(b. 1947, Harlem; living and working in Philadelphia)
Dindga McCannon, a third-generation Harlemite, infuses her narrative quilt series with needlework skills passed down by female relatives and found materials assembled from the streets of New York. She developed a fine-arts sensibility through her involvement with the Weusi Art Collective and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop during the 1960s and '70s and learned techniques from prominent artists including Jacob Lawrence, Charles Alston, Al Loving, and Richard Mayhew via the Art Students League. Her works, which often include depictions of musical interactions and historical moments shared by Black and female figures, emphasize the value of connections among affinity groups. McCannon previously hosted gatherings of the Black women artists’ collective Where We At in her apartment, and currently holds small-scale mixed-media workshops for artists at her studio in Philadelphia.
Recent exhibitions featuring McCannon’s work include Pablo-Matic (Brooklyn Museum, 2023), Pour Tear Carve (Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2023), and We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985 (Brooklyn Museum, 2017; California African American Museum, 2017). Her work is held in the permanent collection of eleven institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Phillips Collection. She has completed commissions for organizations including the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters at Columbia University (2008), Scholastic Magazine (2001), ESPN (2000), and the New York Department of Cultural Affairs (1985). McCannon received two grants through the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance’s Small Grants for Individual Artists program (2008, 2009) and has been distinguished with recognition from the Harlem Arts Alliance and the New York Foundation for the Arts for her work in crafts.
WORK IN THE EXHIBITION
Dindga McCannon’s narrative quilts reflect the intersection of her lived experiences in the spheres of domestic life and fine arts. Having learned traditional needlework from her maternal family, and having worked as a printmaker and artist as a member of the Black Arts Movement, McCannon blends dyeing techniques, printmaking, and mixed media assemblage in her practice. McCannon’s oeuvre typically features overt narrative and figural representation, used to convey themes of feminism and Black community connections across history. Her art quilt Compositions 86 Centennial Mask, however, leans into a conceptual style to create an abstract portrait of jazz pianist Theolonius Monk’s legacy. As the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, Monk collaborated with other performers to develop bebop jazz, branching away from big band swing music. Abstractly commemorating his innovative style of dissonant and off-kilter phrasing, McCannon blends blue and black strips of fabric bearing the names of his eighty-six compositions with three-dimensional musical symbols and textured fibers. McCannon depicts Monk’s wide listenership by including small strips of fabric with people, implying the Black spectators joining in community to appreciate the innovative music being created.