The Root of the Matter

February 3 – May 28, 2022, Watson Galleries A portion of this exhibition is now installed in Leyburn Library

The Root of the Matter

About the Exhibition

The Root of the Matter features the contemporary art of Sharon Norwood, a conceptual artist of Caribbean descent, who shares that her collective work is meant to provoke an honest conversation about race and difference. “We are different yet inexplicably connected in our intertwined histories,” she states. “[My] work seeks to interrogate those spaces that both fracture and unite our understanding of self and ‘otherness’.”

Norwood explores complex issues of identity and cultural relationships using the deceptively simple element of line. For her, line — specifically the curly line — exists on multiple levels. It stands on its own as an artistic element, decorative and ornate, but simultaneously and on a deeper metaphorical level, the curly line represents the female Black body, especially hair. This theme is explored in the current exhibition through her series: Hair Matters; The Root of the Matter; and Skin Deep. Through various media —including ceramics, drawings, paintings, installations, and video— Norwood speaks in nuanced ways to issues of race, gender, beauty, fashion, class, and labor. By applying lines to found objects such as ceramic tea services and 19th-century prints, the artist also invites viewers to reframe familiar historical narratives of postcolonialism and power by disrupting the pervading narrative and providing an alternate artistic context for contemplation.

Sharon Norwood was born in Jamaica and raised in Canada. She received a BFA in Painting from the University of South Florida and an MFA in Studio Art from Florida State University. She has exhibited throughout the United States, Canada, Jamaica, Korea, and Germany and has participated in national and international residencies, including the McColl Center for Arts & Innovation; Vermont Studio Center (VSC); PILOTENKUECHE, an international art program in Leipzig, Germany; Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine; ROKTOWA in Kingston, Jamaica; and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). In 2019 she became a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant nominee. Norwood currently maintains her studio practice in Savannah, Georgia.

This exhibition was curated by Patricia Hobbs, Senior Curator of Art, with assistance from student curator Ayomiposi (Posi) Oluwakuyide ’24.

Museums at Washington and Lee University

Events and Programming

Exhibit Opening Reception

February 4, 2022: 4:30–6:00 p.m.
Watson Galleries
Join the Museums at W&L and our guest artist, Sharon Norwood, for the opening reception of her latest exhibition, "The Root of the Matter.” Opening remarks by curators Patricia Hobbs and Posi Oluwakuyide '24 will be given at 4:45 p.m.

“Walk and Talk” with Sharon Norwood

February 3, 2022, 6:30 –7:30 p.m. & February 4, 2022, 3:00 –4:00 p.m.
Watson Galleries
The Museums at W&L are excited to host conceptual artist, Sharon Norwood, as she facilitates conversations about the issues and themes present in her latest exhibition, "The Root of the Matter: Works by Sharon Norwood." Participants will select pieces in the show to explore hair, beauty, class, status, fashion, and more using visual prompts.

Artist Talkback

Watch the recording of "Disrupting the Feminine Space," an artist talkback with Sharon Norwood as she discusses her creative practice, including the inspirations, influences, and conceptual underpinnings of her latest exhibition, "The Root of the Matter: Works by Sharon Norwood."

Slow Art Day Workshops

April 2, 2022: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Watson Galleries

Join student curator Posi Oluwakuyide' 24 in close-looking sessions using a guided method for viewing art. Each workshop is all about doing—exploring, seeing, reflecting, responding, and sometimes writing. Come alone or bring a friend!