Deana Lawson

Deana Lawson (lives in Brooklyn, NY) is a photo-based artist whose work borrows from visual traditions including photographic and figurative portraiture, social documentary aesthetics, and vernacular family album photographs. Lawson is visually inspired by the materiality of Black culture and its expression as seen through the body and in domestic environments.

Mohawk Correctional Facility, 2012-2014

A line of six photographs featuring different family members posing togehter.
Mohawk Correctional Facility, 2012-2014
Digital prints
Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Deana Lawson’s Mohawk Correctional Facility: Jazmin & Family is an appropriated series of images taken by a prison photographer over a period of two years and depicting artist’s cousin, Jazmin, and her partner Erik. The multiple photographs show the couple and their growing family posed in front of a mural depicting a deep blue ocean and tranquil sky, the painted backdrop designed for portrait-taking in the visitation area of Mohawk Correctional Facility in New York. The resulting images offer a profound glimpse into how love and family are negotiated and maintained within the prison system. As scholar Nicole Fleetwood notes: “Taken together, prison portraits become a powerful archive representing the enduring struggles of Black Americans to claim citizenship, kinship, love, and even hope in the face of multiple forms of racial injustice—poverty, profiling, failed economic policies, and mass incarceration.”

A line of photographs featuring different family members posing togehter.

Keywords

Biography

Deana Lawson received a BFA from Penn State in 2001 and a MFA in Photography from RISD in 2004. She will have a survey show co-organized by the ICA Boston and MoMA PS1 in 2021. Other recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle Basel (2020), Huis Marseilles, Amsterdam (2019); The Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2018); and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2017). She is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Art Matters Grant, John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant, Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant, and a NYFA Grant in 2006. Lawson is currently a professor teaching photography at Princeton University.