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Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections

December 18, 2021 – June 12, 2022

Updated Dec 18, 2021

Artist, educator, collector, and advocate Shirley Woodson’s solo exhibition Shield of the Nile at the Detroit Institute of Arts presents her vibrant, dream-like paintings of Black bathers in rivers, honoring the diasporic myth that the Nile holds transformative and nurturing benefits for people of African descent. In this series, Woodson’s bathers appear with a distinctive visual vocabulary of human and animal life that symbolize the historic, spiritual, and cultural significance of the river. 

In the 11 dream-like paintings selected for this exhibition, the artist emphasizes the Nile as a metaphor for Africa by combining figuration and expressionism to symbolize the metamorphic, historical, spiritual, and cultural significance of this ancient body of water. Painting in vibrant hues, humans appear alongside fragments or detailed renderings of shields, horses, fish, shells, stars, chariot wheels, pyramids, birds—the distinctive visual vocabulary for this theme.

"Flight with Mirror," 2014, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

Artist, educator, collector, and advocate Shirley Woodson’s solo exhibition Shield of the Nile at the Detroit Institute of Arts presents her vibrant, dream-like paintings of Black bathers in rivers, honoring the diasporic myth that the Nile holds transformative and nurturing benefits for people of African descent. In this series, Woodson’s bathers appear with a distinctive visual vocabulary of human and animal life that symbolize the historic, spiritual, and cultural significance of the river. 

In the 11 dream-like paintings selected for this exhibition, the artist emphasizes the Nile as a metaphor for Africa by combining figuration and expressionism to symbolize the metamorphic, historical, spiritual, and cultural significance of this ancient body of water. Painting in vibrant hues, humans appear alongside fragments or detailed renderings of shields, horses, fish, shells, stars, chariot wheels, pyramids, birds—the distinctive visual vocabulary for this theme.

Images

“Take it To The Limit,” 2013, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

“Take it To The Limit,” 2013, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

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“Reflections and Flowers,” 2006, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

“Reflections and Flowers,” 2006, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

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"Flight with Mirror," 2014, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

"Flight with Mirror," 2014, Shirley Woodson, American; acrylic on canvas.

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