2021-2022 Fellow: Angela N. Carroll

Angela N. Carroll is an artist-archivist, writer, curator, and investigator of art history and culture. She regularly contributes critical essays to significant publications including Sugarcane Magazine, Black Art in America, BmoreArt, and Hyperallergic, and also writes art exhibition catalogs for prominent institutions including Columbia University, The Baltimore Museum of Art, and Rena Bransten Gallery, among others. In 2021, Angela released Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South, a catalog, exhibition and short docuseries that surveys underrecognized artists in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) region. She received her MFA in Digital Arts and New Media from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and intermittently teaches within the Film and Moving Image program at Stevenson University and the First Year Experience program at MICA in Baltimore, Maryland.


Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South showcases a succinct selection of prolific visionaries who create from and are informed by the liminal realms between northeastern art metropolises and the South. Artists include Schroeder Cherry, Linda Day Clark, Oletha DeVane, Espi Frazier, Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Ed Love, Tom Miller, Joyce J Scott, and Paula Whaley.

Exploring Presence reviews the projects, interventions, activations, and constructions that each artist engaged between 1970 and the contemporary moment. This era is marked by significant ruptures, renaming, reclamation, and revision for BIPOC creatives in the country, across the diaspora, and in the Global South. The geospatial significance of this project is compounded by the sociopolitical tumult of the era which informs the subjects that each artist examines in this period and offers greater insight into some of the struggles each artist navigated to sustain their art practice. Selected artworks included in this collection also mark significant intervals of experimentation with process, material, and form for each artist.



Common Field (CF): How has your project changed or evolved? How did the Convening and relationships within Common Field’s Network impact the project?

Angela N. Carroll (AC): The project was originally called Legacies, and evolved into Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South. Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South is a multitiered homage to Black creative geniuses based in Black enclaves situated in the heart of the Upper South, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. The project was always curated to be a multitiered documentation of each of the featured artists. I believed then, and continue to believe now, that it was important to recognize the artists via multidisciplinary platforms: an extensive in-person exhibition, a published exhibition catalog with contributions from notable and emerging art historians and scholars, and a 10-film docuseries. By curating a multidisciplinary experience, broader audiences beyond the DMV region are encouraged to learn more about an extraordinary group of lesser-known artists.

Being a 2021 Fellow with Common Field and participating in the Convening helped us expand the conversation further by introducing the artists to your extensive creative network. It is our hope that those who participated in the Convening will challenge themselves to continue learning about the artists and support any other endeavors those artists pursue in the future.

CF: This project has developed from years of research, writing, and relationships with the featured artists. Can you share more about your inspiration for beginning this project, and the process you’ve undertaken?

AC: Exploring Presence began as intimate conversations with older African American professional artists based in the region so that I could better understand the history of Black creative accomplishment in the Upper South. When the project was conceived in 2018, I had already written extensively about Black artists whose exhibitions were receiving no or incredibly limited exposure, or coverage that only loosely understood the cultural nuances that informed their bodies of work. My desire to support and counter the erasure and decontextualization of Black artists in the Upper South was a significant impetus to realize the Exploring Presence project.

At its core, Exploring Presence is a truly community-driven project. All featured artists are people that I have been working closely with over the last four years. Other artists who I have learned about or met through the featured artists will be the focus of future iterations of the project. All facets of the project from photography, cinematography, music direction, and scholarly essay contributions came directly from relationships I have with incredible talents based in the Upper South. Their belief in this project has continuously encouraged me.


The Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South exhibition comes to the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University from Friday, June 3 to Friday, July 15, 2022.

Watch the Exploring Presence docuseries on Vimeo, and Carroll’s 2021 Convening session on our Video page.

To purchase a copy of the Exploring Presence: African American Artists in the Upper South catalog, visit the Merkaba Publications website.

Learn more about the rest of our 2021-2022 Fellows here.