Human Interest

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, with commentary by students from PS 33 Chelsea Prep and Whitney Museum educator Melanie Adsit.


Njideka Akunyili Crosby, _Portals_, 2016. Acrylic, solvent transfer, collage of fabric and paper, and colored pencil on paper, 83 5/8 x 206 in (212.4 x 523.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase with funds from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation 2016.93a-b © Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Narrator: This work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby has a lot of layers. What do you notice first? One of the central images is the Nigerian-American artist herself—sitting at a table in the middle of the left-hand panel, lost in thought. It looks like there’s wallpaper on the wall behind her. But it’s actually a kind of fabric used in Nigeria to celebrate special events—in this case, Crosby’s mother’s electoral campaign for the Nigerian senate.

On the right-hand side, we see framed pictures showing different generations of the artist’s family—including parents, her grandmother, and her wedding to an American man. There’s also an old-fashioned TV, which shows the military ruler of Nigeria from when the artist was younger. Pictures and patterns are everywhere. It’s almost like a kaleidoscope of people.

Usually, when artists paint self-portraits, they’re telling you something about themselves. What do you think Crosby is telling you here? It helps to know that she moved to the United States when she was a young woman. She’s gone back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria ever since. Maybe all of these layers tell us something about the complexity of living between two places.