serve on the school’s leadership team. She says it’s important for people from all walks of life to have a sense of belonging and identifiable role models.

“I would like these women to be accepted as powerful women who can excel in the arts, culture, history, all different disciplines,” Howard-Bostic said. “I need to show Shepherd students and Shepherd faculty members that there are amazing, powerful, successful and talented black women out there in every field of study.”

The exhibit will be on view at Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library until April 16.

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Reggie S. Williams