Header Image © Lola Flash
Convening: A Critical Dialogue on the History and Future of Media Arts
September 30, 2021, 10am–7pm
This virtual symposium brought together leading experts in media arts from across the country to explore themes of representation, image making, identity, and creative practice.
Convening fosters an open dialogue among artists, scholars and activists on media born artistic practices. It explored the innovative practices and critical perspectives of photographers, filmmakers, printmakers and writers drawn from the long and dynamic history of media and art, through themes of history, representation, evidence, the archive, image making, identity, practice and presence. The program featured keynote speakers and panel discussions organized by leading practitioners and moderated by noted photographer Sean Alonzo Harris.
The recordings of Convening are now available to view for free! View each panelist’s recorded lecture below.
Panelists: Charles Daniel Dawson, Lola Flash, Wendy Red Star, Miriam Romais, Hồng-Ân Trương, and Deborah Willis.
Click the thumbnails above to jump to each panelist and their recorded lecture.
Convening was free and open to the public and made possible by contributions from Karen and Nils Tcheyan and the Baobab Fund and the Random Good Foundation, established by Randall Gebhardt and Christopher Gebhardt.
Convening has been followed by a series of lectures that will explore media arts and its practitioners in more depth, tracing the rich but often overlooked histories of visual and literary artists and storytellers. These lectures, led by scholar C. Daniel Dawson and featuring appearances by artists, image makers and scholars, are taking place this fall and winter. Learn more and register for these lectures here.
Opening Remarks and Q&A
Meet Our Panelists
Charles Daniel Dawson
Charles Daniel Dawson is a photographer, curator, arts administrator, consultant, filmmaker, and scholar based in New York City. Dawson has exhibited work in over 35 shows and is an early member of the Kamoinge Workshop, an African American photography collective based in Harlem, New York. Dawson has served as Director of Special Projects at the Caribbean Cultural Center, the Program Manager at the American Museum of Natural History, the Curator of Photography, Film and Video at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Curatorial Consultant and Director of Education at the Museum for African Art. Dawson has also given lectures at Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of California-Berkeley, the New School for Social Research, the Federal University of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro-Brazil, among many others. Additionally, he has taught seminars on African Spirituality in the Americas at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, New York University and Yale University.
C. Daniel Dawson, Girl, 1970
C. Daniel Dawson, Grandma Thomas, 1968
C. Daniel Dawson, Gibson’s Victory, 1970
C. Daniel Dawson, Amiri #10, 1970
C. Daniel Dawson, Stuff on Sterling Street, 1967
Working at the forefront of genderqueer visual politics for more than three decades, photographer Lola Flash‘s work challenges stereotypes and gender, sexual, and racial preconceptions. An active member of ACT UP during the time of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, Flash was notably featured in the 1989 “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” poster. Her art and activism are profoundly connected, fueling a life-long commitment to visibility and preserving the legacy of LGBTQIA+ and communities of color worldwide. Flash has work included in important collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum and the National African American Museum of History and Culture. She is currently a proud member of the Kamoinge Collective and is on the board at QueerIArt.
Flash received her bachelor’s degree from Maryland Institute and her Masters’ from London College of Printing in the UK. Flash works primarily in portraiture with a 4×5 film camera, engaging those who are often deemed invisible. Recently, she has delved into the digital photography world and is a FujiFilm Collaborator. Flash’s practice is firmly rooted in social justice advocacy around sexual, racial, and cultural difference.
Lola Flash, DJ Lina
Lola Flash, Nettie
Lola Flash, Paul E
Lola Flash, Felli
Lola Flash, Toni Parks
Lola Flash, Sloan
Lola Flash, Have Mercy
Lola Flash, I Pray
Lola Flash, Brighton Beach
Wendy Red Star
Wendy Red Star (b.1981, Billings, MT) lives and works in Portland, OR. Red Star has exhibited in the United States and abroad at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY), both of which have her works in their permanent collections; Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris, France), Domaine de Kerguéhennec (Bignan, France), Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR), Hood Art Museum (Hanover, NH), St. Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, MO), Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN), the Frost Art Museum (Miami, FL), among others.
Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX), the Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO), the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College (Clinton, NY), the Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD), the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (Durham, NC), and the Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham, AL).
She served a visiting lecturer at institutions including Yale University (New Haven, CT), the Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA), the Banff Centre (Banff, Canada), National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia), Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), CalArts (Valencia, CA), Flagler College (St. Augustine, FL), and I.D.E.A. Space in Colorado Springs (Colorado Springs, CO). In 2017, Red Star was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and in 2018 she received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. Her first career survey exhibition “Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth” was on view at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey through May 2019, concurrently with her first New York solo gallery exhibition at Sargent’s Daughters. Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University, Bozeman, and an MFA in sculpture from University of California, Los Angeles. She is represented by Sargent’s Daughters.
Wendy Red Star, Catalog Number 1949.73, 2019
Wendy Red Star, Her Dreams Are True (Julia Bad Boy), 2020
Wendy Red Star, Indian Congress
Miriam Romais is an arts professional and award-winning photographer whose work addresses topics of home, community, feminism, labor, and food politics. She has exhibited at galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad, including El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Romais was a speaker for the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) 2020 symposium, Race, Activism & Photography, a panelist for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Visually Speaking series, (Mis)representation: the Under Representation of Non-Whites and Women in the Arts at PhotoPlus Expo, and was co-chair of the Society for Photographic Education’s National Conference titled Facing Diversity: Leveling the Playing Field in the Photographic Arts.
As a panelist, reviewer and workshop leader, she has worked with CPW, the Tang Museum/Skidmore College, Exposure Saratoga,, FotoWeek DC, PhotoNOLA, FotoFest, NY State Council on the Arts, PhotoLucida, Photoville, NoMAA and others.
She has curated exhibitions for Aperture, BRIC Arts Media, the Society for Photographic Education’s Multicultural Caucus,, and dozens for En Foco Inc. during her 23-year tenure as director and editor (En Foco is a nonprofit that supports U.S. based photographers of Latinx, African, Asian and Native American heritage). Romais was also the marketing & strategic development advisor for the Center for Photography at Woodstock, and currently is the senior manager of engagement for The News Literacy Project.
Hồng-Ân Trương is an artist who uses photography, video, and sound to explore immigrant, refugee, and decolonial narratives and subjectivities. Her work has been shown in both solo and group exhibitions at the International Center for Photography (NY), Art in General (NY), Fundación PROA (Buenos Aires), Istanbul Modern (Istanbul, Turkey), Smack Mellon (NY), the Nasher Museum of Art (Durham, NC), The Kitchen (NY), Nhà Sàn (Hanoi), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland), Southeast Center for Contemporary Art (Winston-Salem, NC), EFA Project Space (NY), Leslie Tonkonow Gallery (NY), the Rubber Factory (NY), the Phillips Collection (Washington D.C.) and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, among many others. She was included in the New Orleans triennial Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp in 2017-2018.
Her collaborative work with Hương Ngô was exhibited in Being: New Photography 2018 at MoMA. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum, The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Hyperallergic, among others. Her writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail (2018), Shifter Magazine (2019 and 2012), Pastelegram Magazine (2014), and PERFORMA09: Back to Futurism, edited by Roselee Goldberg (2011). She has been awarded an Art Matters Foundation Grant, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts emergency grant, and most recently a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Fine Art. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine and was a fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program. Hồng-Ân is based in Durham, North Carolina where she is an activist and a teacher. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hồng-Ân Trương, Reflection: Police Brutality Protest in New York Chinatown, 1975
Hồng-Ân Trương, Reflection: Anti U.S. War in Vietnam in San Francisco, 1969
Hồng-Ân Trương, Reflection: Yuri Kochiyama Cradles Malcolm X, Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom, 1965
Hồng-Ân Trương, On minor histories and the horrifying recognition of the swift work of time, 2016
Hồng-Ân Trương, I only know myself through you., 2016
Hồng-Ân Trương, Seeing the forest for the trees., 2016
Hồng-Ân Trương, Treatment for the Year of the Rabbit, 2017
Hồng-Ân Trương, Treatment for the Year of the Rabbit, 2017
Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has affiliated appointments with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural and the Institute of Fine Arts where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. She is also the director of NYU’s Center for Black Visual Culture/Institute for African American Affairs. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, contemporary women photographers and beauty.
She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and was a Richard D. Cohen Fellow in African and African American Art, Hutchins Center, Harvard University; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and an Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. Fellow. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received awards from the College Art Association for Writing Art History (2021) and the Outstanding Service Award from the Royal Photographic Society in the UK. She has pursued a dual professional career as an art photographer and as one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography and curator of African diasporic cultures.
Willis is the author of The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship; Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery with Barbara Krauthamer; Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (both titles a NAACP Image Award Winner), and more than five other publications, in addition to co-authoring numerous books, articles, and papers.
Exhibitions of her artwork have been shown globally, including: Monument Lab Staying Power, Philadelphia; 100Years/100Women, Park Avenue Armory; In Conversation: Visual Meditations on Black Masculinity, African American Museum Philadelphia; and more. In addition to making art, writing and teaching, she has served as a consultant to museums, archives, and educational centers. She has appeared and consulted on media projects including the documentary films such as Through A Lens Darkly, Question Bridge: Black Males, a transmedia project, which received the ICP Infinity Award 2015, and American Photography, PBS Documentary. Since 2006 she has co-organized thematic conferences exploring “Black Portraitures” focusing on imaging the black body. She holds honorary degrees from Pratt Institute and the Maryland Institute, College of Art. She is currently researching two projects on photography and the black arts movement and artists reimaging history.
Deborah Willis, Harlem Postcard
Deborah Willis, Carrie at Eatonville Salon
Moderated by Séan Alonzo Harris
Sean Alonzo Harris is a professional editorial, commercial and fine art photographer concentrating on narrative and environmental portraiture. Over the past 25 years, Sean’s work is featured in a range of national publications, advertising campaigns, and exhibitions. In these varied contexts, Sean’s work focuses on human experience and identity and examines how individuals visualize themselves and how they are portrayed. Sean’s images bear witness to often invisible or overlooked members of our communities, and creates portraits that provide a counter image and narrative of self-worth and personal agency.
His work is published in Atlantic Magazine, the Paris Review, Boston Magazine, Down East, Portland Magazine, Maine Home and Design, Photo District News Rising Star feature, Maine Magazine, Harvard University Magazine, Ralph Lauren magazine, Mother Jones, Adweek, Consumer Reports, Teaching Tolerance, and USA Today.
Harris’ clients include Jackson Laboratory, J.P.Morgan Chase, Possible Health/ Nepal, Atlantic Rethink, Cathay Pacific Airways /Hong Kong, Coastal Enterprises Inc., Norway Savings Bank, Bangor Savings Bank, LL Bean, York Community College, Maine College of Art, CDM Communications, Museum of African Culture, Standard Baking Company, The Cedars Retirement Community, Downeast Energy, Camp Sunshine, Colby College.
Harris has received critical acclaim for his fine artwork. Sean’s most recent solo exhibition at the Colby College Museum of Art, I Am Not A Stranger, was developed in collaboration with Waterville Creates and supported by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission. I Am Not A Stranger is a series of 58 portraits of community members that were displayed in the Colby Museum as well as sixteen different locations across the city of Waterville. The project includes a combination of photographic portraits and participant interviews, and captures personal histories, make connections, and create channels for telling untold stories.
Sean was also awarded a Kindling Fund grant from Space Gallery and the Warhol Foundation, for his project Visual Tensions. This collaborative photographic project and community dialog pairs people of color with members of law enforcement. Harris will create photographic portraits as a means to confront and question cultural and racial assumptions, stereotypes and fears. His work is also part of the celebrated traveling exhibition, Going Forward, Looking Back, practicing historical processes in the 21st century. He has also developed three significant shows, VanDerZee On My Mind in 1999, featuring images of African Americans in Maine, sponsored by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council and The Families Of Maine Documentary Photography Project, starting with A Lebanese Family In Waterville, in 2003, and Recollection; Green Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, in 2005. By 2003, the 121st Maine legislature had presented him with a formal proclamation of recognition for his work as a photographer. Harris’s work was included in 150 Years of Photography in Maine and selected for Biennial Juried Exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and received honorable mention in 2000. His work was also part of the multi-media production If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride at the Portland Museum of Art, featuring video, dance, text, and photography. Sean’s work was also included in the Griffin Museum of Photography’s Tenth Annual Exhibition. Harris’s work is included in the books Visible Black History, The First Chronicle of Its People and Portland Through the Lens. Harris has also participated in several community-based collaborations, and artist in residencies in Maine Schools and youth programs. He has partnered with VSA Arts of Maine, The Edge Youth Program, Denmark Arts Center, Tim Rollins K.O.S. and Maine College of Art.
He has received several awards and grants for his work including, Good Idea Grant and Arts in the Capital Program, from the Maine Arts Commission, the Broderson Bronze Award, and the VanDerZee Black Heritage Award, from the University of Lowell. Sean was selected as one of the 60 most collectible artists in Maine and featured in Maine Home and Design magazine.
Harris graduated from the Art Institute of Boston and studied photography in Viterbo, Italy and at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine.
Séan Alonzo Harris
Séan Alonzo Harris
Séan Alonzo Harris
Séan Alonzo Harris
The symposium unfolding here is owed to the inspiring discussions and organizing efforts of several individuals. In conversation with former Maine Media board member Marcia Minter – Founding Director of the Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland, Maine – she suggested engaging key figures in the field of photography to expand the traditionally accepted histories of the medium presented among peer institutions and to reflect more representatively those identified with shaping trajectories in media art. Specifically, she recommended that we speak with Mr. Charles Daniel Dawson, who’s impact on the formation and direction of this symposium was immediate. Together with current board member Séan Alonzo Harris and Maine Media’s Provost Elizabeth Greenberg, MMW+C conceived of a series of panel discussions and ensuing series of classes with accomplished artists, scholars, historians and community members working among varied media disciplines, that will permanently influence the curriculum at Maine Media, and give further definition to the fields of photography, filmmaking, creative writing and media art. A key theme (or principal) among these discussions has been acknowledging a specificity of cultural vision, and the creation of space and opportunity for its reflection and activation among these artistic modes of expression.
The symposium and related lectures are supported by contributions from Karen and Nils Tcheyan and the Baobab Fund and the Random Good Foundation established by Randall Gebhardt and Christopher Gebhardt. The inaugural program will be archived and available on Maine Media’s website, alongside resources produced to inform these discussions and support its ongoing development.
Maine Media Workshops + College seeks to expand the profile of practices in media art through an interdisciplinary approach that includes the social, environmental, political, cultural and historical production, distribution and reception of technology based and visual media practices inspired by social and environmental concerns. Maine Media brings together an invested community of visual and literary thinkers whose engagements in media art and storytelling bridges subjects of the environment, culture, ethnicity, gender, migration, place, aesthetics, expression and inquiry within the media landscapes of our time.