The Department of Fine Arts at Mississippi Valley State University is presenting an exhibition of handcrafted dolls and acrylic paintings by Dawn Whitfield in the Johnston Gallery now through March 2. The Johnston Gallery is located on the Itta Bena campus in the Walter Sillers Fine Arts Building. A reception to honor the artist is being held on Wednesday, February 22 from 4 p. m. - 6 p. m.
Dawn Whitfield is a native of Fort Smith, Ark. and a resident of Indianola. She earned an associate degree in art from Mississippi Delta Community College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Delta State.
Currently, Whitfield teaches art at Carver Elementary School and serves as an artist in residence at Merritt Middle School in Indianola. Her artist in residence status is funded by a 21st Century Grant. She has worked in art education as Director for the BB King Museum Summer Camp Program, while engaged in her private studio with the challenge of creating from fiber, paint and ceramics.
“My dolls capture the sensitivity of black women and children,” said Whitfield. The audience is touched by the women’s expressive ceramic faces of strong ethnic character and a little girl’s happy world of naivety, simplicity, and innocence. In today’s society, the world can identify with Whitfield’s ropes of dreadlocks, head wraps, and unique fashions. Many of her works of women are titled with descriptions such as “Strong,” “Beautiful,” and “Suffering.”
“Beyond the nakedness of the women’s delicate bodies, shaped from packed strands of raffia, their simulated flesh is covered and fashioned with mixed colored fibers (accentuated with colorful motifs), freely layered beads, and supportive parallel strands of wire,” said Dorothy Vaughn, co- director of the Johnston Gallery. The smaller dolls’ skeletal structures are supported with glass bottle armatures.
“Some of Whitfield's paintings, with the exception of those of the little girls, are nonrepresentational and saturated with brilliant colors and rhythmic shapes and designs,” said Vaughn.
The event is open to the public and free of charge. The gallery hours are 10 a. m. to 4:30 p. m. on Monday - Thursday and 8:30 a. m. to 1:30 p. m. on Friday.
For more information, please contact Dorothy Vaughn or Ronald Minks, co-directors of Johnston Gallery at 662-254-3482.