Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art acquires painting by Professor Imo Imeh of Westfield State


WESTFIELD, Mass. — The work of Imo Nse Imeh, Ph.D., associate professor of art and art history at Westfield State University, has been added to the eminent Petrucci Family Foundation African American Art Collection.

The New Jersey-based foundation purchased Imeh’s most recent painting, Feeding the veins of the earth (Grounded Angel), which is part of his Blessing series. This group of paintings imagines angels sent to Earth to be tied to the skin of black men and boys to bear witness to their traumas, triumphs and lived experiences.

Completed in 2020, Nourish the veins was created using oil paint, India ink, acrylic ink, and charcoal on unstretched canvas measuring 100 x 84 inches.

“As custodians of African American art, we seek technically skillful, intellectually engaging and deeply moving work,” said Claudia Volpe, director of the Petrucci Family Foundation. “Dr. Imo Nse Imeh ticks all the boxes in his practice. His Blessing series, in particular, caught our attention. We were struck by Imo’s decision to portray black men as angels and as direct witnesses of God of the gravity of living as a black man in America at a time when it seems the struggles black Americans face are being willfully ignored. Nourish the veins of the earth (Grounded Angel) elegantly captures the overwhelming weight of witnessing to a tragedy, as well as the critical need to see and recognize these national wounds. It is our privilege to include this remarkable piece in the PFF collection.

Selected works from the Foundation’s collection are on display in museums and galleries across the country, such as the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition in Michigan and Iowa; and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. It is a focused initiative to focus on the spectrum of African-American visual creativity and its essential place in the history and discourse of American art. The collection offers continued proof that African American art is an integral part of the rich tapestry of the American creative tradition. It seeks to visually represent a cross section of themes that appeal not only to the African American community, but also to the American community at large.

Imeh noted how admittedly humbled and overwhelmed by the acquisition.

“I am delighted that my work is part of this prestigious collection,” said Imeh. “He joins the company of works of a host of illustrious and widely celebrated visual artists from the African and African diaspora, including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett and Titus Kaphar, to only cite a few. Kaphar is a 2018 member of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which included a $ 625,000 “genius” grant to pursue his creative, intellectual and professional inclinations.

Westfield State University Acting Provost Juline Mills, Ph.D., expressed her pride, as well as that of the campus community, in Dr. Imeh’s academic and artistic achievements. “Westfield State is fortunate to have such a talented, passionate and stimulating artist among its dedicated faculty,” said Mills. “He aspires to make sense of a complex and sometimes insane world. Dr Imeh has made immeasurable contributions to the University and to the global community, especially through his art.

Additionally, Imeh’s work will be featured in an exhibition exploring the tension between black identity and American patriotism / membership in the Sigal Museum in Easton, Pa., starting November 19. Among the artists featured is Kehinde Wiley, who painted the presidential portrait of Barack Obama in 2018.

In addition, Imeh will contribute an essay on his work to an upcoming book on the African American Diaspora. Title Time passing by, the publication is expected to be released in fall 2022.

Talented visual artist and specialist in the aesthetics of the African diaspora, Imeh is the author Daughters of reclusion: the ibibio aesthetic in the staging of a female icon (Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers, 2012) and received a BA from Columbia University and an MA and PhD. in Art History, Criticism, and Conservation from Yale University.


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