October 18-October 5, 2024

Visual Voice: Who Controls Black Representation?  

Selections from the WFMA Permanent Collection with guest curator Cammie Dean, MSU Texas Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs

Sometimes art reflects society, and sometimes it challenges us. Whether an image we examine serves as a lens, a filter or a mirror depends upon who has control. The artist and the subjects send and receive messages, each communicating what (and who) has meaning and value. The viewer – consumer – has their own influence in the process, as well. Rarely is the power and control in this interchange equally distributed.  

Stereotypes may not be created by the art and media we consume, but these modes of representation and interpretation serve to amplify our visions of each other. The visions influence our decisions and behaviors – sometimes consciously, sometimes not.

The second day of Kwanzaa, the pan-African harvest festival that emerged from the movements for Black Power in the 1960’s, is dedicated to self-determination. Kujichagulia embodies the sense of control that was denied people of color throughout much of the history of what we know as western civilization. The challenge “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves” is rooted in the struggle for control of the images presented and accepted in society.

Throughout the history of what we know as western civilization, people of color have struggled for self-determination in all aspects of life – including control of their own images presented and accepted in society.

When we shake our heads in disbelief at injustice and struggle to understand how tragedy or inhumanity endure, we have to consider critically the source of the perceptions that contribute to such incidents. What images pervade our communities? In our media? In our art? What qualities do they convey about people of color?

Dangerous. Undeserving. Inconsequential. Primitive. Respectable. Normal. Beautiful.

The possibilities are boundless, but the determining factors lie with those in control.

Image Credits:
Junius Brutus Stearns, Life of Washington - The Farmer, 1853, Lithograph; Museum purchase, 1994.
Leroy Allen, Winds of Change, 2003, Lithograph; Purchased by 2022 Collectors Circle.


About Cammie Dean

Cammie Dean was born and raised in Texas. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Sociology at The University of Iowa. After college, she became the first Director of Multicultural Student Services, then the first Director of Student life at Clarke College, in Dubuque Iowa.

In addition to working at Clarke, Dean served as part of the training team for Dubuque’s Intercultural Competencies Initiative, co-chair of FACES & VOICES, and was a children’s gospel choir director. She was a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc; Women United for African American Success; and volunteered as a Girl Scout troop leader. In 2002, Dean became the first African American to serve on the board of education of the Dubuque Community School District and remained in office until 2005. Fun Fact: There is a Cammie Dean exhibit and collection housed in the African American Museum of Iowa.

Dean also served as an adjunct instructor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, co-facilitating an annual anti-racism workshop. She was the president of the Dubuque chapter of the NAACP in 2008 and 2009. She returned to Texas in 2009, serving as Assistant Director of Student Development and Orientation at MSU Texas, and later as Director; she was later appointed Director of Student Transition Services, and is now the Director of First2Go working with first generation college students. She completed her Master of Education degree in Training and Development at MSU in 2014. In Wichita Falls, she has served with several community organizations, including Leadership Wichita Falls, Senior-Junior Forum, the Symphony League and local NAACP.


Explore the levels of control with guest curator Cammie Dean.


No Control
Some Control
Complete Control

Schedule a guided or Art of Seeing Art tour today! Give us a call at 940-397-8900 or send us an email at wfma@msutexas.edu.