Sense Gallery DC Presents Melvin Nesbitt Jr. Tobe

By Editorial Team on December 3, 2019

Sat, 07 December 2019 - Sun, 29 December 2019

Melvin Nesbitt Jr., Drummer Boy, Painted paper collage on wood, 48×48”, 2019.
Opening Reception: Saturday, December 7 from 7pm to 9pm

Through collage, drawing, and painting, Melvin Nesbitt Jr. recreates his childhood years living in a South Carolina housing project: Tobias Hartwell Courts, or “Tobe”. The layering of paper and mixed media suggest not only physical history, but an accumulation of textures and patterns from multiple sources, brought together in scenes built around his memories.

Nesbitt’s collaged scenes feel nostalgic and surprisingly specific, while being inhabited by faceless characters and incomplete elements that tell a more complex story of the construction of identity, in relation to the social, political, and cultural influence of the community and nation in the 1970’s.

Portraiture is a record, it is representation, and as an African American Artist, it can feel political in its essence. Nesbitt embraces this while following the rich tradition of storytelling of artists like Jacob Lawrence, Ernie Barnes, and Romare Bearden. Adding a contemporary take, his work employs a Rockwellesque lense into a landscape that is often portrayed as precarious, complicating the question of the American ideal.

Setting is central in his work and the young character of Tobe is his driving force. In the artist’s words:

“As a child, I searched for books about kids like me and my friends from places like where we were from but could never find any. To me, it felt like we were not important enough to this world to have our stories told. I grew up on stories about people I could not immediately identify with but learned to empathize with them THROUGH their stories . . . I want to give [Black American children] imagery and stories they can identify with because I understand just how much positive representation can impact feelings of self worth.“ – Melvin Nesbitt

Even more, the feeling of celebration in the work truly emerges from the activity and interactions of its communities’ smallest, most vulnerable members. It is not only a validation of the children’s stories, but perhaps an indicator that within their often overlooked perspective lies a balance of values that our greater society is lacking.

-Mandy Cooper (Curator & Director at Sense Gallery)

Melvin Nesbitt Jr. is a multimedia artist working primarily in collage, drawing and painting. He is originally from South Carolina and currently lives and works in Washington, DC. Nesbitt’s work engages with themes of race, identity, personal history and story-telling. Nesbitt studied art at several institutions including Washington Studio School and was mentored by artist Joren Lindholm. He is in the incoming class of artists at STABLE Arts in DC, and has shown in numerous galleries and venues in the DMV area.

Gallery Hours:

  • Tuesday and Thursday: 8am-3pm
  • Wednesday 2-8pm
  • Friday 10am-6pm
  • Saturday and Sunday: 9am-4pm

Sense Gallery is located at 3111 Georgia Ave. NW. For more information, visit