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ARTIST PROFILE: Torkwase Dyson

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Torkwase Dyson is an interdisciplinary artist based in New York. A lot of her work examines environmental racism as well as the history and future of Black spatial liberation strategies.

Her exhibition 1919: Black Water, at Columbia University’s Arthur Ross Architechure Gallery, brings together sculptures, drawings and mixed medium paintings that reflect on the murder of Black teenager Eugene Williams in Chicago, July 27, 1919.

Eugene Williams and friends were playing on a homemade raft in Lake Michigan, when they unknowingly crossed the border between the black and white sections of the beach. A white man assaulted them with rocks, killing Eugene Williams. The murder sparked five days of Black protest, becoming part of a wave of white supremacist terrorist attacks and riots during the period which covers the late winter, spring, summer, and early autumn of 1919, which then became known as the Red Summer.

For this work, Torkwase Dyson took the raft as an emblem of what she calls “Black compositional thought’, the way black subjects navigate (and in doing so), alter spaces shaped by white society. To Dyson, the raft functions as a representation of the ability of the boys to create movement and play even during racial segregation in America.

Torkwase Dyson- Plantationocene, 2019, acrylic, graphite, brass, wood, and ink on canvas, 98 inch diameter; at Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Part of exhibition 1919: Black Water.

Torkwase Dyson - Plantationocene, 2019, acrylic, graphite, brass, wood, and ink on canvas, 98 inch diameter; at Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Part of exhibition 1919: Black Water.

Installation view of Torkwase Dyson’s exhibition “1919: Black Water”.

Installation view of Torkwase Dyson’s exhibition 1919: Black Water.

Please click here to find a list of anti-racist allyship resources. 

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