Discipline: Visual Art – installation, Literature – nonfiction

Nell Painter

Discipline: Visual Art – installation, Literature – nonfiction
Region: Newark, NJ
MacDowell Fellowships: 2016, 2019, 2021

After a fulfilling career as a publishing Princeton historian (most notably as the author of The History of White People), Nell Painter began again in art school, a move eliciting a great deal of curiosity. In residence in 2016, she completed a memoir entitled Old in Art School, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle autobiography award. In 2017 she completed the series "You Say This Can't Really Be America" and in 2018 she published an art review of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power in the New York Review Daily. Painter was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of MacDowell in 2020.

In residence in 2019, Painter created "Ancient Hair Book" and four installations on her studio wall for a project that will ultimately become an artist's book with the working title Were the Ancients White? In 2021, Nell was in residence working on a book of her essays titled I Just Keep Talking. The collection is expected to be published in April 2024.

Read the announcement of Nell Painter's appointment as chair of MacDowell's board

Read Nell Painter's essay "At MacDowell with James Baldwin, to Stop and Do Nothing In Order to Start Anew."

Read an essay about Nell's coronavirus occupation.



Nell Painter worked in the Eastman studio.

Thanks to the generous support of MacDowell Fellow and board member Louise Eastman, this century-old farm building was reinvented as a modern, energy efficient live and workspace for visual artists. Originally built in 1915 to house a forge and provide storage when the residency program was expanding, this small barn was simply converted for…

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