During the week of March 22, 2016, Njideka Akunyili Crosby came to the Whitney for a week-long residency. She led an artist talk for Public Programs as well as a series of hands-on art making workshops with teens from our partnership school, Lower Manhattan Arts Academy (LOMA), our community partner, The Door, and the Whitney’s Youth Insights Leaders program. Akunyili Crosby’s work, Before Now After (Mommy, Mummy Mamma) 2015, is on view on the facade of 95 Horatio Street, across from the Whitney’s building and the southern entrance to the High Line.
Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983; Enugu, Nigeria) is a Los-Angeles based artist who makes large-scale, representational work that combines collage, drawing, painting, and printmaking. Her work fuses both Nigerian and American influences and source material, reflecting on contemporary African life (often her family) along with her experience as an expatriate living in the U.S, and the inherent difficulty of navigating these two realms.
In each of her workshops, Akunyili Corsby first introduced her work to the teens and then discussed some of the artists that she has been influenced by, as well as the ways in which she appropriates images. She instructed the teens to find artworks online and use them as a guide for inspiration and for the composition of their own works.
Heather Maxson, Director of School, Youth, and Family Programs said: “It was amazing to work with Njideka. She shared information about artists who had influenced her work, such as Wangechi Mutu and Alex Katz. She encouraged the teens to think about artists or references from popular culture that were important to them, and then led them in this remarkable multi-layered collage project.”
Akunyili Crosby also taught the teens an image transfer technique, then they created their collages using a variety of images, drawing, acrylic paint, transparency film, and other materials. The artist commented about the workshops: “I am always amazed at the range of what kids produce. I also like to give them room to explore all their ideas. I like to push them in open questioning sessions, and not give them too many rules. For me, I went to an art school where everything was very strict, you had to do things in certain ways and I think removing that obstacle can be really good for them.”
Sasha Wortzel, Coordinator of Teen Programs summed up the experience: “I really appreciated the care and attention that Njideka gave each student throughout the process. At the end of the workshop when they shared their collages, she offered such thoughtful and in-depth feedback to every teen, which was incredibly valuable.”
Check out more images of the workshops:
Dina Helal, Manager of Education Resources