This special exhibition examines the role of published images in shaping attitudes toward race and culture. More than 150 works of art and artifacts of widely circulated illustrated imagery will be on view, produced from 1590 to today. The exhibition will explore harmful stereotypical racial representations that have been imprinted upon us through the mass publication of images and the resulting noxious impact on public perception about race. It culminates with the creative accomplishments of contemporary artists and publishers who have shifted the cultural narrative through the creation of positive, inclusive imagery emphasizing full agency and equity for all.
A concurrent marquis installation debuts recent paintings by award-winning illustrator and author Kadir Nelson. Conceptualized and created during the COVID-19 pandemic, these works capture the artist’s reflections on today’s national and world events.
Imprinted: Illustrating Race is co-curated by guest curator Robyn Phillips-Pendleton and the Museum’s deputy director/chief curator, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. Phillips-Pendleton is the Interim Director of the MFA in Illustration Practice program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), and University of Delaware Professor of Visual Communications; she has written and spoken widely on the theme of this exhibition. They are joined by a distinguished panel of national advisors including 10 academic scholars, curators, and artists with expertise related to the focus of the exhibition’s thesis.
“Published images hold powerful sway on shaping our cultural attitudes. Images can uplift, as Norman Rockwell’s work did, and they also can be deployed to establish negative and demeaning attitudes, as often happened with intention during formative centuries of published images in the United States. As our nation redresses a renewed era of racial reckoning, it is important to examine how systems of publishing were used to form commonly held beliefs and attitudes.”
“Published illustration had a role in framing the United States racial attitudes – it is also a powerful tool for reframing stereotypes and celebrating this country’s strength in many cultural identities. We are grateful for the support of many partners, who are making this exhibition possible, from outstanding scholar contributors to our sponsors,” noted Norman Rockwell Museum director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt.
“Norman Rockwell Museum is dedicated to the art of illustration and to examining the influence of widely published imagery on society,” said Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. “Imprinted: Illustrating Race presents a revealing analytical study of challenging historical visual material that invites consideration of the ways in which what we see affects what we believe about humanity and our world. I am honored to work with Robyn Phillips Pendleton and our accomplished panel of advisors to bring this important subject to light.”
Illustration has been at the forefront of significant, defining events in the United States from the Civil War and Reconstruction Era to the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and today. The exhibition focuses on artwork commissioned by publishers and advertisers and created by illustrators, engravers, and printers, as well as the work of contemporary creators that will spark dialogue and raise awareness about the role of published art in reflecting and shaping beliefs and attitudes about race.
“I am thrilled to be working with Norman Rockwell Museum and to be a part of this groundbreaking illustration exhibition that highlights the perception and advancement of race through artwork. This exhibition promotes new ideas through imagery that celebrates, normalizes, and facilitates inter-cultural tolerance,” says Robyn Phillips-Pendleton.