Paper Stories, Layered Dreams
The Art of Ekua Holmes
Illustrating histories through portraits of radiance and resilience
A lifelong resident of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Ekua Holmes (b. 1955) is an artist and community activist whose body of work explores themes of childhood, family bonds, memory, and resilience. This exhibition focuses on her award-winning children’s book illustrations—vibrant collages revealing stories of self-determination, love, and community that reflect the artist’s distinctive vision and commitment to Black imagery and representation.
The more than 40 works on view include original illustrations from Holmes’s published book projects: Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (2015) by Carole Boston Weatherford, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets (2017) by Kwame Alexander, and Black Is a Rainbow Color (2020) by Angela Joy. The exhibition also features a selection of Holmes’s luminous illustrations for the recently released book Saving American Beach (2021) by Heidi Tyline King—on view for the first time—as well as a selection of her independent work, including portrait installation pieces. Interpretive materials include a video interview with the artist and a group of wall texts written by teen participants in the MFA’s Curatorial Study Hall program.
In a time of significant diversification of children’s literature, Holmes and her artistic vision are part of the vital change embraced by this generation’s publishing industry. By daring to challenge norms and push boundaries, new literary and visual narratives are being created for all children to explore and see themselves. Influenced by the artist’s life experiences, familial connections, and friendships, Holmes’s artwork is an invitation for all to see the world anew.
Additional support from the Benjamin A. Trustman and Julia M. Trustman Fund, Ailene M. Robinson and Thomas E. Lewis, the Shelly and Michael Kassen Fund, the Susan G. Kohn and Harry Kohn, Jr. Fund for Contemporary Prints, and the Eugenie Prendergast Memorial Fund.