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Detroit Institute of Arts Presents Works by Acclaimed Detroit Artist and Educator Shirley Woodson, 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist | An exhibition dedicated to her “Shield of the Nile” series

Updated Nov 11, 2021

November 11, 2021 (DETROIT)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) presents a selection of paintings by renowned artist Shirley Woodson in the exhibition Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections. On display December 18, 2021 through June 12, 2022, this exhibition features 11 paintings from Woodson’s Shield of the Nile series. Through these paintings, she portrays the river Nile as a metaphor for Africa to symbolize the changing, historical, spiritual, and cultural significance of this body of water. This exhibition is free with museum admission, which is always free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. At this time, all museum visitors must make an advance reservation by phone at (313) 833-4005 or online at https://ticketapp.dia.org.

This exhibition takes visitors through Woodson’s use of figuration and abstraction—two contrasting styles of art. The paintings are comprised of vibrant hues depicting humans appearing alongside detailed renderings of shields, horses, fish, shells, stars, chariot wheels, pyramids and birds – all   symbols of the exhibition’s theme. Woodson purposefully leaves faces blank in order for the viewer to imagine themselves as part of the work. Each painting gives the viewer an opportunity to look deeper than the original setting; searching for the symbolism and interpreting each  in their own way.

“Shirley’s art exemplifies her quiet determination to creatively express what she has learned about herself and the world she inhabits during the course of her life and career,” said Valerie Mercer, exhibition curator and department head of the DIA’s Center for African American Art. “Through her skillful drawing combined with her exuberant palette, she lets us know that it’s always a balancing act to assert the complexities of her existence as a Black female artist, a wife, a mother, a mentor, a friend, and a human being. These paintings indicate Shirley handles it all with strength and grace.”

Woodson’s designation as the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist acknowledges her dedication to her career as a fine artist; her influence on the Detroit art scene as an educator of artists, teachers, and collectors; and her advocacy for artists throughout her long-term role as President of the Michigan Chapter of the National Conference of Artists, which she co-founded in 1974. She is the 13th metro Detroit artist to receive this award. She was also named a 2021 Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News and was an inaugural recipient of the City of Detroit ACE Honors Medal in October.

Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, Woodson studied art at Wayne State University where she received her BFA in 1958 and her MA in 1965. She continued her graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960 and in in the early 1960s she traveled to Rome, Paris and Stockholm to independently study. She received a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in the mid-1960s. She spent more than 25 years as an arts educator at various schools including Highland Park, Detroit Public Schools, and Wayne State University. She is a recipient of the Alain Locke Award from the Friends of African and African American Art, a member auxiliary of the DIA. Her art has been included in numerous local and national solo and group exhibitions, and is part of the permanent collection of the DIA.

Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

More information on this exhibition can be found at www.dia.org/woodson.

Museum Hours and Admission 

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays; 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Mondays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County residents and DIA members. For all others, $14 for adults, $9 for seniors ages 62+, $8 for college students, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971. 

November 11, 2021 (DETROIT)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) presents a selection of paintings by renowned artist Shirley Woodson in the exhibition Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections. On display December 18, 2021 through June 12, 2022, this exhibition features 11 paintings from Woodson’s Shield of the Nile series. Through these paintings, she portrays the river Nile as a metaphor for Africa to symbolize the changing, historical, spiritual, and cultural significance of this body of water. This exhibition is free with museum admission, which is always free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. At this time, all museum visitors must make an advance reservation by phone at (313) 833-4005 or online at https://ticketapp.dia.org.

This exhibition takes visitors through Woodson’s use of figuration and abstraction—two contrasting styles of art. The paintings are comprised of vibrant hues depicting humans appearing alongside detailed renderings of shields, horses, fish, shells, stars, chariot wheels, pyramids and birds – all   symbols of the exhibition’s theme. Woodson purposefully leaves faces blank in order for the viewer to imagine themselves as part of the work. Each painting gives the viewer an opportunity to look deeper than the original setting; searching for the symbolism and interpreting each  in their own way.

“Shirley’s art exemplifies her quiet determination to creatively express what she has learned about herself and the world she inhabits during the course of her life and career,” said Valerie Mercer, exhibition curator and department head of the DIA’s Center for African American Art. “Through her skillful drawing combined with her exuberant palette, she lets us know that it’s always a balancing act to assert the complexities of her existence as a Black female artist, a wife, a mother, a mentor, a friend, and a human being. These paintings indicate Shirley handles it all with strength and grace.”

Woodson’s designation as the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist acknowledges her dedication to her career as a fine artist; her influence on the Detroit art scene as an educator of artists, teachers, and collectors; and her advocacy for artists throughout her long-term role as President of the Michigan Chapter of the National Conference of Artists, which she co-founded in 1974. She is the 13th metro Detroit artist to receive this award. She was also named a 2021 Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News and was an inaugural recipient of the City of Detroit ACE Honors Medal in October.

Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, Woodson studied art at Wayne State University where she received her BFA in 1958 and her MA in 1965. She continued her graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960 and in in the early 1960s she traveled to Rome, Paris and Stockholm to independently study. She received a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in the mid-1960s. She spent more than 25 years as an arts educator at various schools including Highland Park, Detroit Public Schools, and Wayne State University. She is a recipient of the Alain Locke Award from the Friends of African and African American Art, a member auxiliary of the DIA. Her art has been included in numerous local and national solo and group exhibitions, and is part of the permanent collection of the DIA.

Shirley Woodson: Shield of the Nile Reflections is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

More information on this exhibition can be found at www.dia.org/woodson.

Museum Hours and Admission 

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays; 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Mondays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County residents and DIA members. For all others, $14 for adults, $9 for seniors ages 62+, $8 for college students, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.