Ancestral expression

Sculptor Spencer Evans explores culture through art.

Published on Show Me Mizzou April 20, 2022
Story by Mara Reinstein, BJ ’98

Portrait of Spencer Evans

Sculptor Spencer Evans, BFA ’09, assistant professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, has shown his work at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Spencer Evans was perfectly content with a paintbrush in his hand and a vision in his head. Then around five years ago, he was assigned to sculpt a bust of two characters holding their breath. An abstract interest took shape. “Sculpting allowed me to take my expression off the wall,” he says. Evans, BFA ’09, is now a premier figurative sculptor and assistant professor at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. His works have been on display at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of African American Culture. His research led to a mural project in Khartoum, Sudan. Asked about his proudest accomplishment, Evans raves about leading workshops and lectures in Nigeria and Sudan.

Indeed, the Houston native — a self-proclaimed visual thinker since the age of 3 — explains that a 2017 trip to Nigeria to explore his ancestry greatly influenced his artistic style. “I went to Nigeria thinking I would find different cultures and customs,” he says. “But to my surprise, there were so many similarities. It got me thinking about the connectivity of Black Americans to our communities and all the tribes and nations.”

Taking in the local sculptures and monuments transformed him as well: “They were alive, and they were my people. One of them looked like my uncle. Another looked like my mom. Seeing this kind of active expression gave me a new challenge.” Aside from teaching (“Mentoring is just as important to me as making art.”), Evans keeps his hands busy by putting the finishing touches on a sculpture of G.W. Jackson, the principal of the first all-Black high school in Corsicana, Texas. It will be the first statue of a Black person in the city’s history.

“It means something that children will grow up and see it,” he says. “I’m really proud of that.”

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