The Dorsky highlights West African photography with two new exhibitions opening on February 2

NEW PALTZ – The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art will host a public reception for the exhibitions Malian Portrait Photography and Photo-Rapide: François Deschamps on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 5-7 p.m. (snow date: Feb. 9 from 5-7 p.m.). The exhibitions will be on display from Jan. 23 – April 14, 2013 in The Dorsky Museum’s Alice and Horace Chandler and North Galleries.

Malian Portrait Photography features work by some of the best-known West African photographers, such as Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé. Photo-Rapide: François Deschamps features work by SUNY New Paltz professor of photography François Deschamps. These complementary exhibitions highlight the rich portrait photography tradition from Mali as well as the ways in which contemporary photographers are building on that tradition. Both exhibitions are curated by Daniel M. Leers, an independent curator based in New York City.

“Mali has always had one of the most vibrant photographic communities on the African continent. These exhibitions bring together important examples of historical work from the country while demonstrating their effect on the work of an American photographer,” says Leers.


Malian Portrait Photography
This exhibition showcases work made by some of the most important artists working in the Malian photographic tradition. Photographs by Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé appear alongside those made by other artists such as Hamidou Maïga, Abdourahmane Sakaly, and Tijani Àdìgún Sitou. The photographic community in Mali arose most notably following the country’s liberation from French colonialism in 1960. Eager to establish their own style, these photographers and their subjects blended new ways of posing with props from popular culture, all in front of backdrops made from traditional African fabrics.

The resulting portraits announced a visual vocabulary that was uniquely Malian and that demanded a place for a thoroughly modern West African identity within the art historical canon. The portraits also paved the way for the West African photographic community that emerged after this period, which continues to influence portraiture made on the continent of Africa, and the rest of the world, to the present day.

Photo-Rapide: François Deschamps
Photo-Rapide features work by SUNY New Paltz professor of photography François Deschamps made while he lived in Mali during a Senior Research Fulbright Fellowship in 2010-11. Three series will be on view in the exhibition: portraits of Malian people Deschamps encountered during his travels, those same portraits displayed in custom-designed frames that Deschamps created from elements of everyday life in Mali, and photographs of those same people holding their framed pictures. Shown alongside these photographs are hand-painted advertisements Deschamps commissioned from local artist Joseph Koné, as well as scale dioramas by Deschamps of traditional West African photo studios. An on-site recreation of a West African-style studio allows visitors to experience the ambiance of a portrait studio in Mali.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to sit for their own instant portraits during the Feb. 2 opening and on the following dates (will Francois also be doing the portraits on Feb. 9 in case of snow?):

  • Feb. 16, from 2-5 p.m.
  • March 16, from 2-5 p.m.

Copies of the portraits made on these dates will be on display in the gallery throughout the run of the exhibition.

Catalogues designed by Deschamps accompany each exhibition. Malian Portrait Photography includes an essay by curator Daniel M. Leers and biographies of the photographers by Dr. Candace M. Keller, Assistant Professor of Art History at Michigan State University. Photo-Rapide includes essays by Deschamps, Leers, and Moussa Konaté, Director of the Maison Africaine de la Photographie in Bamako, Mali.

François Deschamps is a professor at the State University of New York in New Paltz, NY where he teaches photography and related media. As a photographer and book artist he has produced more than 10 artists’ books. He has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as two artists’ fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2002, he was awarded a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and in 2010-11 he was awarded a Senior Research Fulbright grant to Mali.

Daniel M. Leers is an independent curator based in New York City. Leers graduated with a BA in Art History from Lawrence University and an MA in Art History/Curatorial Studies from Columbia University. From 2007-2011 he was the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. During his tenure at MoMA, Leers worked on a variety of exhibitions and organized the exhibition New Photography 2011: Moyra Davey, George Georgiou, Deana Lawson, Doug Rickard, Viviane Sassen, Zhang Dali. Currently, Leers is acting as a Curatorial Advisor to the 2013 Venice Biennale.

A related exhibition of photographs and books by Deschamps, Studio Mali, will be on view at Fovea Exhibitions, 143 Main Street, Beacon, N.Y., from Jan. 26 – April 7, 2013, with an opening reception on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 5-9 p.m. Deschamps will be in residence at Fovea Exhibitions on Saturday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, March 9 from 5-8 p.m. For more information call 845-202-3443.

The Dorsky Collects: Recent Acquisitions 2008-2012, curated by Wayne Lempka, and on display in the museum’s Sara Bedrick Gallery from Jan. 23 – June 23, 2013, will also be celebrated at the Feb. 2nd public reception.

Funding for The Dorsky’s exhibitions and programs is provided by the Friends of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the State University of New York at New Paltz.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, located at SUNY New Paltz, is fast gaining wide recognition as the premier public showplace for exhibition, education, and cultural scholarship about the Hudson Valley region’s art and artists from yesterday and today. With more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space distributed over six galleries, the Dorsky Museum is one of the largest museums within the SUNY system. The Dorsky was officially dedicated on Oct. 20, 2001. Since then it has presented over one hundred exhibitions, including commissions, collection-based projects, and in-depth studies of artists including Robert Morris, Alice Neel, Judy Pfaff, and Carolee Schneemann.

For more information about The Dorsky Museum, as well as detailed information about the above exhibitions and their related programs, visit, or call 845-257-3844.