"And I'm Feeling Good: Relaxation and Resistance"

"It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feeling good"

–Nina Simone

ALISA SWINDELL, Associate Curator of Photography 
Hood Quarterly, winter 2024

When Nina Simone sang these words in 1965, she gave voice, with beautiful vitality and bravado, to a generation of African Americans who were seeing some success in the civil rights movements they had been fostering since the mid-1950s. These words became shorthand for embracing Black joy.

Taking its title from this song, And I'm Feeling Good: Relaxation and Resistance likewise celebrates joy in African American life. It uses photographs from the Hood Museum's collection—and a unique wallpaper in the gallery—to consider various aspects of day-to-day existence that offer joy even in the face of challenges. It features several recent acquisitions, including the work of pivotal photographers Gordon Parks and Kwame Brathwaite, and its vibrant wallpaper, titled Back in the Days, is the product of a recent collaboration between pathbreaking hip-hop photographer Jamel Shabazz and multidisciplinary artist Anders Jones. 

These three photographers—Parks, Brathwaite, and Shabazz—represent several generations of artists capturing Black life from a well-rounded, sympathetic, and occasionally outright jubilant perspective. Parks was the first African American photojournalist for Life magazine, and by the 1950s he was well known for his compelling photo essays. The works included in And I'm Feeling Good are from his 1956 Alabama series, done for Life, that looked at the impact of segregation on local African Americans. Over a decade later, photographer and activist Kwame Brathwaite was supporting and bolstering the "Black is beautiful" movement by co-founding several organizations while developing his artistic vision. His photographic subjects, from the women in the Grandassa Model Group (an agency he co- founded with his brother) to the goings-on of Black daily life in New York City, documented and honored the movement. In the early 1980s, the young photographer Jamel Shabazz captured New York's nascent hip-hop scene and the visual and fashion culture that developed within it. The exhibition's wallpaper incorporates Shabazz's early images, including young men in Kangol hats holding oversized tape players and stylish girls in gold door-knocker earrings, within its traditional damask pattern.

Drawing upon the work of these photographers and others, And I'm Feeling Good recognizes the many ways that joy manifests itself in the African American community when individuals unabashedly embrace what makes them feel good—children playing, family dynamics, non- European notions of beauty, and other sources of pleasure, leisure, and even exuberance. In addition, the simple acts captured in these works represent forms of resistance to oppression at an interpersonal or systemic level—forms at once supported and embraced as a means of survival within the African American community.

And I'm Feeling Good is organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, and generously supported by the Charles Gilman Family Endowment. 

Exhibition Playlist:

To complement and enhance the exhibition, a curator-compiled Spotify playlist will play in the exhibition's gallery on Thursdays throughout the run of the show. Click here to enjoy the playlist.


Written January 01, 2024