Artist’s work creates ‘parallel universe’ for positive mental space — •

My last few exhibitions, starting in 2015, have conveyed the thoughts I’ve had about the country being at a major crossroads since before the 2016 presidential election. At that time, as a highly perceptive and analytical person, I already had a feeling in my gut that the country was about to make some serious missteps, and I knew it wouldn’t bode well for the majority of who call this country home or seek to call it home. With each of those exhibitions, the title contained some reference to a “parallel universe” of my imagination that allows me to metaphorically remove myself from this current reality for my own sanity.

Each body of work included constructed “devices” which, in concept and intent, would allow me to access spirits or beings of a higher consciousness to help me generate and maintain positive energy in order to keep moving forward. One of my favorites from the series is the Spirit Selector. I compare the way I conceive of and create these objects to a child whose imagination tells her that these devices are actually active, because even if their power is imaginary (or is it?), my intent is not, and that’s the most powerful part – placing yourself in your mind where you want to be so that it can be actualized.

Washington-based artist Renée Stout is a painter and sculptor whose work focuses on the spiritual side of the African diaspora, her community and current events. She is preparing for an upcoming exhibition at the University of Alabama that will explore her feelings following the 2016 elections and her need to seek refuge in a parallel universe.

André Chung for •

Ultimately, my work is about empowerment, and paintings and drawings such as Guardian of the Gate, Master of the Game and Hoodoo Assassin #12 (Antennae) represent the entities that protect that positive, mental space that I maintain for my sanity, from the negativity and sense of imbalance that seems so prevalent at this time in our world. Through my work, I make it clear that these stealthy tricksters, shape-shifters and hoodoo assassins are not to be messed with, and they are my companions as I continue to offer the viewer a place of respite and refuge along with me in that parallel universe.


Mnemonic Device (Memory Board), 2020. Mixed media and found circuitry on paper. 6 x 12 inches.

Renée Stout

Spirit Selector, 2014. Reconstructed vintage radio, found technological parts and mixed media. 13 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches.

Renée Stout

Guardian of the Gate, Master of the Game, 2018. Oil, acrylic and latex paint on wood panel. 36 x 40 inches.

Private Collection

Sketchbook, with Foreboding, 2019. Oil and acrylic paint on wood panel. 48 x 60 inches.

Renée Stout

Hoodoo Assassin #12 (Antennae), 2020. Graphite on found graph paper. 8 x 8 inches.

Private Collection

2020-21. Oil paint, acrylic paint and oil stick on wood panel. 24 x 30 inches.

Renée Stout /Hemphill Artworks

Come Back Gil (Scott-Heron, Study #2), 2021. Acrylic on wood panel. 6 x 8 inches.

Renée Stout

Renée Stout (painter /sculptor) received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980. She is based in Washington, DC and is the recipient of many awards, including a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art, and most recently, the 2020 Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award and a Virginia A. Groot Foundation Award.

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