Kerry James Marshall

American; b. Birmingham, AL, 1955; lives and works in Chicago, IL



acrylic and collage on canvas
91 7/8 x 86 1/2 in. (233.4 x 219.7 cm)

Gift of the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art
© 2004 The Artist c/o Jack Shainman Gallery


In the mid-1990s, Kerry James Marshall began using water and boats as metaphors for spiritual transformation, the African Diaspora, and the Middle Passage. Voyager alludes to the schooner Wanderer, the last ship to secretly carry African slaves to the United States. Marshall evokes birth, death, and regeneration through images such as embryos and egg shapes, as well as drawn symbols and numbers referring to West African gods worshipped in the Americas. The picture remains ambiguous, evoking a world of rich emotional connections and layers of history that cannot be separated.

You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955 and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in ‘63, and grow up in South Central near the Black Panthers headquarters and see the kinds of things that I saw in my developmental years, and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go.

—Kerry James Marshall, 1998
Interview between Kerry James Marshall and Calivin Reid
BOMB 62/Winter 1998, ART