Kerry James Marshall’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.


Kerry James Marshall, Great America, 1994. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 103 x 114 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Kerry James Marshall, Great America

Great America is contemporaneous with Marshall’s well-known Garden Project (1994–95), a series of paintings based on housing projects with “gardens” in their names, such as Nickerson Gardens in Watts, where he grew up. In those works, Marshall sought to convey the dignity and complexity of lives set within difficult circumstances. In Great America he re-imagines a boat ride into the haunted tunnel of an amusement park as the Middle Passage of slaves from Africa to the New World. What might in other hands be a work of heavy irony becomes instead a delicate interweaving of the histories of painting and race. The painting, which is stretched directly onto the wall, creates a screen or backdrop onto which viewers project their own associations triggered by the diaphanous yet powerful imagery.

Hot tip: if you’re in the neighborhood, you can see this work on view in the recently reopened East Building of the National Gallery of Art.

September #Phillips95: Photo or Painting?

Things aren’t always as they appear. This month’s #Phillips95 challenge focuses on slow and careful looking. Do you think the below work, a recent acquisition for the museum’s permanent collection, is a painting or a photograph? Comment on this blog post or any of our social media posts with your guess to be entered into a drawing to win a Phillips prize pack (including two tickets to the museum and goodies from the museum shop!). We’ll select a winner from the correct answers tomorrow, Friday, September 30. We’ll also reveal the artist and title.


Guess the medium! Painting or photo?

Update: If you guessed photograph, you are correct! This work, Peaches and Blackberries (2008) is by artist Sharon Core and is a chromogenic print. Congrats to our winners Livia N. and Jill K. Check back next month for more chances to win prizes.

Responding to The Migration Series: Laura Shamas

The Phillips has commissioned five plays from local playwrights in response to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.  The resulting 10-minute, one-act plays will be performed on Oct. 20. In this series, we interview each playwright.


Laura Shamas

Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Laura Shamas: I grew up in the theatre. My mother is an actor-director. I never had any choice, really.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
LS: I’m usually on the go, so my process is motivated by deadlines or themes I cannot let go.

Please share your thoughts on what The Migration Series means to you. What excited you about being a part of this festival?
LS: It is such an honor to be asked to write a short play, inspired by the work of Jacob Lawrence, by The Phillips Collection.

Tell us a bit about your play. What is it about, and what do you hope audiences will walk away thinking about after hearing it?
LS: My play is about a close Muslim-American family that faces violence directed at them. I hope audiences will come away thinking about how charged prejudicial rhetoric in presidential campaigns harms American society.

Which of the Migration Series panels inspired your play? What drew you to it? What was it like to write a play inspired by a work of art?
LS: I was inspired by Panel no. 51, because of its use of fire. I immediately started to think about who lit the fires—and why.

Why do you think the message of The Migration Series still resonates today? How does your play relate to that message?
LS: The Migration Series still resonates today because it depicts great truths about what it means to be human. I hope my play honors Lawrence’s work and intention by showing how Panel no. 51 is absolutely current and heartbreaking.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
LS: See all the plays you can. That can be expensive, so I used to volunteer as an usher to help defray costs. Get inside a theater at least once a week if possible.

What next for you? Where can we follow your work?
LS: In September and October: AMELIA LIVES, my one-woman show about Amelia Earhart, runs Sept. 24–Oct. 2 at the Women’s Museum of California, produced by American History Theatre, San Diego. My new full-length play CIRCULAR is part of the Artemisia Theatre in Chicago’s annual Fall Festival of New Plays on Oct. 1. It’s about Circe, Odysseus, and PTSD.