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Nell’s art and writing in the year of the Great Upheaval 2020

This page contains links to Nell Painter’s art, writing, and interviews produced during 2020. banner It's never too late Nell Painter photo

A profile on Nell by Sammy Gibbons for (part of the USA Today network), “It's never too late: Why this successful NJ historian changed career paths in her late 60s” Published Dec. 14, 2020.

From Slavery to Freedom

From Slavery to Freedom, 2020: a series of 15 drawings. Ink and collage on paper, digitally manipulated, a series of 15 drawings each 8.5" x 5.5", commissioned by Emma Wilcox for Aferro Gallery in Newark. Think

Nell's opinion piece in NBC online news ( (Think/Thought Experiment): “White identity in America is ideology, not biology. The history of 'whiteness' proves it.” by Nell Irvin Painter, June 27, 2020.
The idea of one big white race did not just spring to life full-blown and unchanging, which is what most people assume — and white supremacists rely on.

Women in the Book Arts Symposium Women in the Book Arts Symposium Women in the Book Arts Symposium

Nell presents the Keynote Lecture at the Duke University Libraries Exhibits “Women in the Book Arts Symposium: Keynote Lecture by Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, ‘Truth in Print’ from the Grolier Club, New York, NY, January 21, 2020. This symposium explored women’s contributions to printing, publishing, and the book arts, as well as the contributions of women collectors and book dealers.

NYT logo The New York Times The New York Times

Nell's op-ed piece in The New York Times: "It Shouldn’t Be This Close. But There’s Good News, Too. In the long lines of voters, I see hope." by Nell Irvin Painter, November 5, 2020 (The New York Times–Opinion)

November magazine

Nell is interviewed by Lauren O'Neill-Butler for the on-line publication November, "Nell Painter— In conversation with Lauren O'Neill-Butler," November Magazine, No. 5. The interview took place September 2020. ( is a publication of interviews with thinkers about art, politics, media, architecture, and philosophy).

the Paris Review the Paris Review

Nell has an essay in the Paris Review (Arts & Culture): “On Horseback” by Nell Painter, June 19, 2020. A personal essay on black horseback riders in Black Lives Matter protests, the history of black cowboys, and her own personal history of horseback riding as a girl with her father in California.

MacDowell Colony logo-Nell Painter image Nell at MacDowell

MacDowellNell Painter Appointed Chair of MacDowell Colony Board of Directors, January 2020. Nell is MacDowell’s new chairman of the board.
MacDowell awards more than 300 competitive Fellowships to artists working in seven disciplines each year. While at MacDowell, Fellows are provided a private studio, accommodations, and three meals a day for a period of up to eight weeks. Nell is a two-time MacDowell Fellow (2016, 2019). Here is a link to Nell's Artist page at MacDowell’s website. Also on MacDowell’s website, here is Nell's essay “At MacDowell with James Baldwin, to Stop and Do Nothing In Order to Start Anew.”
(Since Nell's appointment, MacDowell dropped the word "colony" from its name to continue efforts to eliminate barriers to participation.)

KC Star logo KC Star interview

Nell is interviewed by the Kansas City Star newspaper on Oct. 30, 2020: "At 67, she could have retired, but instead she reinvented herself. It wasn’t easy." before an on-line conversation with the Kansas City Public Library on Nov. 16; and as the Library's "book-of-the-moment selection", Kaite Mediatore Stover, the library’s director of readers’ services, will lead an online discussion of “Old in Art School” by Nell Painter Jan. 7 from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (email Stover at for details on joining in).

Think presents

Nell's video on NBC: Think—Opinion, Analysis, Essays “The complex history and an uncertain future of American whiteness” by Nell Irvin Painter, August 3, 2020.

The New Yorker The New Yorker

Nell's piece in The New Yorker (Cultural Comment): “Seeing Police Brutality Then and Now” by Nell Irvin Painter, June 18, 2020. “We still haven’t fully recognized the art made by twentieth-century black artists.”

Hyphenings Hyphenings

Nell participates in an on-line web chat: Hyphenings — Blind Date No. 5 — Nell Irvin Painter and Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, “Negotiating identities” May 26, 2020. Nell is webchatting with Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed (Algeria/France), Dr. in social sciences (theology sociology neuropsychology) and imam (gender minorities liberation). Their topics include: identity tools, summer people, race and racism, white supremacy, stereotypes, religion, beauty, norms, homosexuality, inclusive mosques, community, imams, faith, science, activist frontlines, engaged art vs. art for art’s sake, Marseille, (in)visibility, (de)colonization. Hyphenings is an international video project connecting writers, thinkers, and artists. In the “blind date” series, guests are not told anything about each other, just invited into a video chat and the curators record what happens.

American Whiteness since Trump artist book cover

Nell's artist book American Whiteness Since Trump is on display at James Fuentes Online gallery. This series of 28 pieces (ink, graphite, and collage on paper) was created while Painter was in residence at the Bogliasco Foundation, Italy in February–March 2020.

Washington Post

Nell's opinion piece in The Washington Post: “Why 'White' should be capitalized, too” by Nell Irvin Painter, July 22, 2020. “Let’s talk about that lowercase 'white.' ” [This piece appeared in The Washington Post print edition on July 23, 2020.]
Here is Nell's unedited longer version (as a pdf), before it was cut to fit into The Post's opinion section.

Fondazione Bogliasco’s villa

My Coronavirus OccupationNell's essay on making art and writing during the coronavirus.
“Coronavirus came to occupy my art in Fondazione Bogliasco’s villa above the Ligurian Sea where I was in an artist’s residency between mid-February and mid-March of this year.”

NPR podcast NPR podcast

Nell is interviewed as part of a podcast on NPR's "Invisabilia" series: "White v. White?" March 27, 2020. The podcast's subject is "A city council candidate says he's black. But his opponent accuses him of being a white man pretending to be black." Nell discusses race as a social construct, the meanings which change over time.

Boston Review Boston Review

Nell is interviewed in the Boston Review: "The Historian’s Art", Jonathan M. Square, Walter Johnson, Nell Painter.
Jonathan M. Square, the curator of Nell's 2 recent exhibits at Harvard University, introduces the conversation between Nell and Walter Johnson (Harvard historian and Nell’s former student). (Posted January 6, 2020.)