Nikki A. Greene, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of the Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora in the Art Department at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts | Visual Arts Editor, Transition 

Nikki A. Greene - Jewett Art Center
Photo by Samara Pearlstein

Nikki A. Greene received her BA with honors in Art History from Wesleyan University, and her Masters and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware. Dr. Greene examines African American and African identities, the body, feminism, and music in modern and contemporary art. She is the Visual Arts Editor of Transition, published by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University (Indiana University Press).

Dr. Greene joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Art Department in 2013. She has traveled throughout the United States and internationally, including to Chile, England, Italy, and South Africa, to deliver lectures on the Arts of the African diaspora. In January 2013, she gave a series of lectures on African Art at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. During her sabbatical for the 2016-17 academic year, she held the Richard D. Cohen Fellowship at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University and the Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship.

Her book manuscript, Rhythms of Grease, Grime, Glass, and Glitter: The Body in Contemporary Black Art (under review), presents a new interpretation of the work of David Hammons, Renée Stout, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Radcliffe Bailey, and considers the intersection between the body, black identity, and the musical possibilities of the visual.

Select recent publications include: “The Feminist Funk Power of Betty Davis and Renée Stout” in American Studies Journal (Fall 2013); “Deana Lawson and Nikki A. Greene in Conversation about the Emanuel 9” in Aperture: Vision & Justice Online (June 2016); “Wind, Sunshine, and Flowers: The Visual Cadences of Alma Thomas’s Washington, DC,” in Alma Thomas (Studio Museum in Harlem & Tang Teaching Museum, 2016); and “David Hammons as Esu,” in Dark Humor: Joyce J. Scott and Peter Williams (Towson University, 2017). She also wrote about teaching art history in the digital age in “Beyond ‘Mona Lisa Smile’: Art, Race and Social Media on Campus” for WBUR’s Edify.  Greene’s summer 2016 blog post “Eating Ice Cream While Black (Or My Life in Wellesley, Mass)” on microaggressions received local and national attention and was featured on WBUR Boston’s Cognescenti and on Radio Boston to discuss “The Challenge of Raising Kids of Color in a Homogenous Community.”

This year’s forthcoming publications include:  “Romare Bearden and the Hand of Jazz,” in Music, Art and Performance From Liszt to Riot Grrrl: The Musicalisation of Art, edited by Diane Silverthorne (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018); “Habla LAMADRE: María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Carrie Mae Weems, and Black Feminist Performance,” in Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture, edited by Wendy Wick Reeves (Giles in association with the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 2018); and “Vibrations in the Soul: Moe Brooker’s Sacred Paintings,” in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art (June 2018).

Nikki A. Greene is originally from Newark, NJ, and she lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts. She “muses” here about her scholarly interests, travel, and the challenges of the work-life balance.


March 9, 2018

African Women’s Leadership Conference. Moderator. Reflections on “Creating Movement: African Women’s Bodies in the American Theater” by Mfoniso Udofia, Wellesley College ’06, Storyteller and Educator. Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

The African Women’s Leadership Conference at Wellesley College was a first-of-its-kind convening of some of the most influential voices in African women’s leadership—from education and politics, health and technology, entertainment and the law.

March 22-24, 2018 

Black Portraiture{s} IV: The Color of Science.

Moderator. “Fear in Transition Magazine.” Hip Hop Archive at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Thursday, March 23 at    2:45 p.m.

The Hutchins Center’s Transition magazine and the Kenya-based Jalada, a pan-African writers’ collective, joined forces to present a special issue on the theme of Fear. Artists Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Helina MetaferiaSteve Locke and poet Enzor Silon Surin will discuss their multimedia works as included in the “Fear” issue of Transition #123/Jalada #5.

March 27, 2018

Present Tense with Carrie Mae WeemsExpress Newark, Newark, NJ.

Introduction of Carrie Mae Weems.

The L+M Lecture Series brings to Express Newark prominent thinkers in the world of the public arts and humanities to reflect on the foundations and aims of our practice. Deeply rooted in our city and looking out to the nation and the world, and firmly grounded in notions of place and social justice, its goal is to bring the arts and humanities to bear on contemporary life in Newark and beyond.

The lecture will be followed by a reception and the opening of Deborah Willis’s solo exhibition, In Pursuit of Beauty: Imaging Closets in Newark and Beyond, organized by Shine Portrait Studio Curator-in-Residence Kalia Brooks Nelson, PhD.

April 5, 2018

29th Annual James A. Porter Colloquium

Opening Keynote Lecture: “Freedom/Abstraction/Expression”
Howard University, Washington, DC.

The 2018 Porter Colloquium, titled “Abstraction: Form, Philosophy, & Innovation,” will explore topics related to the history of abstraction in art across the African diaspora. It will offer a platform for new scholarship and artistic perspectives on abstract art by African American and African diasporic artists.

This colloquium will trace the progression and aesthetic influence of African art to figurative and non-objective abstraction. Another significant goal of the event is to investigate how artists use abstraction in terms design, innovation, and the introduction of new epistemologies by way of visual culture.

April 14, 2018

Like Life: Sculpture, Color and the Body (1300-Now) Symposium. Panelist. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Like Life explores narratives of sculpture in which artists have sought to replicate the literal, living presence of the human body. On view exclusively at The Met Breuer, this major international loan exhibition of about 120 works will draw on The Met’s rich collections of European sculpture and modern and contemporary art, while also featuring a selection of important works from national and international museums and private collections.

The symposium will take place from 10:30am to 6:30pm in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium of The Met Fifth Avenue.

April 21, 2018

Fifth Exposure: The Dark Room Race and Visual Culture Faculty Seminar Symposium.

Panelist. “Kinda, Sorta: The Freedom of Expression in Abstraction.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

June 8, 2018

Wellesley College Reunion Weekend. Faculty Speaker.

“Confederate Monuments: How to Memorialize a History We Would Rather Forget.”   3:30-4:30 p.m.

We must consider how the blatant visual imagery of white supremacy as represented by confederate monuments shapes our understanding of how we move around in a city’s landscape. For this present moment, and for generations to come, it is our imperative as scholars, artists, and American citizens more broadly to take a stand to shape history, especially by way of visual and material culture. This means that local governments must be proactive now in preparing next steps, including considering commissions of new works by both emerging and established artists of all backgrounds who will have new visions by which we can honor overlooked historical figures of the past and burgeoning heroes among us for the future. Excerpt from my statement in Artnews (August 23, 2017).


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