Nancy Elizabeth Prophet Exhibition At RISD

The new exhibition at the RISD Museum, featuring the work of one of the first known women of color to graduate from RISD, opens Saturday and will run through August 2, 2024. Born in 1890 in Rhode Island to a Narragansett father and a Black mother, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet completed her degree in 1918 with a concentration in portraiture.

Nancy Elizabeth Prophet: I Will Not Bend an Inch celebrates the work and legacy of this underrecognized 20th-century sculptor who is best known for her contributions to expatriate culture in Paris during the interwar period. Prophet (1890-1960) was one of the first known women of color to graduate from RISD and her work reflects skills developed through academic training with a distinctly Modernist sensibility.

The first museum survey will feature three-dimensional sculptures of marble and wood, painted wood friezes, and watercolors as well as photographic presentations of archival documents and lost or destroyed sculptures.

From the Mapping Arts Project:

[Prophet] became a known Harlem Renaissance Sculptor and lived in New York, Paris, and Atlanta, before returning to Rhode Island. . . Prophet’s work was exhibited in Paris and received notable attention. In 1932, she returned to America and began teaching at Spelman College and then Atlanta University in 1939.

. . . Prophet returned to Rhode Island in 1945 and struggled to build a profitable career and with no connections and little money, she began to work in domestic service.

Four years ago we looked up the addresses where Prophet had lived on Benefit Street.

The RIC Digital Library has a collection of old photos from her life.

Seen here is Negro Head, before 1927. Go here for museum hours.

I Will Not Bend opens Saturday, February 17, RISD Museum, 20 North Main Street, (directions)

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