Lincolnville, b.1980

Stephen Towns

Stephen Towns is a painter and a fiber artist working primarily in oil, acrylic, and quilting and exploring how American history influences contemporary society. His work is deeply rooted in the constructs of race and its effects on society and is developed in direct response to issues that have affected African-American culture and community – issues such as loss of ancestral roots, slavery, class, education, skin tone, and religion. Towns' paintings look at the African Diaspora and draw visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, impressionist paintings, and wax cloth prints while his on-going quilt series celebrates the aesthetic traditions of African American women and explores America’s history of slavery and labor.

In his 2019 show at De Buck Gallery, 'The Night Light Fell from the Sky,’ Towns finds a reference point...

learn more about this artist

Biography

Stephen Towns is a painter and a fiber artist working primarily in oil, acrylic, and quilting and exploring how American history influences contemporary society. His work is deeply rooted in the constructs of race and its effects on society and is developed in direct response to issues that have affected African-American culture and community – issues such as loss of ancestral roots, slavery, class, education, skin tone, and religion. Towns' paintings look at the African Diaspora and draw visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, impressionist paintings, and wax cloth prints while his on-going quilt series celebrates the aesthetic traditions of African American women and explores America’s history of slavery and labor.

In his 2019 show at De Buck Gallery, 'The Night Light Fell from the Sky,’ Towns finds a reference point in the 1833 Leonid meteor shower and uses this celestial event to explore the collective experience of freedom and revelation by enslaved people at the time. The exhibition is comprised of two series of works, “An Affirmation” and “A Declaration”. “An Affirmation” is a series of mixed-media works incorporating paint, metal leaf and fabric. Each work features a figure wading in water encompassed by the meteor shower. References for figures were borrowed from archival images of American Civil War contraband camps. Each image and title in the Affirmation series draws upon the ability of the individual to develop a powerful sense of self-awareness to declare their freedom. The works in “A Declaration” are a series of quilts revolving around collective thinking. Each quilt features a series of figures observing the meteor shower. The titles and images in each work allude to collective thinking and obstacles a group of people may endure in reaching a goal.

Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina, and received a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting from the University of South Carolina. His work has been exhibited nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, York College, Goucher College, as well as group exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery: The School, August Wilson Cultural Center, Arlington Art Center, Montpelier Arts Center, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, American Craft Council Magazine, and The Baltimore Sun. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize and received a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Rubys Artist Grant in 2015. In 2018, Towns was a semi-finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize and awarded an MD State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award. Towns’ work is in private collections nationally and abroad, including the private collection of Art + Practice, artist Mark Bradford’s nonprofit based in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Nelson Atkins Museum, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, and the Petrucci Family Foundation.

Artworks

11

I will forever be free, 2019

Related Categories

21st Century Art / American Art / Archival Materials / Art of the 2010s / Collective Memories / Contemporary American Art / Diaspora/Migration / Freedom / History/Historical Approach / Inspired by African Culture / Inspired by Old Masters / Mixed Media Art / Mixed Media Painting / National History / Painting / Quilts / Race Issues / Searching for Identity / Social Conflict / Social Issues / Tapestry / Textile Art / Tracking Memories / United States

Curriculum Vitae

Education

  • 2004

    BFA Studio Art, McMaster College, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Rumination and a Reckoning, Art + Practice, Los Angeles, CA

  • The Night Light Fell from the Sky, De Buck Gallery, New York, NY

  • A Path Between Two Continents, York College, Yorkd PA

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    [Un]Common Collections, David C. Driskell Center, College Park, MD

  • Stephen Towns+Ramsess, Art and Practice, Los Angeles, CA

  • Conjuring Wholeness in the Wake of Rupture, De Buck Gallery, New York, NY

view full CV

Curriculum Vitae

The artist CV shows the details after 2000s.
To access the artist’s full CV, please click the download button at the end.

Education

  • 2004

    BFA Studio Art, McMaster College, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019

    Rumination and a Reckoning, Art + Practice, Los Angeles, CA

  • The Night Light Fell from the Sky, De Buck Gallery, New York, NY

  • A Path Between Two Continents, York College, Yorkd PA

  • 2018

    Rumination and a Reckoning, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • 2017

    A Migration, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD

  • 2016

    Take Me Away to the Stars, Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, MD

  • 2015

    Stephen Towns, Jubilee Arts, Baltimore, MD

  • 2014

    co|patriot, Hood College, Frederick, MD

  • co|patriot, Gallery CA, Baltimore, MD

  • 2005

    Into My Looking Glass, City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, SC

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    [Un]Common Collections, David C. Driskell Center, College Park, MD

  • Stephen Towns+Ramsess, Art and Practice, Los Angeles, CA

  • Conjuring Wholeness in the Wake of Rupture, De Buck Gallery, New York, NY

  • Every Day: Selections from the Collection, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • 2018

    Parking on Pavement, The School | Jack Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook, NY

  • Familiar Boundaries, August Wilson Center, Pittsburg, PA

  • Myths, Archetypes, and Folklore, The Art Barn, Gaithersburg, MD

  • 2017

    Censored, The Motor House, Baltimore, MD (Curated by Leslie King-Hammond)

  • Two Lane Stories, Gallery CA, Baltimore, MD

  • INTERDISCIPLINARIUM, AAC: Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA

  • 2016

    To Be Black in White America, Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, MD

  • All American House, Carroll Mansion, Baltimore, MD

  • Consumption, Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, MD

  • Untitled, Busboys and Poets, Washington, DC

  • Narrative in Black Identity, Montpelier Arts Center, Laurel, MD

  • 2015

    People & Places: A Primer, Eubie Blake Cultural Center, Baltimore, Maryland

  • Untitled, Dovecote Café, Baltimore, MD

  • Bmore Seoul to Soul, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • Select 2015, Washington Project for the Arts, Arlington, VA

  • 2014

    For Whom It Stands, TOO, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum, Baltimore, MD

  • Tradition and Interpretation: Selected works by Jeffrey Kent & Stephen Towns, Platform Gallery, Baltimore, MD

  • Baltimore 1, Gallery CA, Baltimore, MD

  • 10 + 1, Gallery 788, Baltimore, MD

  • 2013

    Collaboration, Station North Arts Cafe, Baltimore, MD

  • Salvage: A Waste of Materials, A Wealth of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • 2012

    MICA Juried Staff Exhibition, Maryland Institute College of Art (Juried by James Rieck)

  • Mask-Ulinity, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD (Juried)

  • 2011

    Femme Fatale, CCBC Catonsville, MD

Commissions

  • 2015

    Art at Work, Baltimore Office of the Promotion and the Arts, Baltimore, Maryland

  • Main Street Improvement Project, Belair-Edison, Neighborhoods, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland

  • Bea Gaddy Family Center, Baltimore, Maryland

  • 2010

    Fort Meade Youth Program, Fort Meade, Maryland

  • 2009

    Fort Meade Middle School Program, Fort Meade, Maryland

  • 2008

    Pepperhill Elementary School, Charleston, South Carolina

  • 2006

    Fort Story Boys and Girls Club, Virginia Beach, Virginia

  • 2005

    Pepperhill Elementary School, Charleston, South Carolina

  • 2000

    Carteret Street United Methodist Church, Beaufort, South Carolina

Grants/Awards

  • 2019

    National Parks Arts Foundation Artist Residency at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA

  • Sondheim Prize Semi-finalist, Baltimore Office for the Promotion and Arts, Baltimore MD

  • 2018

    Sondheim Prize Semi-finalist, Baltimore Office for the Promotion and Arts, Baltimore MD

  • Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award in craft

  • 2015

    1st Annual Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Artist Travel Prize, The Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City & the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts

  • Rubys Artist Grant, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance

  • 2013

    Second Prize. Salvage: A Waste of Materials, A Wealth of Art

Collections

  • Art & Practice, Los Angeles, CA

  • Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

  • City of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC

  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

  • Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art, Asbury, NJ

Lectures/Talks

  • 2019

    Guest Lecturer, York College, York, PA

  • Guest Lecturer, PCAD, Lancaster, PA

  • 2018

    VOICES Series: Baltimore Portrait Artists Amy Sherald and Stephen Towns in Conversation, Baltimore, MD

  • Mark Bradford in Conversation with Stephen Towns, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • 2017

    Artist Talk, August Wilson Center, Pittsburg, PA

  • Guest Lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • Guest Lecturer, Towson University, Towson, MD

  • 2016

    Faculty, Maryland Institute of Art, Course: Art and Activism, Baltimore, MD

  • Penn Ave Film Project, Jubilee Arts Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

  • 2014

    Guest Lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • Presentation, Jubilee Arts, Baltimore, MD

  • 2013

    Guest Lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

  • 2011

    Presentation, Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, MD

Bibliography

  • Digital Publications

  • Valentine, Victoria, Works by 21 Artists are Featured in ‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,’ a New Documentary About the Acclaimed Author, Culture Type, June 21, 2019

  • Estiler, Keith, De Buck Gallery Highlights Black Imagination & Self Identity in Group Show, HypeBeast, May 1, 2019

  • Staff, Shows to See: August / September 2018, American Craft Council Magazine, August/September 2018

  • Lauren LaRocca, Cameo: Stephen Towns, Baltimore Magazine, July 2018

  • Mary Carole McCauley, Artists explore American identity in Sondheim Artscape Prize, Baltimore Sun, June 21 2018

  • Marissa Fesseden, Artist’s Quilts Pay Tribute to African - American Women, Smithsonian Magazine, May 14, 2018

  • Cara Ober, Artists and Curators Weigh In on Baltimore Museum’s Move to Deaccession Works by White Men to Diversify Its Collection, Hyperallergic, May 8, 2018

  • Maura Callahan, Recharting America’s Origin Story Through Quilts, Hyperallergic, April 27, 2018

  • Mary Carole McCauley, Two of Baltimore's hottest artists — Amy Sherald and Stephen Towns — to host public talk about their work, Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2018