Biennial at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral


Biennial Cathedral Artists Exhibition

Link to original article

The Cathedral has been blessed by the presence of a growing number of visual artists who have shared their creative journeys as members of the congregation.   To celebrate these gifts of the spirit, the Cathedral Arts program devotes an exhibition every two years to their work.


Won Choi
John Dowell
Marie Elcin
Virginia Maksymowicz
Anne Minich
Gerard DiFalco
Suzanne DuPlantis
Liddy Lindsay
Deann Mills
Blaise Tobia

On view from November 3 to December 15, 2018
Monday through Friday: 11 am to 1 pm or by appointment
Saturday showing: December 8   1-4 pm
Complete catalog available here.

There is a common tendency among artists to return to certain subjects again and again, even as their artistic approaches change and develop over time. These subjects, or “themes” can be figures either real or symbolic, or visual ideas having to do with color, texture, line, or form. This exhibit prompts us to ask:  Why do artists keep returning to these ideas as if there is something they haven’t completely worked out for themselves? What do they see in our world that we might be missing?

We hope this exhibition will open our eyes to a few of the infinite ‘variations’ of the abundantly diverse elements of the divinely created world we share.

For further information, contact:  Thomas Lloyd, Cathedral Director of Music and Arts

Exhibition at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute


Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute
120 East 125th Street
New York, NY 10035


Exhibition Description

The exhibition explores intersecting ideas of race, myth, art, and justice through the lens and unique interpretations of twelve inter-generational photographers. Via innovative contemporary art practices, the photographers engage with the premise of “race” as a social construct rooted in myth, while simultaneously interrogating its profound implications and indignities on our 21st-century lives.

With roots in the United States and throughout Africa and the Caribbean—including Guyana, Jamaica, Nevis, Panama, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and Sierra Leone—the photographers draw from an African Diasporic worldview steeped in their personal experiences as well as larger geographical political histories. Collectively, their images offer a poignant and provocative portrait of the ways the mythology of race and the pursuit of justice continue to permeate the global African experience.

Race, Myth, Art, and Justice celebrates a community of voices who illuminate how art continues to serve as a powerful tool for justice. As part of CCCADI’s commitment to public engagement and collaboration, the curators invited thirteen dynamic scholars, activists, artists, and writers to reflect on the exhibition’s works. Through their thoughtful framing, we witness how the images transcend limiting labels of “political,” “radical,” or “protest” art. These photographs are not merely gestures or symbolic meditations on race and justice. Instead, they reflect exclusion, erasure, and invisibility as the lived realities we wrestle and resist every day.

Featured Artists:

Kwesi Abbensetts, Faisal Abdu’Allah, Terry Boddie, Jonathan Gardenhire, John E. Dowell, Jr. Adama Delphine Fawundu, Deborah Jack, Zoraida Lopez-Diago, Radcliffe Roye, Stan Squirewell, Ming Smith, Deborah Willis.


Curators: Grace Aneiza Ali and C. Daniel Dawson | Project Coordinator: Marta Moreno Vega, President of the Creative Justice Initiative


The opening reception will debut the exhibition and will feature remarks by our new Melody Capote, Executive Director, curators, artists, and a festive reception.

To learn more about the exhibition click here:

WHEN: November 15, 2018 – June 15th, 2019

WHERE: Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute

ADMISSION: Free with RSVP | Optional Suggestion Donation $5.00

The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI)preserves and presents African Diaspora cultures; trains the next generation of cultural leaders; and unites Diaspora communities. We leverage arts and culture as tools for personal transformation, community-building, and social justice.

Major support for the exhibition has been provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Ford Foundation, with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Art Blog: Review of Cotton Exhibition

John Dowell spins redemption from cotton’s painful history at the African American Museum of Philadelphia

Janyce Glasper offers a poetic reflection of John Dowell’s current exhibition at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past. On view through January 21, 2019, this installation of large-scale prints and medium-format digital collages explores slavery, not as a particularly southern phenomenon, but as an institution that haunts our nation from Alabama from Wall Street. What’s more, Dowell uses the symbolic force of cotton to carve out a space for personal reflection and collective celebration.

John Dowell’s Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past on view at the African American Museum of Philadelphia is a multi-sensory experience that pulls visitors in through strong visuals and attentive listening.

John Dowell, "Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past" at AAMP, Photo by Janyce Denise Glasper
John Dowell, “Lost in Cotton”, print on Taffeta. From “Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past” at AAMP. Photo by Janyce Denise Glasper.

North and South

One cannot dismiss the unhealed wounds that slavery has burned into the fabrics of America and other countries around the world. Dowell articulately combines two mediums — photography and printmaking — to develop complex dialogue on cotton and its role in history. Cotton occupies either the pinnacle focus or relegates into the background as a secondary element, collaged alongside digital drawings and strategic bold text. The most intriguing compositions superimpose cloud-like cotton over images of young black Harlem residents reading and dreaming. Dowell’s research on Seneca Village — a 19th century settlement of free blacks upon which Central Park was built — provides a significant parallel to the current turmoil of Harlem’s gentrification. In The Poet, a child holds a white paged book and a microphone. Rows and rows of sunlit cotton around him suggest spiritual reverence and emotional homage. The abundant, personified cotton serves as audience, attentive and affectionate to the orator.

I spoke with Dowell adjacent to Lost in Cotton, a constructed maze of digital prints on hanging strips of taffeta. “When my grandmother was a little girl, she got lost in a field of cotton,” he explained. “Down outside Augusta, technically South Carolina, cotton grows five feet tall, which is very rare.” A sign asks the spectator to enter the maze between the strips and move clockwise towards the open center. Once inside, splendorous high cotton portraits surround and confound the tight space, resonating with the psychological plight of Dowell’s lost and petrified ancestor.

A celebration of survival

“I’m using cotton as a symbol for the black body and the actual places [black bodies occupied].” Dowell uses cotton — one of the most humiliating symbols of slavery — to uphold and celebrate black survival. Fertility, strength, and healing are united in jarring closeups of plump cotton bolls that leap from saturated archival prints while soft, haunting hymns and work songs drift in the background.

Dowell’s digital prints range in scale from framed mid-sized pieces to massive panoramic shots on unstretched canvas. These compelling cotton landscapes eulogize the forgotten, the voiceless. He has captured and bestowed new meanings, redefining the cause of tremendous, generational pain. For example, Up Close is a sophisticated compilation, a sequential medley of images combining striking saturated colors and intense shots of cotton thriving in nature. Butterflies situate atop the snowy whiteness, marigold and black wings enhancing the stark, ordinary cotton.

John Dowell, "Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past" at AAMP. Photo by Janyce Denise Glasper
John Dowell, From “Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past” at AAMP. Photo by Janyce Denise Glasper

Space for reflection

In a nook on the third floor, there is an area to rest and draw breath, to reminisce, to hold and feel the weightlessness of cotton and its brittle leaves. Viewers are also allowed to bring in old photographs and place them on the altar framed by tall cotton plants, to honor their families in a collective embrace.

Dowell’s Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past is awe and sustenance, a reflection on a fluffy plant and its grisly impact on past and present black lives. The whole breadth of this sincere and educational show is a love letter addressed to the wonders of the human condition — a love letter that confesses yearning, compassion, and victory.

“Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past” is on view September 15, 2018 — January 21, 2019 at The African American Museum of Philadelphia, 701 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA, 19106. Museum hours are Wednesday thru Saturday 10-5pm and Sunday 12-5pm. Contact AAMP at (215) 574-0380.