Marilyn Nance

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Marilyn Nance
Born (1953-11-12) November 12, 1953 (age 67)
Other namesSoulsista
Known for

Marilyn Nance (born November 12, 1953), also known as Soulsista,[1] is an African-American multi-media artist with a focus on exploring human connections, spirituality, and the use of technology in storytelling.[2][3] Her photographs have been published in Life, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Essence, and New York Newsday.[3]

She is 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).

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]

Early life and education[edit]

Nance was born in New York City on November 12, 1953, and grew up in Brooklyn.[3][2] Her mother was a factory worker and her father was an elevator operator in a local post office.[4][1] Nance attended New York University (1971-1972), studying journalism, before earning 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] She was the first in her family to go to Art School.


Nance began photographing 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. Her body of work focused on African American Spiritual Culture. She made images of groups such as the Black Indians of New Orleans, Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon South Carolina, churches in Brooklyn and also the first Black church in America.[5]

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.[6] The festival took place from January 15th to February 12, 1977 and was centered around the theme, "Revival, resurgence, propagation, and protection of black and African cultural values and civilization."[7] Over the course of the month-long event she amassed 1500 images, representing the most complete photographic archives of this major event.[8]

Nance served as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in New York City from 1993 to 1994.[2] She gave a lecture on her work to the Library of Congress in 2004.[9]

In 1995, Nance became a digital pioneer, developing her website, and in 1996 serving as one of the first internet DJs. 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, 2018, and 2019 Nance attended ITP Camp, a 4-week crash course/playground where makers, artists, musicians, creatives of all sorts come to make work, hear speakers on the cutting edge, and collaborate with people from diverse disciplines.[10]

Her work has been published in The Black Photographers Annual, Life, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Essence, Aperture, and New York Newsday.[11]

Selected works[edit]

  • John Henry Memorial Blues and Gospel Jubilee, Clifftop, West Virginia 1973[12]
  • Great Aunts, Grandma Anna’s Funeral, Birmingham, Alabama 1979[12]
  • The White Eagles/Black Indians of New Orleans 1980[12]
  • "Oyotunji Village/Yemoja Priests"1981[12]
  • Community Baptism, Baba Ishangi Leads Exercise 1986[12]
  • Holding Hands in Church, Brooklyn, New York 1986[12]
  • Baptism 1986[12]
  • Haja Kali 1987[12]
  • 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[12]
  • Progressive Baptist Church, J. Patterson Singers, Shouting 1989[12]


  • A World History of Photography
  • A History of Women Photographers


  • Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1991[13]
  • Online Smithsonian Exhibition: African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, April–September 2012[14]



Nance's work is held in the following permanent collections:


  1. ^ a b O'Neill, Claire (August 31, 2012). "Meet Marilyn Nance: Photographer/Psychic?". Daily Picture Show. NPR. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Otfinoski, Steven (2011). African Americans in the visual arts (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Facts on File. ISBN 978-0816078400. otfinoski african americans visual arts.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brannan, Beverly. "Marilyn Nance (born 1953) Biographical Essay". Prints and Photographs Reading Room. Library of Congress. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Nance, Marilyn. "Meet Marilyn Nance: Photographer/Psychic?". Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  5. ^ "Collection Visit: Marilyn Nance". The Studio Museum in Harlem. August 30, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  6. ^ Zhao, Doris; Azim, Zalika. "Collection Visit: Marilyn Nance". The Studio Museum in Harlem. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  7. ^ Soul of a nation : art in the age of Black power. Godfrey, Mark (Mark Benjamin),, Whitley, Zoé,, Cahan, Susan,, Driskell, David C.,, Gaither, Edmund B.,, Goode-Bryant, Linda. London. 2017. ISBN 9781942884170. OCLC 972385518.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ Robles, Fanny (January 31, 2017). "Interview with Marilyn Nance, January 2017". Africultures (in French). Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  9. ^ "The photographs of Marilyn Nance". Library of Congress. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "Welcome to the Un-University". Interactive Telecommunications Program. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Rowe, Monica Dyer (1998). "Marilyn Nance". American Visions. 4 – via EBSCO.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Artworks Search Results / American Art". Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  13. ^ Abrams, Harry (1991). "Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort" (PDF). Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "Marilyn Nance | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "Women Photojournalists: Marilyn Nance - Resources (Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress)". Retrieved April 12, 2019.

External links[edit]

Marilyn Nance official website