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Every two years, Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents the Mary B. Howard Invitational, a group exhibition featuring the work of regional contemporary artists. For each iteration of the show, Tephra ICA works with a guest curator to produce the exhibition through an open call for artists. This program values exhibition-making as a meaningful collaboration between artist and curator and a generative process that feeds the development and public presentation of innovative new work. The Invitational is named in memory of Mary B. Howard, an artist, long-time board member, and staunch supporter of Tephra ICA.

About the Exhibition

This year, Guest Curator Deirdre Darden will work with selected artists to develop a group exhibition, for which each artist creates and presents new work. In acknowledgment of the many traumas that have been endured individually and collectively over the past two years, this exhibition will explore the concepts of rest and reprieve as a starting point for the artistic process. Seeking diverse perspectives around this topic, Deirdre Darden and Tephra ICA invited artists to respond to the following exhibition prompt:

•  What would your artwork look like if you were well rested?

•  How could you conceive of your practice if all your needs were met?

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Image courtesy of Deirdre Darden

About the Guest Curator

Deirdre Darden is an emerging curator born and raised around art in Washington, DC. She began her curatorial practice in 2014 with Black Artists of DC. Since then she has exhibited and collaborated with contemporary artists from DC, Baltimore, and New York and organized panel discussions and artist talks touching on themes of race, womanhood, societal pressures, and art's ultimate power.

Shows include Black Lives / White Light (2015), Pressure Points (2016), and Lest We Forget (2016). In 2018, Darden received a curatorial grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to curate We Got Next: Young Contemporaries. She has consulted for the art fair Art on the Vine and as a curator at Eaton Workshop. Currently she is prioritizing rest during the pandemic(s) and working on projects from home, including curating public art for 11th Street Bridge Park. 

Tephra ICA is pleased to announce the selected artists for the 2022 Mary. B Howard Invitational:

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Holly Bass, Root Work, 2016

Holly Bass

Holly Bass is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer, and director. Her work explores the unspoken and invisible social codes surrounding gender, class, and race. Through art, Bass hopes to celebrate what makes us alike without diminishing what makes us different. 

She is a 2020–2022 Live Feed Resident Artist at New York Live Arts and a 2021–22 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. She studied modern dance (under Viola Farber) and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College before earning her Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her work has been presented at spaces such as the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, the Seattle Art Museum, Art Basel Miami Beach (Project Miami Fair), and the South African State Theatre. 

Her visual artwork includes photography, installation, video, and performance and can be found in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the DC Art Bank, as well as private collections. A Cave Canem Fellow, she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently the National Director for Turnaround Arts at the Kennedy Center, a program which uses the arts strategically to transform schools facing severe inequities.

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Adjoa Borrowes, Winds of Change, 2017

Adjoa Burrowes

Adjoa Burrowes, based in Fairfax county, works across printmaking, sculpture, and painting. Her work frequently includes themes of personal and cultural identity and visual narratives relating to the angst of contemporary life, in an increasingly dangerous social and political landscape.

Burrowes has studied with contemporary artists in Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and she has presented her work in the Virgin Islands, Mexico, the Netherlands, and France. Burrowes earned a BFA in Printmaking from Howard University and an MA in Art Education at Corcoran College of Arts and Design at The George Washington University. 

Burrowes has designed and implemented art workshops and residencies for cultural institutions throughout the nation including the John F. Kennedy Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the National Civil Rights Museum. Her mixed media collages, prints, and sculptural installations have been exhibited throughout the United States. Her works on paper are included in collections at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, Brooklyn Art Library, Banneker Douglass Museum of Culture and History, The Southside Community Art Center, Art Colle Museum of Collage in Plemet, France, and the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium.

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Deborah Grayson, Portals: Cracking Open, 2021

Deborah Grayson

Using vernacular, ethnographic, and medical photographs from the early 20th century as source material, Deborah Grayson examines historical archives to trace Black women’s life stories. Moving between figuration and abstraction, the historical and the intergalactic, and the spiritual and the profane, Grayson uses printmaking (e.g., photolithography, woodcut, screen print) and drawing to reanimate the rich but neglected and sometimes quiet stories of Black women's lives. 

Born in Washington, DC and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Grayson completed a BA at the University of Maryland, College Park and an MA and PhD at Michigan State University. Her work is frequently curated into group shows in DC, including at The Washington Project for the Arts, the Library of Congress, and the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery among many others. In addition to her studio work, Deborah Grayson is an independent scholar, workshop facilitator, and teacher.

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Katie O’Keefe, Endogenous Embrace, 2020

Katie O'Keefe

Katie O'Keefe was raised in Hudson Valley, New York and is currently based in Baltimore, Maryland where she is a resident artist of the City Arts live/work space in Station North, Baltimore.

From the age of 14, Katie has been dealing with Chronic Lyme and her experience with this illness has greatly impacted her creative work. Initially trained in painting and drawing, she shifted her practice to adapt when Lyme temporarily limited her dexterity. She then discovered the joys and sensuality of working with thread. 

She received her BFA in Fiber Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and studied textiles abroad in Turkey. While in New York she interned at Dieu Donné Papermill, where she learned the intricate processes of handmade paper. Katie has notably exhibited her work at School 33 Art Center, Towson University, Stevenson University, The Baltimore Jewelry Center and most recently presented her first solo show at Gallery CA.

Mary B. Howard Invitational - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Britt Barbour (Sankofa), Gimme a Smile, 201

Britt Sankofa

Britt Sankofa is a filmmaker and installation artist from Washington, DC whose mission is to carry on the storytelling tradition of her African American heritage with non-traditional mediums, particularly film and video art. Using original, archival sounds and footage, Sankofa pieces together non-linear narratives of multiple genres, including documentary, surrealism, animation, and live performance. Content often deals with family and cultural histories, societal expectations of gender, and the media’s impact on identity. Her collage-style approach to filmmaking is heavily inspired by quilting arts, another important format of the Black storytelling tradition.

Sankofa’s work has been featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum for Women in the Arts, Afrikana Film Festival, Virginia Film Festival, and Hamiltonian Artists Gallery.

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