Created by
Towns, Stephen, American, born 1980
acrylic and oil paint, graphite, bristol board, metal leaf, natural and synthetic cloth fabric, nylon tulle, polyester and cotton thread, and crystal glass beads on wood panel
H x W x D (a: wood panel): 24 × 16 1/8 × 1 9/16 in. (61 × 40.9 × 4 cm)
H x W (b: quilt panel): 20 1/2 × 15 15/16 in. (52 × 40.5 cm)
The subject of An Offering was inspired by Marcus Rediker’s 2007 book, The Slave Ship: A Human History. The series of eight panels pay homage to the West African people who were uprooted from their families and forced to endure the brutality of the Middle Passage and enslavement. The shape of each recalls the iconic 18th century British slave ship the Brookes. The candles represent an offering to these ancestors in a gesture of gratitude and solace.
A mixed media work comprised of a rectangular painted wooden panel with a quilted fabric panel suspended below. The quilted panel ends in a curved point, giving the overall work the shape of a ship with pointed bow. The painted panel depicts a portrait of a child figure against a gold background. The figure, shown from the hips up, wears a white garment with rounded collar and a red fabric wrap around the middle. A round black shape appears behind the figure’s head. Four blue butterflies hover around the figure, with three appearing along the right side and one at the bottom left. In the quilted panel below, the figure’s shadow is cast in black fabric overlaid with tulle studded with delicate glass beads. The black mass from above appears here as a halo of white thread. The shadow figure is surrounded by waves made of undulating strips of fabric in shades of blue, gray, and purple. Three hands hold out candles in offering to the ancestral figure, each flame represented by a single yellow bead. On the verso of the quilted panel is a small rectangle of white cloth at the top left corner with black thread embroidery reading "Offering 3."
Place made
Baltimore, Maryland, United States, North and Central America
An Offering
Visual Arts
panel paintings
fiber art
mixed media
African diaspora
Middle Passage
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
© Stephen Towns
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.

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