Stephen Towns:
Declaration & Resistance

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance examines the American dream through the lives of Black Americans from the late eighteenth century to the present time. Using labor as a backdrop, Towns highlights the role African Americans have played in building the economy, and explores how their resilience, resistance, and perseverance have challenged the United States to truly embrace the tenets of its Declaration of Independence.

Towns has created paintings and story quilts that expand the historical narratives of enslaved and free people who toiled under the most extreme hardships, yet persevered through acts of rebellion, skillful guile, and self-willed determination. Within this arresting body of work, Towns also shows the beauty and love that Black people possess beyond the grips of White supremacy.

Select Artworks
Stephen Towns (born 1980), I am the Glory, 2020. Acrylic, oil, metal leaf on panel, 48 x 36 inches. Collection: Gregory and Alyssa Shannon, Houston, TX.
Stephen Towns (born 1980), Flora and Lillie, 2022. Acrylic, oil, metal leaf on panel, 48 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist
Stephen Towns (born 1980), Mary McLeod Bethune, 2021. Natural and synthetic fabric, polyester and cotton thread, crystal glass beads, metal and resin buttons, 43.5 x 64 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and De Buck Gallery, New York, NY
Stephen Towns (born 1980), Ona Judge Escapes, 2021. Natural and synthetic fabric, polyester and cotton thread, crystal glass beads, resin buttons, 50 x 45.5 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and De Buck Gallery, New York, NY
Stephen Towns (born 1980), The Pioneer, 2020. Oil, acrylic, fabric, buttons, Bristol paper, mica flakes, graphite, glitter, charcoal on panel, 40 x 30 inches. Collection: The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Gift of the William W. Jamison II and the Thomas Lynch Art Acquisition Fund, 2020.16
Stephen Towns (born 1980), Sisterhood, 2021. Acrylic, oil, metal leaf on panel, 40 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and De Buck Gallery, New York, NY
Stephen Towns (born 1980), Two Navy Soldiers, 2021. Acrylic, oil, copper leaf on panel, 36 x 36 inches. Will Allen – The Allen Family Collection

Exhibition Events


Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina and lives and works in Baltimore. He trained as a painter with a BFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina, and has also developed a rigorous, self-taught quilting practice. In 2018, The Baltimore Museum of Art presented his first museum exhibition, Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning. His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Artforum, The Washington Post, Hyperallergic, Cultured, Forbes, AFROPUNK, and American Craft. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize, and in 2021, Towns was the first Black Artist in Residence at The Fallingwater Institute, at the Architect Frank Lloyd Wrights’ infamous Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. In 2021 Towns was also awarded the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award.

Towns’s work is in the collections of Art + Practice, Los Angeles, CA, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, Boise Museum of Art, Boise ID, City of Charleston, Charleston, SC, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI, Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, Asbury, NJ, The Rockwell Museum of Corning, NY, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA and Wichita Museum of Art, Wichita, KS, and is held in private collections nationally and abroad.

Stephen Towns photographed in his studio by Jermaine Táron Bell.

Kilolo Luckett is a Pittsburgh-based art historian and curator. With over twenty years of experience in arts administration and cultural production, she is committed to elevating the voices of underrepresented visual artists, specifically women and Black and Brown artists. Luckett is founding executive director and chief curator of ALMA|LEWIS (named after abstract artists Alma Thomas and Norman Lewis), an experimental, contemporary art platform for critical thinking, dialogue, and creative expression dedicated to Black culture. She recently served as an Art Commissioner for the City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission for twelve years. She is also currently writing an authorized biography on Naomi Sims, one of the first Black supermodels.

Kilolo Luckett

Kilolo Luckett photographed by Grace Roselli.

Before or after you view the Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance exhibition, you are encouraged to select and explore a text from Stephen Towns and Kilolo Luckett’s suggested book list:

  • A People’s History of the United States
    by Howard Zinn

    Black Days, Black Dust: The Memories of an African American Coal Miner
    by Robert Armstead

    Gone Home: Race and Roots Through Appalachia
    by Karida L Brown

    Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America
    by Joe William Trotter

    Never Caught
    by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

    Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops
    by Susie King Taylor

    The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom
    by James Green

    An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
    by Henry Wiencek

    Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
    by Ibram X. Kendi

    The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
    by Isabel Wilkerson

    The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
    by Nikole Hannah-Jones

    The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson’s Recipes and Memories
    by Suzanne Martinson

    Surviving Southampton
    by Vanessa M. Holden

    A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See
    by Tina M. Campt

    Listening to Images
    by Tina M. Campt

    Two Centuries of Black American Art
    by David C. Driskell

    African American Art and Artists
    by Samella Lewis

    Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice
    by bell hooks

    White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness
    by Maurice Berger

    Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 – 2019
    Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

    Mary McLeod Bethune Building a Better World, Essays and Selected Documents
    by Audrey Thomas McCluskey

    The Fire Next Time
    by James Baldwin

    Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom
    by Keisha N. Blain

    The Taste of Country Cooking
    by Edna Lewis

    The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
    by Toni Tipton-Martin

    Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
    by Kelley Fanto Deetz

    Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South
    by Stephanie Camp

    The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture
    by Kevin Quashie

    One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris
    by Stanley Crouch

    Teenie Harris, Photographer: Image, Memory, History
    by Cheryl Finley, Laurence A. Glasco, and Joe W. Trotter

    Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
    by Isabel Wilkerson

    More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the
    United States
    by Imani Perry

Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance is organized and toured by
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA
Curated by Kilolo Luckett

Support for this exhibition has been provided by:

Stephen Towns: Declaration & Resistance is supported by Eden Hall Foundation; Arts, Equity, & Education Fund; De Buck Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Hillman Exhibition Fund of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art. This exhibition is completed in partnership with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area with funding provided in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.

Gallery sponsor:

For Press