Ming Smith: Transcendence

Columbus Museum of Art

Located in Lower Level Walter Wing
On view September 19, 2024–January 26, 2025

Admission Information

Ming Smith: Transcendence is included with the cost of general admission.

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Exhibition Description

The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) is proud to present Ming Smith: Transcendence, featuring the entirety of this remarkable series for the first time. Through this exhibition, CMA offers a rare opportunity to delve into Ming Smith’s identity as an artist deeply rooted in the diverse fabric of Columbus, Ohio.

Smith’s lens intricately threads together the cultural tapestry of Columbus, showcasing the influences of luminaries such as Nancy Wilson, Aminah Robinson, Toyce Anderson, Toni Morrison, and Linda Goode Bryant. Ming’s narrative unfolds against familiar backdrops, from Carl Brown’s IGA on Mt Vernon Avenue to Dr. Tyler’s drugstore on the east side, resonating with personal memories of her father’s pharmacy. The halls of The Ohio State University reflect familial achievements, while S. Wheatland Avenue bears witness to pivotal moments in the Hilltop’s history.

Transcendence surpasses the confines of traditional photography; it is a deeply intimate exploration of Ming’s reconciliation with her hometown. Inspired by Alice Coltrane’s transformative music, Ming’s series confronts the injustices of her racially divided upbringing in Columbus with compassion and insight.

Transcendence is presented alongside the work of Columbus-born, National Book Award-winning author and Macarthur Fellow Jacqueline Woodson, whose books have been recognized for grappling deeply with nuanced issues of race and gender. Including newly commissioned poems as well as previously published pieces, Woodson’s verses elucidate and echo the emotive journey of Ming’s return to Columbus, offering multidimensional entryways towards greater understanding. In lieu of interpretive texts, Woodson’s writing gives voice to Smith’s subjects and articulates the memories embedded within her images through dynamic storytelling.

Ming’s narrative invites viewers to engage with the images as a public discourse, with much of Transcendence remaining unseen and unprinted, offering endless opportunities for exploration and interpretation.

Join us in celebrating Ming Smith’s artistic legacy and reconnecting with her profound vision as we welcome the artist back to the city that shaped her. Through Transcendence, Ming invites us on a journey of rediscovery, where the past merges with the present, and the potential for understanding knows no bounds.

This exhibition is part of simultaneous solo presentations with the Wexner Center for the Arts and The Gund at Kenyon College, who will also be exhibiting work by Smith.

Ming Smith: Transcendence is a Featured Project in the 2024 FotoFocus Biennial:


Support for this 2024 FotoFocus Biennial Featured Project was provided by FotoFocus.

Ming Smith, Black Girl Dreaming (detail), from the series Transcendence, 1990. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist

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