During the past twenty years, the Nashville-based artist has created work that departs from Western ideas of portraiture denoting a likeness or a construction of a subject. Her figurative, mixed-media sculptural work foregrounds the human figure in isolation and interaction and in turn is conceived of by the artist as belonging to both a single and communal body. Her evocative, spectral work explores metaphorical and formal connections between visibility and identity.
Alicia Henry’s compositions show representations of unidentifiable individuals and groups of people based on a range of composite references including but not limited by her own memories, African masks, paper-dolls, European clowning traditions, American minstrelsy and everyday life and events.
As her enigmatic, graceful figures assert their gaze, Henry’s tragicomical work negotiates a space between spectacle, performance and testimony exploring how identity, family, gender, community, and societal differences play out in the real world and register their complexities and contradictions on the body.
A native of Illinois, Alicia Henry received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University School of Art. She is currently Professor of Art at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Her work was recently on view at Tiwani Contemporary for her first UK solo exhibition To Whom It May Concern and recently the subject of a solo museum touring show in Canada at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (2021); Southern Alberta Art Gallery (2019); The Power Plant (2019). Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary in Sydney; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
She has received numerous awards, fellowships, and grants, including the Joan Mitchell Painter and Sculptor grant (2013); the Guggenheim Fellowship (2000-2001), and the Ford Foundation Fellowship (1989-1991); residencies at the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1990), the Fine Arts Work Centre in Provincetown (1991-1993) Art in General, New York (2000); and the MacDowell Art Colony (1993). Most recently, Henry was granted the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art award (2016) and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Art Fellowship (2016-2017)
"American artist Alicia Henry introduces visitors to her unique take on portraiture: assemblages that challenge individualized Western conceptions of the genre." (2021)
"(She) ...challenges the Western conception of portraiture as an image that reflects both the subject’s body and psyche." (2019)
About The Artist
Henry’s work has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at institutions, including a solo touring show in Canada at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (2021); Southern Alberta Art Gallery (2019); The Power Plant (2019) and the Atlanta Biennial (2019); Cheekwood Museum, Nashville (2018-2019); Frist Museum, Nashville (2016); the Hunter Museum of American Art (2014); Tennessee State Museum, Nashville (2014); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2013); the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (2013); South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana (2004); the Nashville International Airport (2002); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2002); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City (1997); and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1996).
Her work has been written about in Artforum International, ARTS ATL, New York Studio Conversations II, The Human Aura in Art, Nashville Arts Magazine, the BURNAWAY, The Female Gaze: Women Artist Making Their World, Art of Tennessee, Taboo, and The Globe and Mail.