The Lessons I Leave You: Paintings by Ayana Ross

May 18 through September 10, 2023

Ayana Ross collects stories. For inspiration, she draws from family, current events, history, art, her experiences growing up in the American South, and Biblical stories viewed through a contemporary lens. Touching on universal themes, Ross’ paintings offer an opening for viewers to find themselves and their own experiences.

A recurring theme in Ross’ art is that of parent and child, of memories of the past and wishes and advice for the future. Her narrative paintings are inspired by early 20th traditions, with Henry Ossawa Tanner being her most direct muse. Thematic and visual references to Tanner’s Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Flight into Egypt, The Banjo Lesson, and The Thankful Poor appear in this exhibition, along with nods to paintings by Norman Rockwell and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. In this way, Ross connects her work to a shared visual history. Ross’ patterns and natural textures fragment and distort the pictorial space while adding their own story telling elements. Clothing and wallpaper prints evoke feelings of nostalgia while floral patterns deliberately highlight the natural world. The repeated use of wood grain comes from the walls and floors of Ross’s childhood home, a visual record of her sense of place and family. Addressing issues both personal and shared, Ross’s paintings speak to the importance of family in the lives of children and offer the opportunity for understanding and empathy in an often fractured world.

Ayana Ross is based in McDonough, GA and maintains a studio in nearby Atlanta. She was the recipient of the 2021 Bennett Prize, an award that included a $50,000 grant and a solo exhibition. The Lessons I Leave You premieres a selection of the paintings created by Ross during her two-year grant period.

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 18 | 5 PM


Exhibition Features: