Black History Month and Two exhibitions of Women Artists

In February, we celebrate Black History Month with a fantastic array of virtual and in-person programs (click here to view). Among the events I am looking forward to most will be the lecture Talking About Art with Shirley Woodson and moderated by Curator Valerie Mercer on February 23 at 6:30 p.m. in our auditorium (DFT). I can’t wait to attend. We have been hearing and seeing a lot about Shirley Woodson and her art in all kinds of local and national media outlets and our visitors are coming in mass to see her show at the DIA. In a recent event at our Rivera Court organized by the DIA’s Friends of African and African American Art, Woodson spoke about what she learned as an artist and educator in Detroit at the DIA. For those who witnessed her speech, we recognized living history speaking to us, as Woodson becomes a legendary figure, in a time where, more than ever, we need guiding lights like her in our society.

For the first time in our history, the DIA is hosting two exhibitions on exclusively women artists: Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections and By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500- 1800. Both are groundbreaking shows, underscoring the importance of ensuring women artists are represented in all areas of our collection. My warmest congratulations to the exhibition curator Valerie Mercer (Shield of the Nile Reflections) and co-curators Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Oliver Tostmann (By Her Hand). We are fortunate to benefit from their talents and research as well as from their ability to help bring some of the best art in the world to our galleries.

Side by side of Shirley Woodson's Shield of the Nile Reflections and Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
images: (left) "Flight with Mirror," 2014, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas. (right) Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593–1654 or later), "Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria," 1615–1617, Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London, Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery


Much work goes into the making of these exhibitions. And we can’t thank enough our sponsors and lenders who inspire us and provide us with the tools to serve all of you. Furthermore, I’d like to take a moment to applaud and thank the DIA staff for their expertise and amazing work that goes into creating these extraordinary and unique art experiences for our communities. Every single person at the DIA is touched indirectly or directly by the colossal exhibition endeavor. I am grateful to each one of them and especially to Jennifer Paoletti, our Director of Exhibitions, who, with her team and the crucial collaboration of many DIA departments, keenly quarterbacks these efforts like very few professionals in the art museum field.

The New York Times described By Her Hand as “the most significant American show of women of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque eras since 2007.”And, according to Forbes, Woodson’s works are “vibrant, expressive, large-format”  and she “helps make clear that institutions needn’t always get on a plane to find great art, they can often simply open the front door.” This is something really nice to read. Please come and enjoy these exhibitions that we have prepared for you and explore the Italian eras of By Her Hand in dialogue with our very own Detroit Woodson era. You are in for an unforgettable experience.

Categories:  From The Director