- Keith Carter: Fifty Years
An extraordinary outdoor exhibition in celebration of a career-spanning monograph, Keith Carter—Fifty Years (University of Texas Press, 2018).
Duke student Annie Kornack interviews artist Nina Chanel Abney about her residency at Duke and UNC this spring.
During her spring 2018 residency at the Rubenstein Arts Center, Nina Chanel Abney produced new work, visited classes, and undertook a collaborative mural project with students in a visual arts class at UNC-Chapel Hill (ARTS 290, taught by Brian Garner). Abney was among the first artists to hold a Nannerl O. Keohane Visiting Professorship, a joint program of the provosts of UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University that brings scholars to both campuses for residencies intended to advance social engagement and innovation.
Amid spray-paint and canvases in the Ruby painting studio, Annie Kornack (Class of 2020) interviewed Abney about her time on both campuses. Kornack is a member of the Duke Arts Creative Arts Student Teams (CASTs).
Nina Chanel Abney (NCA): I didn’t know what to expect when I was invited. I don’t have any teaching experience, but I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to test the waters working with students.
NCA: Well, honestly, it’s been a good break for me. I’ve been working on so many exhibitions, it’s been nice to finally have a space where I can take a little time to experiment and create some paintings that might not be for a specific exhibition. Usually, when I’m making work, I always have a particular body of work in mind, and this time I was just casual about it, so it’s been nice to have that time and no pressure.
NCA: I decided to take a break from work that’s based on current events. I decided I want to look at vintage basketball cards. That’s what influenced the work I’m doing now. As you can see there’s volleyball and water polo—I’ve been thinking about sports-related work. I was a big sports card collector when I was younger.
NCA: At UNC-Chapel Hill the basketball court was a really collaborative experience where the students brought different issues on campus to me and helped me find imagery related to those issues. We worked together in coming up with the concept behind the basketball court—it responds to Silent Sam from the student body perspective.
NCA: I designed another basketball court in Memphis, but I sent in the design and someone else painted it for me. This is the first time that I will be actually painting on the court. The students are doing a lot of the work. We’re working on a poster to advertise the unveiling of the court, we’re doing a photo booth, and people in the class are also painting the court.
NCA: I’ve had a lot more opportunities to engage with different students, which I never get. I actually talked to a hip hop class, where I lectured about the influence of hip hop on my own work and it made me look at my work in a different way. Getting a chance to pop around different classes allows me to focus on different aspects of my practice that I normally wouldn’t necessarily think or lecture about.
NCA: I really would love to do more commercial. Through that I’ll be able to reach a much larger audience. And I love Instagram, several people have been getting their nails done with my artwork. I usually repost them—it’s fun how my art can translate differently.
NCA: That was my mom! (Laughs.) That was totally my mom in my Instagram comments.
NCA: I would say, just do it and you’ll learn as you go along.
NCA: I have looked more at collaboration. Especially working with the class at Chapel Hill, it’s just a true collaboration.
NCA: Neither and both teams lost! (Laughs.)
NCA: I’m doing a private residency in Arizona for a month. So, pretty much after I leave here I’m going to Arizona, near Scottsdale. I’ve never been, but it looks pretty amazing.