B. Anniston, AL, 1946
Jamillah Jennings (b. 1946, Anniston, Alabama), grew up in Brooklyn, NY and received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1976 and her MFA from Pratt Institute in 1979. She was influenced by seeing steel and aluminum parts that her father, who worked in construction, would bring home. While studying at SVA, she saw a student welding steel into sculpture and realized that would become her primary medium. Her abstract sculpture was included in the significant 1980 exhibition, Afro-American Abstraction, curated by April Kingsley for P.S. 1, New York. Alongside the sculpture, Jennings also worked as a painter, creating work inspired by her longtime study of African art and its geometries. This investigation of an antecedent heritage informed her path, and that of her husband, artist Ellsworth Ausby.
Jennings is an activist artist who co-founded, with Ausby, the Nefer International Gallery, in their Brooklyn home, to show the work of Black artists in their community and encourage more people of means to collect Black artists. Her series of works on paper, “Retracing, Retelling,” examines found family photographs to reconstruct pieces of history that might otherwise be lost. Jennings has served as an educator and mentor to the less-privileged, teaching at the Ravenswood and Hammel housing projects. In addition to P.S.1, her work has been exhibited at Aljira Arts, Newark, NJ; PDG Gallery, New York; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Queens, NY; and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York.