|Born||1979 (age 39–40)|
Rochester, New York
|Alma mater||Rhode Island School of Design, |
Pennsylvania State University
Deana Lawson (1979) is an American artist, educator and photographer whose work revolves primarily around issues of intimacy, family, spirituality, sexuality, and Black aesthetics. Lawson has been praised for her ability to communicate the nuances of African American experiences in relation to issues of social, political, and economic factors. Her photographs have been exhibited in a number of museums and galleries including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. She is based out of Brooklyn, New York.
Lawson was born in 1979 in Rochester, New York. She received her B.F.A, in 2001 in Photography from Pennsylvania State University, and her M.F.A. in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. During her sophomore year at Penn State, Lawson has said, "I reached an early crossroads—either I was going to continue with a business degree or I was going to jump off that moving train and become an artist. I jumped and never looked back."
Lawson has been an Assistant Professor of Photography at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey since 2012. She has also taught at California Institute of the Arts, International Center for Photography, California College of the Arts, and Rhode Island School of Design.
Lawson credits her interest in taking photographs to African American photographers like Carrie Mae Weems and Renee Cox. During her undergraduate years, Lawson was shocked at the lack of scholarship surrounding photographers of color. This led her to learn more about black artists, like Lorna Simpson, whose work inspired her to pursue photography as a medium: “Just to have that model--to realize that not only did I like to make pictures but that I could actually do this, you know, was absolutely important to reaffirm myself as an artist”.
Lawson’s highly formalist photographs are distinguishable by their meticulous staging, intimate composition, and attention to black cultural symbols. Her photos are highly staged, with an emphasis on "the strangely potent components of black interiors." While referring to her subjects as “family,” her models are more often than not strangers she meets randomly in public spaces. In an artist statement, Lawson writes: “My work negotiates a knowledge of selfhood through a profoundly corporeal dimension; the photographs speaking to the ways that sexuality, violence, family, and social status may be written, sometimes literally, upon the body.”
In 2011, The New Yorker’s Jessie Wender described Lawson's portraits as "intimate and unexpected." In Wender's interview with Lawson, the photographer discussed her inspirations, including “vintage nudes, Sun Ra, Nostrand Ave., sexy mothers, juke joints, cousins, leather bound family albums, gnarled wigs, Dana Lawson [her mother], the color purple, The Grizzly Man, M.J., oval portraits, Arthur Jafa, thrift shops, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, acrylic nails, weaves on pavement, Aaron Gilbert [her former husband], the A train, Tell My Horse, typewriters, Notorious B.I.G., fried fish, and lace curtains”. Formally, Lawson said, "Formally the images are unified by a clear directorial voice. The subject’s pose, lighting, and environment are all carefully considered."
Lawson has stated that her most challenging or successful work is The Garden, which references the Eden scene in Hieronymous Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. In 2014 Lawson traveled to Congo to look for references for her vision of Eden, and this journey led her to the small village called Gemena, which became the setting for The Garden.
While many of Lawson's photographs are taken in New York, she has also photographed subjects in Louisiana, Haiti, Jamaica, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has expressed the hope that through travel, her work can reflect the ways in which black culture is not confined by physical boundaries.
In 2016, Lawson's photograph, Binky & Tony Forever, was used as the cover art for Freetown Sound, the third album by Dev Hynes for Blood Orange. The photograph is set in Lawson's bedroom and depicts young love, with an emphasis on the female figure - "the female gaze, and her space, and her love," in Lawson's words.
- Aaron Siskind Foundation's Individual Photographer's Fellowship grant, 2008–2009.
- Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for her work in photography, 2013.
- 2013 Fitzroy Gallery, New York, Secession Secession
- 2014 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Deana Lawson: Mother Tongue
- 2014 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Rhona Hoffman Gallery at EXPO CHICAGO
- 2015 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, evoking spirit: contemporary art in dialogue with keeping secrets
- 2016 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Group Exhibition: 40 Years Part 2: Gender. Race. Identity.
- 2016 The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, Black Cowboy
- 2017 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, United States, The 2017 Whitney Biennial
- 2017 Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Deana Lawson
- 2018 Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, New Work
- "New Photography 2011, Deana Lawson". MoMA. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Deana Lawson (American, 1979)". mutualart.com. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Deana Lawson". John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Profile". Princeton University. Archived from the original on 2017-05-04. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Deana Lawson - Interview Magazine". Interview Magazine. 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
- "In Conversation with Deana Lawson". whitehot magazine of contemporary art. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Deana Lawson". Princeton, Lewis Center for the Arts. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- Félix, Doreen St (2018-03-12). "Deana Lawson's Hyper-Staged Portraits of Black Love". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Deana Lawson – CPW". www.cpw.org. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Deana Lawson's Intimate Strangers". The New Yorker. 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "Deana Lawson: Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series". The Art Institute of Chicago. 2015. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- Laurent, Olivier (2015-11-11). "Telling Charleston's Story in Photographs". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "The True Story Behind The Cover Of Blood Orange's Freetown Sound". The FADER. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
- "The Cutting-Edge Sincerity of the Whitney Biennial". The New Republic. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- Livingstone, Josephine (2017-03-16). "The Cutting Edge Sincerity of the Whitney Biennial". New Republic. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
- "IPF Grant Recipients". Aaron Siskind Foundation. 2017.
- "Secession Secession | Fitzroy Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Deana Lawson: Mother Tongue | Rhona Hoffman Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Rhona Hoffman Gallery at EXPO CHICAGO | Rhona Hoffman Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "evoking spirit: contemporary art in dialogue with keeping secrets | Rhona Hoffman Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Group Exhibition: 40 Years Part 2: Gender. Race. Identity. | Rhona Hoffman Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Black Cowboy | The Studio Museum in Harlem | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "List of Artists Announced for 2017 Whitney Biennial | artnet News". artnet News. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Deana Lawson | Rhona Hoffman Gallery | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "New Work | Sikkema Jenkins & Co. | Artsy". www.artsy.net. Retrieved 2018-03-25.