It is a small show, curated by Dianna Settles, who chose three of Boyd’s pieces to feature. While the title is Biblical, the show speaks to a revival of spirit and the will to fight. One imagines the Middle Passage of enslaved Africans to the Americas. Another is a resurrection theme. The third pulls from a line in Boyd’s favorite Christmas carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
“The title is part of a scripture from one of the titles of Dawn’s pieces in the show,” Settles said. “[It’s] 1 Corinthians 15:51-54. ‘For I am telling you a secret. We will not die, but we will all be changed in a very short time, no longer than it takes for the eye to close and open...Then when it happens as the Holy writing said it would happen, death will be swallowed up into victory.’”
Settles said the quote had special poignancy given the recent police killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor.
“I love the idea of moving beyond the time that Black bodies are being murdered by police and all of the different structures that work to uphold white supremacy,” Settles said. “And that there being this sort of salvation at the end of all this upheaval.”
Veronica Kessenich, executive director of the Contemporary said that when she was unwrapping the pieces to prepare them for installation, she was “completely riveted by the scale and the sewing and the intimacy.
“Not only in looking at the content of the form but then the content of what is represented, it was really a timely exhibition,” Kessenich said. “They feel maybe like stained glass or something that is heightened to something that is in need of being acknowledged and worshipped and recognized and ultimately reckoned with.”
“Death Is Swallowed Up by Victory,” cloth paintings by Dawn Williams Boyd
The museum is closed until Jan. 5, 2021.
Upon reopening, hours are: 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; Monday, closed; noon-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; free; the Atlanta Contemporary, 535 Means Street NW Atlanta. 404-688-1970; atlantacontemporary.org