Marilyn Nance

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Marilyn Nance
Born (1953-11-12) November 12, 1953 (age 65)
Known for

Marilyn Nance (aka Soulsista)[1] (b. 1953) is an African-American artist whose interest is in technology, exploring human connections, and spirituality.[2][3] Her photographs have been published in Life, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Essence, and New York Newsday.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Nance was born in New York on 12 November 1953, and grew up in Brooklyn.[3][2] Her mother was a factory worker and her father was an elevator operator.[1] Nance attended New York University (1971-1972), studying journalism, before gaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in communications and graphic design from Pratt Institute (1972-1976) and a Masters of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art, (1996) as well as graduating from ITP, New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program (1998).[3]


Nance began taking photographs as a child but declared herself a photographer after having worked in the photo studio of Pratt Institute's Office of Public Relations under the direction of Alan Newman. After the studio closed in 1974, she began freelancing for The Village Voice.

In 1977, she served as the official photographer for the North American Zone of FESTAC 77 Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, a Panafrican international festival held in Lagos, Nigeria.[4] Over the course of the month-long event she amassed 1500 images, representing the most complete photographic archives of this major event.[5]

A two-time finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Award in Humanistic Photography (1991 and 1993) for her body of work on African American spirituality, she was awarded three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, for photography (1989, 2000) and non-fiction literature (1993) and served as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in New York City from 1993-1994,[2] Nance's work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Preservation of the Black Religious Heritage Project.[2] Nance gave a lecture on her work to the Library of Congress in 2004.[6]

In 1995, Nance became a digital pioneer, developing her website, and in 1996 serving as one of the first internet DJ's. In 1997, she developed a digital project prototyping Ifa divination, and in 1999 she curated a digital project for the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, putting online more than 500 images of nineteenth-century African Americans.[3] Nance went on to become a Technology Specialist in the New York City public school system, helping teachers and their students use technology as a tool for lifelong learning.

In 2017, Nance attended ITP Camp [7] a 4-week crash course/playground where makers, artists, musicians, creatives of all sorts come to make stuff, hear speakers on the cutting edge, and collaborate with people from diverse disciplines. She is a two-time finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Award in Humanistic Photography.

Selected works[edit]

  • John Henry Memorial Blues and Gospel Jubilee, Clifftop, West Virginia 1973[8]
  • Great Aunts, Grandma Anna’s Funeral, Birmingham, Alabama 1979[8]
  • The White Eagles/Black Indians of New Orleans 1980[8]
  • "Oyotunji Village/Yemoja Priests"1981[8]
  • Community Baptism, Baba Ishangi Leads Exercise 1986[8]
  • Holding Hands in Church, Brooklyn, New York 1986[8]
  • Baptism 1986[8]
  • Haja Kali 1987[8]
  • Deaconness Rosa Williams Praying at the Women’s Day Service (or) Women’s Day Service/Deaconness Rosa Williams, Progressive Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York (or) Women’s Day Service, Brooklyn, New York 1989[8]
  • Progressive Baptist Church, J. Patterson Singers, Shouting 1989[8]

Exhibitions and publications[edit]

  • Permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art, the Library of Congress, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Preservation of the Black Religious Heritage[9]
  • Online Smithsonian Exhibition: African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond April 27 – Sept. 3, 2012[10]
  • Works published in: A World History of Photography, The Black Photographers Annual, Life, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Essence, Aperture, NY Newsday, and A History of Women Photographers.[9]
  • Museum of Modern Art: Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort 1991[11]


  1. ^ a b O'Neill, Claire (31 August 2012). "Meet Marilyn Nance: Photographer/Psychic?". Daily Picture Show. NPR. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Otfinoski, Steven (2011). African Americans in the visual arts (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Facts on File. ISBN 0816078408.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brannan, Beverly. "Marilyn Nance (born 1953) Biographical Essay". Prints and Photographs Reading Room. Library of Congress. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  4. ^ Zhao, Doris; Azim, Zalika. "Collection Visit: Marilyn Nance". The Studio Museum in Harlem. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  5. ^ Robles, Fanny (31 January 2017). "Interview with Marilyn Nance, January 2017". Africultures (in French). Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  6. ^ "The photographs of Marilyn Nance". Library of Congress. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Welcome to the Un-University". Interactive Telecommunications Program. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Artworks Search Results / American Art". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  9. ^ a b Rowe, Monica Dyer (1998). "Marilyn Nance". American Visions. 4 – via EBSCO.
  10. ^ "Marilyn Nance | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  11. ^ Abrams, Harry (1991). "Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved March 11, 2017.

External links[edit]