Alicia Henry at Fisk University, 2023, Nashville, TN

For four decades, Alicia Henry has created a robust body of work that combines exquisite craftsmanship with a long-standing exploration of love, loss, family, and the nature of violence and power. Today is the last day of her solo exhibition at Fisk University, as part of the Tennessee Triennale, where Henry has been an esteemed professor, nurturing numerous generations of students. Henry has had a penchant for material experimentation throughout her career—salvaging and repurposing discarded cloth, leather, dyes, thread, and yarn, fashioning raw, contorted, and mysterious figures.

Her assemblages often depict faces, female faces, composed of dark-toned masks. The majority of her figures contain second, even third skins, the traces of ancestors that refuse to recede to the background. She does this with troubling directness, reflecting trauma that spills through the generations. The silhouettes overlap, black-on-black, leaving hollow eyes that consistently meet your gaze with a powerful, unsettling absence of sentiment. They feel like ever-present ghosts that linger, gnaw, and demand to be addressed.