Transformation in the Psychic Realm

Renée Stout ::: Fatima Mayfield

Renée Stout is a panelist on the upcoming Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogue, Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm at the American University Museum in Washington DC, & online via the Third Space Network. Additional panelists are: Roberto Bedoya & LigoranoReese, moderated by Randall Packer.


“We remain caught in the insidious evil maw of our country’s original sin, still looking to the promises of “we the people” and “pursuit of happiness” given in the U.S. Constitution, our founding text. Today we feel threats to these still unfulfilled aspirations. Yet an incurable idealism persists in the American soul. A response to these threats is a need to dream, to transcend, to see beyond our difficulties to a cure, to something better… All art contains hope.” – Hemphill Fine Arts

As a way of lifting herself & her work & the viewer above & beyond, Renée Stout has over the past forty years embarked on an imaginary journey that touches the hotspot of real issues, issues relating to a sense of belonging, the magic of spirituality, and the need to preserve the traditions & histories of African American culture.

Renée Stout, “Erzulie’s Arsenal” (2013)

In today’s fractious environment of racial divisiveness, Stout’s work resonates as an artistic effort of taking control. Not in a didactic nor overtly political way, but rather by conjuring up magical worlds & built environments we can enter into and learn from. She has constructed strange machines with impossibly fantastical modes of operation, such as Lay Your Hand on the Radio, a sculpture built of handmade radios, which asks the viewer to dial up fragile attributes of society: compassion, civility, creativity, love, and humanity. Yes, Raw Hope of Humanity rising indeed…

Lay Your Hand on the Radio, Renee Stout

There is an exquisite sense of humor & playfulness in Stout’s work that provides an imaginative reworking of African American history. The illusionism of her faux persona, the alter ego, Fatima Mayfield, is an invitation to gain entrance into the magic of Hoodoo culture. She has researched Hoodoo extensively: from frequent trips to New Orleans, as well as drawing from her childhood interest in African spirituality, when she saw a small figure called a Nkisi Nkondi that originated with the people of the Congo River basin.

Renee Stout, “Root Worker’s Table” (2011)

Stout beckons us into a “cabinet of curiosities” made up of magic recipes, potions, found objects, and other uncategorizable artifacts of the ancestors. “The Rootworker’s Table” is a fabricated workstation inspired by her fictitious double and herbalist Fatima Mayfield, as pushback against fear of the black woman who dares insert herself as a symbol of power. This form of artistic mediation and cultural dialogue with the viewer is a direct challenge against the constraints of social and religious control that has afflicted African Americans for centuries. One senses this is a way for Stout to take us on a ride through her own personal journey of self-discovery, a way of teasing out her life and work as a black, female artist.

Renée Stout, from the video I can Heal

In a stylized way that is both authentic & otherworldly, Renée Stout’s work provides a powerful, healing, medicinal antidote to a troubled world. As White Supremacy and religious intolerance runs rampant in these TRUMPological times, Stout’s invocation of the ancient practices is a powerful balm in the midst of our flailing democracy. As she explains, “we live in a culture that deems itself a Christian culture, so anything that is not in line with that is demonized.” The nature of her working process to challenge head on issues of religion, race, and political empowerment, issues that even the progressive left are struggling with today, is testament to the transformative & alchemical nature of art and its mercurial forms of expression. There is no doubt, we have never needed the artist more than we do today.


Renée Stout is a panelist on the upcoming Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogue, Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm at the American University Museum in Washington DC, & online via the Third Space Network. Additional panelists are: Roberto Bedoya & LigoranoReese, moderated by Randall Packer.