Acquisition: Dindga McCannon

National Gallery of Art, February 15, 2023
Multimedia artist Dindga McCannon centers Black women in what she has termed “imaginative portraiture,” vibrantly colored works often based on photographs of real people and historical figures, such as Hattie McDaniel, Bessie Smith, and other women who “refuse to take no for an answer, who push the limits of what’s possible.”

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Woman #1 (1975–1977), a work that is emblematic of McCannon’s creativity and concern for Black female lives and experiences.

Woman #1 features a seated Black female nude depicted from the neck down. Composed from blocks of color, the semiabstract painting features a patchwork of colorful shapes that fill the walls and floor. A combination of browns and yellows, alluding to the range of shades of Black skin, form the figure of the woman whose rounded abdomen distends to the center of the frame. The curvilinear figure is countered by the sharp lines of a barred window seen in the background that hints at the challenges McCannon and other Black female artists faced as they pursued their careers while raising children. To support one another with community, childcare, and exhibition opportunities, McCannon, with artists Faith Ringgold and Kay Brown, cofounded Where We At (Black Women Artists, Inc.) in 1971. The collective organized what is considered the first show of professional Black woman artists at Acts of Art Gallery in New York.

In art and life, McCannon has supported the struggles and celebrated the achievements of Black women. A key figure of the Black Arts Movements of the 1970s, she has produced a body of work over the past 55 years that comprises paintings, prints, drawings, books, and textiles. Woman #1 boldly and beautifully represents her early experiments with color and composition that would inform later developments in her career. This is the first artwork by McCannon to enter the National Gallery’s collection.