Whitfield Lovell’s multimedia works like One of These Days combine four distinct elements. First, he hand-draws a realistic, life-sized portrait inspired by antique photographs of ordinary African Americans, some sourced from family albums and others found in archives or flea markets. Lovell renders the portrait directly onto found-wood boards that often retain traces of paint, wallpaper, holes, knots, or other signs of use or age. He then adds personal or household objects such as dishes, clothing, or other mementos—also collected from flea markets—on the panel itself, surrounding wall, or floor nearby the portrait. Finally, Lovell titles the work with a word or phrase that has many possible, and often contradictory, meanings.
These tableaux encourage viewers to imagine the pictured individual engaged in a rich, nuanced life. In the case of One of These Days, a visitor might wonder: Who was this woman? Where did she live? Did she use these items? How did they break? What was that day like? In so doing, Lovell emphasizes the humanity not only of these individual, anonymous African Americans but of African Americans throughout history and into the present day, whose experiences, psychology, and collective memory have often been overlooked or marginalized.
—Kristi McMillan, director of learning & engagement