The Delaware Art Museum Presents Exhibitions Focused on Beauty, Gender, and Identity

Frédérick Douglass, 2015. Omar Victor Diop (born 1980). Inkjet pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, 35 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches. © Omar Victor Diop, Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.
Opening in October: Posing Beauty in African American Culture and Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters

WILMINGTON, DE (September 20, 2019) — For as long as the concept of beauty has existed, it has been championed and idealized, as well as challenged and questioned. Beauty as a concept, in art as in culture and society, is ever-changing. It is also increasingly complex, as viewers and artists alike drive for deeper discussion around traditional standards and reconsidered interpretations, while eagerly seeking fresh insights and new voices.

Building off this momentum, and continuing its vision of presenting a range of voices to viewers, the Delaware Art Museum presents two provocative exhibitions this fall exploring beauty, gender, and identity: Posing Beauty in African American Culture, on view October 19, 2019, through January 26, 2020, and Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters, on view October 5, 2019, through April 12, 2020.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture will look at the contested ways in which African American beauty has been represented in culture, while Sound the Deep Waters, a commission inspired by the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and illustration collections, will present a contemporary look at gender and identity through the lens of historical narrative art.

“We’re excited to present these exhibitions at the same time–in dialogue. Both create visually lush experiences for visitors,” says Heather Campbell Coyle, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art at the Delaware Art Museum. “In Posing Beauty, you see a range of artists working in different styles from glamorous portraiture to documentary photography to video art. The works represent over a century of ongoing conversation around beauty and how we see ourselves and others. Then, in the Angela Fraleigh show, you discover a unique, immersive experience inspired by works of art in the Museum’s collection, but there are unexpected elements and themes that cross over between the two projects.”

Together, the two exhibitions and their related programming will invite viewers into the galleries to see works of art with meaningful connections to both the collection and community. At the same time, the overlapping themes of the exhibitions and complementary works of art will continue the Museum’s vision of increasing representation within its own galleries for women artists and artists of color.

“As the Delaware Art Museum looks to provide a platform for all artists and share works of art that tell a range of stories in many different ways, these exhibitions will extend that vision and invite viewers to be part of the discussion,” says Sam Sweet, Executive Director and CEO of the Delaware Art Museum. “We expect the two exhibitions will inspire our community to think deeper on their own notions of beauty and question how those notions were shaped, and perhaps return to look again at favorite works with fresh eyes.”
About the Exhibitions

Posing Beauty in African American Culture examines the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media, including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture, such as music and the Internet. Organized by artist and scholar Deborah Willis, the exhibition features 104 works of art, dating from the 1890s to the present.

As author and historian Barbara Summers notes, “Beauty is power. And the struggle to have the entire range of Black beauty recognized and respected is a serious one.” Posing Beauty invites viewers to think seriously about gorgeous photographs–to admire the self-fashioned glamour of models and beauty contestants, as well as the carefully crafted images of celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Isaac Hayes, and Marvin Hagler.

Featuring both black-and-white and color photography, celebrities, and everyday people, the vast array of photos will encourage viewers to think about beauty in political, cultural, and complex terms. Artists in the exhibition include, among others, Sheila Pree Bright, Renee Cox, Omar Victor Diop, Lola Flash, Charles “Teenie” Harris, John W. Mosley, Gordon Parks, Jamel Shabazz, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Ernest C. Withers, and lauren woods.

“There is, appropriately, a great range to this exhibition,” says, Heather Campbell Coyle, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art at the Delaware Art Museum. “The historical examples highlight the ideals of beauty and strength promoted by professional portrait photographers, beauty contests, and popular magazines. Seeing these alongside the work of contemporary artists, especially those who actively critique the ongoing presentation of race and gender in American culture, will encourage viewers to consider the complex relationship between beauty and art, as well as the conversation between contemporary art and popular culture.”

Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters was directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections. This commissioned display presents a contemporary look at gender and identity through the lens of historic narrative art. Fraleigh’s large-scale paintings and ceramics examine notions of storytelling, role-playing, fantasy, and power dynamics in the work of Katharine Pyle, Hannah Barlow, and Marie Spartali Stillman, among others.

Fraleigh’s opulent paintings are populated by female figures freed from the social constructs of their time. No longer the despised witches of popular fairy tales or shunned agitators, these women are empowered to occupy their own utopian landscape. Fusing meticulous realism with gestural abstraction, Fraleigh constructs an immersive space in which reality merges with dreams and hallucinations.

“I uncovered so many incredible stories associated with the women in the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and illustration collections,” Angela Fraleigh explains. “This commissioned piece is part of a longtime project that asks: What if the female characters we’ve come to know from art history–the lounging odalisques, the chorus that whispers in the background–present more than a voyeuristic visual feast? What if these characters embody a flickering of female power at work? Can we see these ‘passive’ characters as subversive and powerful? And if we do, how might it affect women today and of the future?”

Sound the Deep Waters is a dynamic response to pieces from the Museum’s own Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections. These new works of art–presented in an immersive installation–will spark the curiosity of viewers already familiar with the Museum’s collection, as well as draw others in to see how historic art can impact contemporary creativity.

“Fraleigh’s work often considers how meanings are made and questions how traditional and familiar cultural narratives shape our experiences in the world. Sound the Deep Waters, encourages us to look anew at images from our own collection,” says Margaret Winslow, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Delaware Art Museum. “Viewers will have the opportunity to reconsider the pictures they thought they knew or the stories they thought they understood.”

Public Programs and Events

David Driskell Living Legacy Talk
Saturday, October 20 | 2:00 p.m.
This speaking tour, envisioned as a series of conversations between Professor David C. Driskell and Professor Curlee R. Holton, will provide an opportunity for audiences and communities around the country to learn about the contributions of Professor Driskell, and of African American artists, to the country’s artistic history.

Picturing Beauty: Celebrating Real Women
Sunday, November 17
Picturing Beauty: Celebrating Real Women will be a free, intergenerational event featuring successful female leaders in the arts. The day will be developed in partnership with Girls, Inc., One Village Alliance, and the YWCA. The event will include a keynote address with Deborah Willis and Angela Fraleigh at 2:00 p.m.

Inside Look: Posing Beauty
Friday, November 22 and Sunday, November 24
Led by a University of Delaware art history graduate student, this program includes an in-depth dialogue about a single work of art.

Black Iris Project: “A Mother’s Rite”
Thursday, January 23 | 8:00 p.m.
Founded in 2016 by choreographer Jeremy McQueen, The Black Iris Project is a ballet collaborative and education vehicle that creates new, relevant classical ballet works that celebrate diversity and Black history. “A Mother’s Rite” is a new ballet about how a mother copes with the loss of her child to a racially-motivated murder.

Guide-Led Public Tours
Saturdays and Sundays throughout the run of Posing Beauty | 2:00 p.m.


Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. This exhibition is sponsored by M&T Bank and made possible in Delaware by Mary G. Heiser in memory of her son, Scott T. Heiser, the Johannes R. and Betty P. Krahmer American Art Exhibition Fund, WSFS, and Delmarva. Both Posing Beauty and Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.
Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway,
Wilmington, DE 19806
302.571.9590 | 866.232.3714 (toll free) |

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