Clarissa Sligh

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Clarissa Sligh
Born Clarissa T. Sligh
(1939-08-30) August 30, 1939 (age 78)
Washington, D.C. U.S.
Residence Asheville, North Carolina
Nationality American
Alma mater Hampton University
Howard University
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Occupation Artist, photographer, book artist, essayist, lecturer

Clarissa T. Sligh (born August 30, 1939) is an African-American book artist and photographer based in Asheville, North Carolina. At age 15, she was the lead plaintiff in a school desegregation case in Virginia. In 1988, she became a co-founder of Coast-to-Coast: A Women of Color National Artists' Project, which focused on promoting works completed by women of color.

Early life and education[edit]

Sligh was born in Washington, D.C.. She grew up in a large working-class family and "went to segregated schools in a predominantly white Virginia county."[1] In 1955, at the age of 15, she was the lead plaintiff in a school desegregation case in Virginia (Thompson v County School Board of Arlington County).[2][3][4]

Sligh attended the traditionally African-American Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1961. In 1972, she received a bachelor's degree in Visual Arts from Howard University in Washington DC, and in 1973, an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1999, she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from Howard University.


Before working as an artist, Sligh had a job at NASA where she worked in the manned space flight program.[5]

Her work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Jewish Museum in New York City, and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her work has also been displayed at the National African American Museum Project, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the forerunner to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Field of work[edit]

Sligh's photographs and artist books center on politics, family life, questions of identity and personal experience.[6]

According to Carla Williams, Sligh's work reflects on our perceptions of normality and our roles in different frameworks such as family, society, gender and ethnic groups. As C. Williams says "In school readers from her childhood, Sligh discovered the model from which to confront the realities of her own life. "[7]

Coast-to-Coast National Women Artists of Color Projects[edit]

In 1988, Sligh co-founded the Coast-to-Coast National Women Artists of Color Project with Faith Ringgold and Margaret Gallegos.[8] From 1988 to 1996, this organization exhibited the works of African American women across the United States.[9]

In 1990, Sligh was one of three organizers of the exhibit "Coast to Coast: A Women of Color National Artists' Book Project" held January 14 – February 2, 1990, at the Flossie Martin Gallery, and later at the Eubie Blake Center and the Artemesia Gallery. Faith Ringgold wrote the catalog introduction titled "History of Coast to Coast." More than 100 Women of Color artists were included. The catalog included brief artist statements and photos of the artists' books, including works by: Emma Amos (painter), Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, Dolores Cruz, Dorothy Holden, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Young-Im Kim, Viola Leak, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Adrian Piper, Joyce Scott, Freida High Tesfagiorgis, Denise Ward-Brown, Bisa Washington, and Deborah Willis.[10]


Advisory boards[edit]

Works and publications[edit]

  • What's Happening With Momma?, Women's Studio Workshop Press, 1988[14]
  • Reading Dick and Jane with Me, Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1989[3]
  • Voyage(r): A Tourist Map to Japan, Nexus Press, 2000
  • Wrongly Bodied Two, Women's Studio Workshop Press, 2004
  • It Wasn't Little Rock, Visual Studies Workshop Press, 2005[3]
  • Wrongly Bodied: Documenting Transition from Female to Male, self-published with the Leeway Foundation, 2009
  • Transforming Hate: An Artist's Book, 2016


  1. ^ Collins, Lisa Gail (2002). The Art of History: African American Women Artists Engage the Past. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 112. ISBN 0813530210. 
  2. ^ Art Talk with Clarissa Sligh, National Endowment for the Arts, March 6, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c A Thousand Reasons Why Archived 2014-08-11 at the Wayback Machine., Verve Magazine, December 2, 2013.
  4. ^ "Thompson v County School Board of Arlington Virginia". Justia US Law. Retrieved 16 March 2018. 
  5. ^ "Clarissa Sligh". Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  6. ^ Neumaier, Diane, ed. (1995). Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 1566393329. 
  7. ^ Williams, Carla (1995). "Reading Deeper: The Legacy of Dick and Jane in the Work of Clarissa Sligh". Image. 38 (3/4): 3. 
  8. ^ "Donor Spotlight: Clarissa Sligh". March 26, 2009. Retrieved March 25, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Works by Women to go on Display in Wooster", Toledo Blade, August 21, 1991.
  10. ^ Coast to coast: a Women of Color National Artists' Book Project. Flossie Martin Gallery. 1990. Retrieved November 24, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b "Clarissa Sligh – Women's Studio Workshop". Women's Studio Workshop. Retrieved November 24, 2016. 
  12. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Annual Report" (PDF). 1988: 189. Retrieved November 24, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Artists' Books | Leeway Foundation". Leeway Foundation: 17. 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2016. 
  14. ^ "ART REVIEW; Pictures in Children's Books, From Cherubs to Divided Faces", New York Times, August 18, 1995

External links[edit]