2009 Driskell Prize Recipient

Krista A. Thompson

Krista A. Thompson

The High Museum of Art has named scholar Krista A. Thompson, Assistant Professor of African Diaspora and African Art at Northwestern University and independent curator, as the 2009 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize. Named after the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize recognizes a scholar or artist in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history. Thompson, the fifth recipient of the Driskell Prize, will receive the award at the Driskell Prize Dinner in Atlanta on April 20, 2009. In celebration of the fifth anniversary, the High will host an exhibition of David C. Driskell’s works, “Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David C. Driskell,” on view April 21 through August 2, 2009.

“Krista Thompson has recently emerged as a new force and innovative influence in the field of African Diaspora and African art,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High. “Thompson’s work as a curator, writer and professor in both the United States and the Caribbean makes her an exemplary recipient of the 2009 Driskell Prize. Now in its fifth year, this award continues to reflect the High’s commitment to supporting scholarship and creativity in this field.”

Established by the High in 2005, the David C. Driskell Prize is the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art and art history. Past recipients include artist Xaviera Simmons (2008), scholar/curator Franklin Sirmans (2007), artist Willie Cole (2006) and scholar Dr. Kellie Jones (2005). A cash award of $25,000 accompanies the prize.

In addition to teaching positions at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, Thompson has mounted exhibitions as an independent curator at museums in the U.S. and in the Caribbean. Some of her most notable projects include “Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of ‘Over the Hill’ Nassau in the Independence Era” (National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2008), “An Account of a Voyage to Jamaica with the Unnatural History of That Place: An Exhibition by Fred Wilson” (Institute of Jamaica, 2007), “Big House/Disclosure” (Northwestern University, 2006), “Visualizing the Unseen: The Counter-Picturesque in Contemporary Bahamian Art” (National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2006) and “Bahamian Visions: Photographs 1870–1920” (The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2002–2003).

Thompson has also contributed to numerous scholarly articles, essays and exhibition catalogues throughout her career, including the exhibition catalogue “Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage: Africa, Lagos~Dakar,” the article “Performing Visibility: Freaknic and the Spatial Politics of Sexuality, Race and Class in Atlanta” (2007), and the book “An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography, and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque” (2006). Currently, Thompson is co-editing a new book titled “Vocabularies of Visual Memory in the Caribbean” and a journal issue on “Slavery and the Visual Imagination.” She is also working on a documentary and book, “The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Practice,” which deals with the relationship among black vernacular forms of photography, performance, and contemporary art in the northern Caribbean and southern United States and for which she received a postdoctoral fellowship with the J. Paul Getty Foundation (2008). Thompson’s additional fellowships include the Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois, Chicago (2004), and the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland (2003–2004).

As a distinguished lecturer, Thompson has spoken nationally on topics of the African Diaspora at such institutions as the University of California, Berkeley, New York University, and the Yale Center for British Art. Some of her most notable contributions include “Making Them Slaves Again: History and the Shadow of Photography in Colonial Jamaica” (University of California, Berkeley, 2008), “Bling! Or the Sound of Black Circum-Atlantic Visibility” (New York University, 2007), and “Postcards to Slavery: Photography, History and (Re) Memory” (Yale Center for British Art and the Gilder Lehrman Center, 2007).

Learn more about the David C. Driskell Prize and other previous winners.