Torkwase Dyson was the Lunder Institute’s visiting artist for Fall 2018, and concurrently debuted a new site-specific work at the Colby Museum, Nautical Dusk. At the invitation of the Museum, the artist consulted archival materials related to Samuel Osborne (c. 1833–1904) in Colby’s Miller Library. Osborne was born into slavery and migrated from Virginia to Maine in 1865. He worked for the College as a janitor for more than 30 years, and in 2017 Colby President David A. Greene renamed the presidential residence “Osborne House.”
As a Lunder Institute visiting artist, Dyson engaged with Colby faculty and students, and collaborated with a wide range of academic departments. This hybrid platform, combining research with ongoing reflection and conversation, provided time for the artist to explore intersections with scholars from multiple disciplines.
Torkwase Dyson was born in Chicago, Illiinois., and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. Traversing these regions helped develop a fundamental dialectic of architecture/infrastructure, geography, and Black spatial liberation. During her years at Tougaloo College, where she majored in sociology and double minored in social work and fine art, she began to examine the poetics of Black history and environmental justice. Over the next 10 years, Dyson traveled to locally and globally strategize with communities of color on ways to attain resource equality. During this time she earned her bachelor’s in fine arts in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University and her master’s in fine arts in painting from Yale School of Art. In 2016 Dyson designed and built Studio South Zero (SSZ), a solar-powered mobile studio where the context of nomadicity became the framework for learning and making art about the environment. It was traveling with SSZ that inspired her experimental project the Wynter-Wells Drawing School for Environmental Liberation, where she explored contemporary theorizations of form, space, architecture, and the infrastructure of extraction economies.
Dyson’s work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Drawing Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Dyson has been awarded the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, Visiting Artist grant to the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, the Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practices, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center Fellowship, and the FSP/Jerome Fellowship. Dyson’s work has also been supported by Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, the Laundromat Projects, the Green Festival of New York, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, The Kitchen, and the Rebuild Foundation. In 2016 Dyson was elected to the board of the Architecture League of New York as vice president of visual arts and is currently visiting critic at Yale School of Art. She is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago and Davidson Contemporary in New York.
From Torkwase Dyson:
Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today
By T. J. Demos
From Arisa White, Assistant Professor of English:
“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
By Audre Lorde
“Dream Meaning” from Why Poetry
By Matthew Zapruder
From Liz McGrath, Clare Boothe Luce Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy:
“Adaptive Optics: Before and After”
Sky and Telescope Magazine
“Adaptive Optics Look Farther Than Ever Before”
Marie Freebody, Photonics Media
Torkwase Dyson with Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy Liz McGrath
Torkwase Dyson with poet and Assistant Professor of English Arisa White
Torkwase Dyson with artist and collaborator Zachary Fabri