Mel Edwards & Jayne Cortez, Visual/Verbal Dialogue, University of Delaware

Paul R. Jones Annual Lecture presents:
Mel Edwards and Jayne Cortez

Visual/Verbal Dialogue
March 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Longtime partners, Melvin Edwards and Jayne Cortez are internationally renowned artists.  Their professional work comes together on occasion, as in the illustrations Edwards provides for Cortez’s writings and her poems inspired by his sculptures. This rare collaborative presentation provides an exceptional opportunity for their personal, political and artistic voices to come together publicly in celebration of the arts and their liberatory capacity.

Melvin Edwards is one of America’s foremost, widely collected and sought after contemporary sculptors. Since the 1960s, he has regularly exhibited sculptures, the kinetic Rockers series, and prints.  His best-known works are the intimately scaled sculptures of his Lynch Fragments series, produced since 1963 and today numbering over 200.  First inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, the Lynch Fragments are freely constructed of forged steel combined with metal objects such as chain, barbwire, and railroad spikes.  These sculptural combinations inform and resonate in the artist’s larger, commissioned works, such as Gate of Ogun (1983, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY) and Transcendence (2008, Lafayette College, Easton, PA).  His large-scale works also include Homage to Billie Holiday and the Young Ones at Soweto (1977, Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD) and Breaking of the Chains (1995, San Diego, CA).

Edwards’s inspiration comes from his ancestral home, Africa, where he currently spends several months each year working as a sculptor in Senegal.  Drawing upon African sources as well as the western modernist tradition of welded steel sculpture, he has created a politically and aesthetically profound body of art.  His sculptures are in the permanent collections of several major institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Museum of Modem Art, New York City; the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the L.A. County Museum, Los Angeles, California.  A recipient of several awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Edwards has traveled, lectured and studied in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Brazil, China, Cuba and several other countries.

Having retired from Rutgers University Mason Gross School for the Arts in 2002 following a distinguished 40-year teaching career, Edwards lives and works in New York and Senegal.

Jayne Cortez is the author of ten books of poems and performer of her poetry with music on nine recordings. Her voice is celebrated for its political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound.  President of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc., she has presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States.

Cortez’s poems have been widely translated and published in anthologies, journals, and magazines.  Her most recent texts include The Beautiful Book from Bola Press 2007, Jazz Fan Looks Back, published by Hanging Loose Press, and Somewhere In Advance of Nowhere, published by Serpent’s Tail Ltd.  Her latest CD recordings with the Firespitter Band are Taking the Blues Back Home, produced by Harmolodic and by Verve Records, Borders of Disorderly Time and Find Your Own Voice released by Bola Press.  Cortez is director of the film Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future and appears on screen in the films Women In Jazz and Poetry In Motion.  Cortez is the recipient of several awards including: Arts International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International African Festival Award, The Langston Hughes Award, and the American Book Award.

This lecture is sponsored by the Paul R. Jones Initiative of the University of Delaware and is held in conjunction with the University Museums’ Bodyscapes exhibition at Mechanical Hall Gallery (February 9-July 15, 2011) and is part of the Art of Liberation Visiting Artist Lecture Series.  For more information: &

Lecture and exhibition are open to the public free of charge.

Paul R. Jones Annual Lecture

Monday, March 7, 2011, 6 PM @ Trabant Theatre, Trabant University Center
Mel Edwards & Jayne Cortez, Visual/Verbal Dialogue
For more information and RSVP: or 302 831 8037


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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