Clara Nartey’s art comes to Dana Hall, permanently

“I hope that students perceive my work as windows and mirrors,” artist Clara Nartey stated about her current gallery show, “Windows and Mirrors,” on display in the Dana Hall Art Gallery through November 19. Her goal for this show is that “students of color who haven’t felt represented in certain spaces will see themselves reflected on the walls, and students who haven’t had the chance to experience other cultures will see my work as a window into some of the things cultures different than theirs cherish.” 

Ms. Nartey, whose daughter Kiki is a senior at Dana Hall, is a self-taught artist who recently began to “explore my creativity again,” leading her to change her career and pursue her passion for art and inspiring other women. She said, “I’m inspired to build confidence in girls and women by showcasing Black hair and hairstyles in art. I believe that the image of a person — a portrait — has the power to influence the way we perceive ourselves and who we aspire to become.” Ms. Nartey believes that these portraits help girls and women see themselves in a positive light and embrace their natural appearances, especially their hair.

Dana Hall School has purchased one piece in the gallery show for permanent display at the School, thanks tothe Dana Hall Contemporary Art Fund, which was created and has been supported by several alumnae over the years. “I Am a Child” is a fiber art wall hanging, over five feet tall, of a girl reading. Visual Arts Department Head Michael Frassinelli called it “a wonderfully vibrant piece that really stands out because of its bold colors and draws you in because the young girl depicted calmly reads her book while patterns swirl around her. Because it is specifically about reading and education, we thought it was a fitting piece to purchase for the school.”

Ms. Nartey explained that “I was inspired to create this piece when I noticed that girls of color on the Instagram account Black at Dana spoke a lot about losing their confidence because of insensitive remarks which were made about their hair. I wanted this piece to let them know that they are seen, heard, and loved just the way they are, no matter how they choose to wear their hair. The words in the book shown in ‘I am a Child’ were curated from actual posts from Black at Dana. I also wanted viewers to be mindful of how hurtful and damaging their words could be to a child.”

Ms. Nartey first worked out the portrait as a digital, colored drawing and then had it printed on the large fabric. She then added the intricate line work with her sewing machine, which took many, many hours.

Ms. Nartey is pleased that one of her pieces will grace the School permanently. “The sense of worth and inclusivity it will bring to students of color as they walk the halls is immeasurable.” She recalled that “one parent told me she was surprised to see my show in Dana but it made her feel that she and her daughter were truly welcome in the Dana community. It’s a really bold statement Dana has made by purchasing my artwork for the new Upper School building.”

According to Mr. Frassinelli, “it is important to have artwork around us that represents a diverse population, so students can see themselves in the people chosen to be depicted. We have a variety of portraits around campus, from the founders of Dana Hall to heads of school throughout the years, but none of people of color. It is also wonderful to have artwork by a parent of one of our student on display; it creates that special connection to Dana.”

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