Today @ AK

Lorna Simpson

American, born 1960

Counting, 1991

Photogravure with silkscreen, edition 8/60
73 3/4 x 38 inches (187.3 x 96.5 cm)
The Gerald S. Elliott Fund, 1992

Lorna Simpson believes that art, especially photography, has the potential to change the world for the better. But the issues she addresses, such as the African-American experience in society, are not easy ones, and leave her work open to a variety of interpretations.

The top image in Counting is an anonymous woman wearing a plain white garment. The times to the right may indicate work shifts, but the schedules are unrealistic. The central image presents a smoke house in South Carolina that was used as a slave hut. Slavery was first acknowledged about 310 years ago, and presumably 1,575 bricks were used in the construction of the tiny building. The only clue Simpson provides to the hair in the bottom image is an accounting of the number of twists, braids, and locks. It has been suggested that the hair represents the age of an old woman who has seen and experienced much in her lifetime.

Simpson said about meaning in her work: "I would hate to think that my work is perceived as a portrayal of victimization. . . . I want to relate the dynamics of a situation, both how that situation occurs and how it affects people's lives. . . . It’s intentionally left open-ended. There’s not a resolution that just solves everything." Viewers are left to draw their own conclusions and hopefully to learn something in the process.

Related Lesson Plan

It All Adds Up to Art (For Grades 5–12)

Related Activities

Activities for Families (PDF)


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