Freida High W. Tesfagiorgis

4121 Helen C. White Hall

Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita

High is a painter, art historian, and visual culturalist. Her expertise is modern-contemporary art, visual culture, and feminist art theory, with emphasis on the U.S.A., Africa, and the African Diaspora (Northern Hemisphere), as well as, modern European art and primitivism. She has exhibited, curated exhibitions, and published, spanning the boundaries of artist and scholar.


  • A.A., Graceland College, Lamoni, IA
  • B.S., Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
  • M.A., M.F.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Ph.D., University of Chicago

Select Publications

“Justified Art! Visualizing Activism for Social Justice,” catalogue essay for exhibit at Overture Center Galleries, Madison, WI, Justified Art! 2016; “1897.com: Peju Layiwola’s Metamonument,” catalogue essay for exhibit, Benin 1897.com: Art and The Restitution Question, Lagos and Ibadan, Nigeria, 2010; “In Search of a Discourse and Critiques that Center/s the Art of Black Women Artists” is a seminal work for which she is most known (published numerous times): Theorizing Black Feminism/s, Stanlie James & Abena Busia, eds., 1993; Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2014, Hillary Robinson, ed. 2015 (earlier version, 2001); The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, Amelia Jones, ed. 2010; Black Feminist Cultural Criticism: Keyworks in Cultural Studies, Jacqueline Bobo, ed. 2001; Gendered Vision, Salah Hassan, ed., 1998.
High coined the term, “Afrofemcentrism,” in 1984, expounding in "Afrofemcentrism: The Work of Elizabeth Catlett and Faith Ringgold," Sage: A Scholarly Journal For Black Women, Volume IV, No. 1, Spring 1987; in Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard eds., The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, 1993. Other key works, "Interweaving Black Feminism and Art History: Framing Nigeria" in Contemporary Textures: Multi-Dimensionality in Nigerian Art (1999), Nkiru Nzegwu, ed., 1999; "Chiasmas: Art in Politics/Politics in Art (Chicano/a and African-American Image, Text, and Activism of the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies," Voices of Color in the Americas, Phoebe Ferris-Duphrene, ed., 1997. Also, “Elizabeth Catlett,” Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Darlene Clark Hines, ed., 2005; "El Salahi" (Sudan); "Valente Malangatana" (Mozambique); "Erharbor Emokpai" (Nigeria); "Iba N'Diaye" (Senegal/ Paris); "Vincent Kofi" (Ghana), Tom Riggs, ed., St. James Guide to Black Artists, 1997; ”Contemporary African Artists,” “African American Artists,” Women Studies Encyclopedia Project, Literature, Arts and Learning, Vol. II, Helen Tierney, ed., 1990.


Museum of Wisconsin Art, (West Bend, WI); Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC); Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art (Wichita, KS); Portland Museum of Art (MN); Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX); Elvehjem Museum of Art (Madison, WI); Polk Museum of Art (Lakeland, Fl); Minnesota Museum of American Art (St Paul, MN); Kennedy Museum of American Art (Athens, OH); Museum of Art, (Charleston, SC) (again after opening at Spelman College); National Arts Club (New York, NY); Studio Museum in Harlem (NY); Madison Art Center (Madison, WI); Leigh Yawkey Museum of Art (Wausau, WI); Milwaukee Art Museum (Milwaukee, WI); Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids, MI); National Afro-American Museum, (Columbus,OH); National Center of Afro-American Art (Roxbury, MA); Schenectady Museum (NY); Fine Arts Museum of the South (Mobile, AL); Burpee Art Museum (Rockford, IL) University and college museums and galleries include some of the following: Herbert Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca (NY); Camille Cosby Humanities Center, Fine Arts Gallery (Atlanta, GA); Art Gallery, Bradley University (Peoria, IL); Montgomery Art Gallery, Scripps College (Pomona, CA); Art Gallery, Alabama A&M University (Normal, AL); Cardinal Stritch College (Milwaukee, WI); Rosenthal Gallery, Fayetteville State University (NC); Art Gallery, Alverno College (Milwaukee, WI); University of Louisville (Louisville, KY); Art Gallery, University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI); Art Gallery, Malcolm X College (Chicago, IL); Art Gallery, Kentucky State University (Frankfort, KY); Afro-American Arts Institute, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN); Afro-American Cultural Center, Purdue University (Lafayette, IN); Art Center, Depauw University (Greencastle, IN); Governors State University (Park Forest, IL); Art Gallery, Rockford College (Rockford, IL); Trisollini Gallery, Ohio University (Athens, OH).

Other select local and global locations include: San Francisco Bay Area Civic Center (CA); South Side Community Art Center (Chicago, IL); Peltz Gallery (Milwaukee, WI); Art Gallery, Atlanta Life & Mutual Insurance Co.(Atlanta, GA); Wright Art Center (Beloit, WI); Museo Arte Contemporanea di Gibellina (Palermo, Italy); America House (Berlin, Germany); National Gallery (Dakar, Senegal); 6e Concours International de la Palme D'or des Beaux Arts, Palmares, Monte-Carlo, etc.

Art Discussed

IYARE! Splendor and Tension in Benin’s Palace Theatre, Kathy Curnow, 2016; Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching, Julie Buckner, 2011; Buckner, “Mary Turner, Hidden Memory, and Narrative Possibility, in The Politics of Memory, E. Simien, ed., 2011; Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1969 to the Present, Nell Painter, 2006; Creating Their Own Image: The History of African American Women, Lisa Farrington, 2005; Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation by Michael Harris, 2003; Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists, Jontyle Robinson, 1996; Robinson in St. James Guide to Black Artists (1997), Tom Riggs, ed.; Gumbo Ya Ya: The Art of African American Women Artists, Leslie Hammonds, 1995; The Art of Black American Women: Works of Twenty-Four Artists of the Twentieth Century, Robert Henkes, 1993, International Review of African-American Art (December 1990).