Renee Stout

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Renee L. Stout
Born1958 (1958)
EducationCarnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Known forAssemblage art

Renee Stout (born 1958) is an American sculptor and contemporary artist known for assemblage artworks dealing with her personal history and African-American heritage.[1] Born in Kansas, raised in Pittsburgh, living in Washington, D.C., and strongly connected through her art to New Orleans, Stout has strong ties to multiple parts of the United States. Her art reflects this, with thematic interest in African diasporic culture throughout the United States. Stout was the first American artist to exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.[2]

Early life[edit]

Stout was born in Junction City, Kansas[3] to a family that enjoyed creative activities. Her mother did needlework. Her father, a mechanic and steelworker, liked to tinker. An uncle was a fine-art painter.[4]

When Stout was one year old, her family returned to the East Liberty neighborhood in Pittsburgh.[5] She took weekend classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art as a child, which she credits for exposing her to African art. In particular, two objects at the Carnegie Museum profoundly influenced her: shrunken heads from South America and nkisi.[6] Writing of her pivotal encounter with an nkisi nkondi, "I saw a piece there that had all these nails in it ... And I think once I got exposed to more African art in my travels as I got older, I found that I started going back to the pieces like that."[5]


Stout attended Carnegie-Mellon University, where she trained as a photo-realist painter.[6] She graduated with a BFA in 1980,[5] where she followed the realist style of Edward Hopper and Richard Estes.[4][7]

After moving to Washington, D.C. in 1985, Stout was exposed to the gritty reality of urban drug use and racism–themes which she has incorporated into her work.[8][9] Stout also explores her African-American heritage in her art. Through the African diaspora, as well as the world and her immediate environment, Stout finds the inspiration to create works that encourage self-examination, self-empowerment and self-healing, harnessing the belief systems of African peoples and their descendants.[8]

Additionally, Stout uses imaginary characters to create a variety of artwork, some of which include: painting, mixed media sculpture, photography and installation.[9] Stout is the recipient of awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and has shown her work in solo and group shows throughout the United States, and in England, Russia and the Netherlands.[8]

In 1993, Stout was the first African American to have a one-person exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art.[6] Her exhibition was titled The Eyes of Understanding: Kongo Minkisi and The Art of Renee Stout.

Renee Stout was a 2000 Artist-in-Residence at the Tryon Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC.[10]

Artistic style[edit]

"As a visual artist, I choose to explore these ideas and concerns through the variety of media that's available to me. Originally trained as a painter, I came to realize that my creative vision was so expansive it would be confining for me to limit myself to creating in one medium for my entire career. When an idea hits me, I immediately decide which materials will best allow me to make that idea tangible. As a result, my bodies of work have included paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and photography. I see each one of my pieces as a fragment or installment in an ongoing narrative that's my contribution to telling the story of who we are as a society at this point in time." --Renee Stout, Artist Statement[11]

Combining vestigial African American customs and street culture with the theatrical and carnivalesque, Stout's oeuvre consists of handmade assemblages, installations and tableaus, vibrant paintings, prints, and photographs – all of which are employed in the creation of complex narratives featuring characters conceived by the artist. Her artistic influences include Yoruba sculpture, and the nkisi (sacred objects) of the Central African Congo Basin, which she first saw at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh in her youth.[7]

Other major subjects in her work often include Haitian Vodou, the space and culture of New Orleans and the creole Voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau.[12] In an interview conducted by Dr.O in her book Tales of the Conjure Woman, Renee Stout asserts that in order to open the conversations, regarding the ancestry of African American culture, she will continue inspiring her works on themes such as African-derived spiritual belief systems and Hodoo. She also admits to having to "occupy a weird space within the art world--a place that has more possibilities, both in energy and spirit"[1] Tales of the Conjure Woman presents an artistic interpretation of hoodoo and voodoo that unmasks these mysterious and lasting traditions. Channeling her alter ego, Fatima Mayfield, a fictitious herbalist and fortune-teller, looks to these cultural traditions as a jumping-off point for developing her own distinct visual language, resulting in a complex body of work that is meticulously constructed and laden with symbolism.

Stout's sculptural installations often include materials used in the practice of voodoo. Handmade potions, roots and herbs, found objects, bones, and feathers are combined with painted and sculptural elements. Not limited to ritualistic and fold references, Stout's work suggests a diverse group of American artists as influences– the photorealist painter Richard Estes, sculptor Joseph Cornell, installation artist Edward Kienholz, and assemblage artist Betye Saar. Their impact is apparent in Stout's use of trompe l'oeil painting, found-object tableaus, and handmade mechanical and totemic forms. Stout's early experience as a professional sign painter and ongoing interest in handmade commercial signage comes through in various pieces as well.

Works in exhibition[edit]

She has participated in numerous exhibitions including several exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and at the De Beyerd Museum in the Netherlands. Her work is in numerous collections including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; and the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland. Her awards include two Pollock Krasner Foundation Awards, The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Regional Visual Arts Fellowship, a Tryon Center for Visual Arts Residency, and the Driskell Prize given by the High Museum of Art. In 2012 she was named the winner of 2012 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize.[13]

Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., a director for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Georgia has recently been involved with one of Renee Stout's larger projects, The Thinking Room exhibition, and a book, Renee Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman, which "brings together more than sixty recent works and draws viewers into a dynamic, complex, and richly textured web. This exhibition of fictitious tales and courageous ingenuity offers a rare and special opportunity for viewers to explore the mythic, folk, and spiritual traditions that inform and shape Stout's complex world view and temporarily suspend disbelief"[1]

Subsequently, these works became the subject of the traveling exhibition “Tales of the Conjure Woman”, originating at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in 2013[14]. Stout then had a solo exhibition, “Funk Dreamscapes from the Invisible Parallel Universe” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI in 2018[15], and “Church of the Crossroads: Renée Stout in the Belger Collection” at the Belger Center in Kansas City, MO also in 2018.[16]

Selected individual exhibitions[17][edit]

  • 2018, When 6 Is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe, Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC[18]
  • 2007, Journal: Book One, Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC
  • 2006, Church of the Crossroads, The Arts Center, St. Petersburg, FL
  • 2005, Fragments of a Secret Life, Part 2, Hammonds House Galleries, Atlanta, GA
  • 2005, Fragments of a Secret Life, Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC
  • 2005, Readers, Advisors, and Storefront Churches, The Ogden Museum, New Orleans, LA
  • 2005, Fatima's Dreams, Part 2, Dennis Morgan Gallery, Kansas City, MO
  • 2004, Fatima's Dreams, Barrister's Gallery, New Orleans, LA
  • 2003, Eyes of Fatima, Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC
  • 2002, Readers, Advisors, and Storefront Churches, The Belger Center for the Arts, Kansas City, MO, a traveling exhibition.
  • 2001, The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (titled after De Chirico), David Beitzel Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2000, Monotypes and Other Works, The Beach Museum at Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
  • 1999, Ranting in the Night Studio, The Morgan Gallery, Kansas City, MO
  • 1998, The Ranter, The David Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC
  • 1997, Dueling Dualities, Steinbaum Krauss Gallery, New York, NY
  • 1996, Madam's Secrets, The David Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC
  • 1995, Dear Robert I'll See You at the Crossroads: A Project by Renee Stout, University Art Museum, University of California at Santa Barbara, CA, a traveling exhibition
  • 1993, Astonishment and Power: Kongo Minkisi and the Art of Renee Stout, The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
  • 1992, Recent Sculpture, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 1991, Recent Sculpture, BR Kornblatt Gallery, Washington, DC
  • 1987, Chapel Gallery, Mount Vernon College, Washington, DC

Selected group exhibitions[6][edit]

  • 1982: Pennsylvania State University, State College, University Park
  • 1984: Pennsylvania State University, State College, University Park
  • 1985: Fitchburg State College, Fitchburg MA
  • 1986: California State University, California
  • 1987: Bloomers Gallery, Pittsburgh PA
  • 1987: Carlow College, Pittsburgh PA
  • 1988: Marie Martin Gallery, Washington DC
  • 1989: Dallas Museum of Art


Renée Stout is a recipient of the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize (2012), David C. Driskell Prize (2010), a Joan Mitchell Award (2005), The Pollock Krasner Foundation Award (1991 & 1999), the Anonymous Was a Woman Award (1999), and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1993).


Her work is included in such collections as The Africa Museum, Berg en Dal, Netherlands, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The High Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Fine Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.


  1. ^ a b c Stout, Renée; Barnwell Brownlee, Andrea; Sloan, Mark; Ofunniyin, Ade; Mayfield, Fatima; Young, Kevin (2013). Tales of the Conjure Woman. Charleston: Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. ISBN 1467586781.
  2. ^ "Renée Stout - Artists - Hemphill Fine Arts". Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  3. ^ Farris, Phoebe (1999-01-01). Women artists of color: a bio-critical sourcebook of 20th century artists in the Americas. Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313303746.
  4. ^ a b Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (2011). Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists (1st ed.). Baltimore, Md: Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. ISBN 9780615436142.
  5. ^ a b c Jegede, Dele (2009). Encyclopedia of African American Artists. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313337616.
  6. ^ a b c d Riggs, Thomas (1997). St. James Guide to Black Artists. Detroit: St. James Press. p. 511. ISBN 1-55862-220-9.
  7. ^ a b "Renée Stout / American Art". Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  8. ^ a b c "Renee Stout - Resume". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  9. ^ a b "Renée Stout | National Museum of Women in the Arts". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  10. ^ Fall 2000: Artists-In-Residence McColl Center
  11. ^ "Renee Stout - Artist's Statement". Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  12. ^ North, Bill. ... to build up a rich collection ... :Selected Works From the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. ISBN 1-890751-11-1..
  13. ^ Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun, July 15, 2012.
  14. ^ "TALES OF THE CONJURE WOMAN". Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  15. ^ "Renée Stout - John Michael Kohler Arts Center". Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  16. ^ "Church of the Crossroads: Renee Stout in the Belger Collection". Belger Arts. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  17. ^ "Renee Stout - Resume". Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  18. ^ "At Hemphill Fine Arts, A Peek Into the Cosmic Universe of Renée Stout". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2019-03-23.

External links[edit]