The Unfinished Business of Unsettled Things

Art from an African American South

Edited by Bernard L. Herman

234 pp., 8.5 x 11, 68 color plates, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6852-9
    Published: June 2022
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6853-6
    Published: May 2022
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6332-4
    Published: May 2022

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Awards & distinctions

A 2023 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

This book invites readers into a growing, dynamic conversation among scholars and critics around a vibrant community of artists from an African American South. This constellation of creative makers includes familiar figures, such as Thornton Dial Sr., Lonnie Holley, and quiltmakers Nettie Young and Mary Lee Bendolph, whose work is collected in major museum and private collections. The artists represented extend to lesser-known but equally compelling creators working across a wide range of artistic forms, themes, and geographies. The essays gathered here, accompanied by a generous selection of full-color plates, survey subjects such as the artists' engagement with enslavement and liberation, the spiritual and religious dimensions of their work, the technical aspects of their work (such as the common use of "assemblage" as an artistic medium), the links between art and biography, and the evolving status of their reception in narratives of contemporary, modern, southern, and American art.

Contributors are Celeste-Marie Bernier, Laura Bickford, Michael J. Bramwell, Elijah Heyward III, Sharon P. Holland, and Pamela J. Sachant.

About the Author

Bernard L. Herman is George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information about Bernard L. Herman, visit the Author Page.


"Essential . . . . This well-written, lavishly illustrated volume will be valuable for a wide audience."—CHOICE

“Herman considers the big picture to reexamine approaches to this art, while each essay explores narrative possibilities to provide new access points from which to view the work.”—Cara Zimmerman, curator, Christie’s Auction House

“Shimmering with the same critical and creative verve of the artworks it considers, this book offers woefully needed theoretical and cultural perspectives on artists outside the white cube—without needlessly marking their distance from it.”—Jennifer Jane Marshall, University of Minnesota