At the invitation of the Museum, the New Jersey-based artist Torkwase Dyson visited Waterville to consult archival materials related to Samuel Osborne (c. 1833–1904). Born into slavery on a Virginia plantation, Osborne migrated to Maine in 1865 and served as a Colby College janitor from 1867 to 1903. In the works she produced for Nautical Dusk, Dyson combines simple geometric forms infused with metaphorical associations found in obituaries of Osborne written by unnamed white authors. These texts raise questions about authorship, transmission, and self-determination, all issues that she will continue to unpack over the run of the show.
Nautical Dusk features sculptures and paintings that explore these subjects in a formal register through intimacy, liquidity, and reflectiveness. What results are expanded dimensions of space. Occupying half the gallery is a work entitled Dusk. This monolithic ramp functions as an architectural intervention, activating the space and inviting engagement or contemplation. It suggests a promontory, an outcropping from which to scan or surveil, but also a structure partially submerged. Throughout her practice, Dyson textures abstraction with specificity and exercises it as a political language. She is incredibly attuned to the historical and material conditions of spatiality. In that vein, the works in this exhibition all pressure the relationship between surface and interiority; it is no accident that they are installed where one can look through the windows to Richard Serra’s solid, monumental sculpture 4,5,6 (2000), a commission in the adjacent courtyard.
Torkwase Dyson is the Lunder Institute’s third visiting artist. In her time as a Lunder Institute visiting artist, Dyson is investigating materials in the college library’s Special Collections, meeting with Colby faculty and students, and developing fertile ground for potential new collaborative projects. Dyson was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and her MFA from the Yale School of Art. Dyson considers spatial relations an urgent question both historically and in the present day, and she grapples with the ways space is perceived and negotiated, particularly by black and brown bodies. She was recently included in the 2018 group exhibition Between the Waters at the Whitney Museum of American Art and will be included in the 2019 Sharjah Biennial.
The artist would like to thank Museum staff and the following individuals:
Nautical Dusk is a For Freedoms exhibition. Since 2016, For Freedoms has produced special exhibitions, town hall meetings, billboards, and lawn sign installations to spur greater participation in civic life. This year, For Freedoms launched its 50 State Initiative, a new phase of programming to encourage broad participation and inspire conversation around November’s midterm elections. Building off of the existing artistic infrastructure in the United States, For Freedoms has developed a network of more than 300 artists and 200 institutional partners who will produce nation-wide public art installations, exhibitions and local community dialogues in order to inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. Centered around the vital work of artists, For Freedoms hopes that these exhibitions and related projects will model how arts institutions can become civic forums for action and discussion of values, place, and patriotism.