Commentators

The West Harlem Art Fund has reached out to a number of artists asking them to comment on the works of Patrick Singh and their feelings about the African Burial Ground. Below are the bios of our commentators and curator:

Curator

Savona Bailey-McClain (Born 1961) currently lives and works in New York City. She is an independent curator, producer and preservation advocate. The range of McClain’s practice has included sculpture, drawings, performance, sound, and mixed media. McClain is the Executive Director and Chief Curator for The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. a fourteen year old public art organization serving neighborhoods around the City. Her public art installations have been seen in the New York Times, Art Daily, Artnet Magazine, Los Angeles Times, DNAinfo, among others. McClain strives for a soulful, meaningful connection with the public and the “arts”. It simply has to be approachable as far as she is concerned. McClain has installed at Times Square, DUMBO, Soho, NoLita, Williamsburg, Governors Island, Queens and Greater Harlem (East, Central and West). McClain has a liberal arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dianne Smith (born 1965) is an abstract painter, sculptor, and installation artist. Her work has beenexhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York City’s Soho and Chelsea artdistricts as well as, numerous galleries and institutions throughout the UnitedStates. She is an educator in the field of Aesthetic Education at LincolnCenter Institute, which is a part of New York City’s Lincoln Center For thePerforming Arts. Since the invitation to join the Institute over five years agoshe has taught k-12 in public schools throughout the Tri-State area. Her workas a teaching artist also extends to under graduate and graduate courses invarious colleges and universities such as: Lehman College, Columbia UniversityTeachers College, City College, and St. John’s University to name a few.Recently she was invited to join the team at The Center For arts Education inNew York City. In 2007, Diannewas one of the artists featured in the Boondoggle Film Documentary ColoredFrames. The film took a look back at fifty years in African-American Art, andalso featured other artists such as Benny Andrews, Ed Clark and Danny Simmons.That same year the historical Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is New York’soldest African American church commissioned Smith to create the artworkcommemorating their 2008 Bicentennial. In addition, she co-produced an onlineradio show the New Palette, for ArtonAir.org (Art International Radio)dedicated to visual artists of color. In1995, she presented Poet Dr. MayaAngelou and Broadway Choreographer George Faison each with one of herpaintings: Spirit of My Ancestors I and II. Her work is also in the privatecollections of Danny Simmons, Vivica A. Fox, Rev. and Mrs. Calvin O. Butts,III, Cicely Tyson, Arthur Mitchell and Terry McMillian. Dianne is a Bronx native of Belizeandescent. She attended LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, the Otis ParsonsSchool of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Smith is currentlypursuing her MFA at Transart Institute in Berlin. She currently lives and worksin Harlem.

Birta Guðjónsdóttir (Born 1977) is an artist and curator. She obtained her MFA degree of Fine Arts from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and a BFA-degree from The Icelandic Academy of the Arts. In 2009-´11 she was a director of The Living Art Museum in Reykjavik. In 2008-´09 she was an artistic director and chief curator at exhibition space 101 Projects, Reykjavik. In 2005-´08 she had the position of chief curator of SAFN Art Collection, Reykjavik. In 2008 she worked as curator´s assistant at MuHKA; Museum of Conteporary Art in Antwerp. In 2007-08 she took part in the Nordic Baltic Curatorial Platform project, initiated by FRAME; Finnish Fund for Art Exchange. In 2011 she participated in the Curatorial Intensive at ICI-New York and The Cornwall Workshop organised by Tate St. Ives Museum in S-England. She has curated shows in Melbourne, New York, St Petersburg, Copenhagen and most major art museums in Reykjavik, and been an editor of four exhibition catalogues. She has been on advisory boards of the Icelandic Art Center, The Icelandic Academy of the Arts and for various commissions and art prizes. She has produced her home-gallery Dwarf Gallery since 2002, is a founding boardmember of Sequences Art Festival, a member of IKT, International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art and a member of curator’s collective WAG. As an artist, she has participated in over 30 solo- and group exhibitions.
artist and curator

Chris Johnson (American, born 1948) is a photographic and video artist, writer, curator and arts administrator. Johnson studied photography with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Wynn Bullock; and his artwork has been exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California and at the Mills College Museum. In 1994 he co-produced a large performance work in Oakland titled “The Roof is on Fire” bringing together inner-city high school students and adults. In 1996 he produced an innovative one-hour video piece titled “Question Bridge” that investigates class divisions within the black community. In 1999 Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown appointed Johnson to be Chair of the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission to advise on all matters affecting cultural development in Oakland. Johnson is currently a tenured Full Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts.

Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976) is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. Thomas’s process often involves editing existing photographs and presenting them in a new format. His work often examines the commoditization of Black identity in advertising and popular culture and urges the viewer to think critically about representations in media and beyond. Willis Thomas received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. His work is in numerous public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. His collaborative projects have been installed publicly in California, and featured at the Sundance Film Festival. Thomas is currently a fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University; and he is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.

Bayeté Ross Smith (born 1976) is an artist, photographer, and arts educator living in New York City. He began his career as a photojournalist for the Knight Ridder Newspaper Corporation, and has exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California, MoMA P.S.1, New Museum and with the San Francisco Arts Commission. His collaborative film with the Cause Collective (a team of artists, including Willis Thomas) screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. He has also been involved in public arts projects with organizations like The International Center of Photography, Alternate Roots, The Laundromat Project, and the Jerome Foundation. Images from his photography series “Our Kind of People” (which explore the intersection of ethnicity, gender, fashion and identity) are featured on the cover of Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson’s most recent book, DisIntegration: The Splintering of Black America. Most recently Ross Smith has been featured on season two of Bravo television series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.

Kamal Sinclair (American, born 1976) is a professional artist, teaching artist, and producer of live and transmedia art. Kamal obtained her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and graduated with honors from Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business MBA program. Her professional career began as a cast member of STOMP where she performed in the national and international tours, as well as on the Emmy Awards, MTV’s Beach House, Good Morning America, The Today Show, BET, and PBS’s Reading Rainbow. Sinclair was the founding artistic director of Universal Arts and creative director for many festivals and awards shows. She taught business courses to artists through the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) and Fractured U: Continuing Education for the DIY Artist. Sinclair is also a periodic contributor to the acclaimed theatre publication, Black Masks.

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