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Recent Acquisitions: Vaughn Spann

June 1, 2021 | Michael Rooks

We used to play amongst the fireflies by Vaugn Spann

Vaughn Spann (American, born 1992), We used to play amongst the fireflies, 2019, mixed media on canvas, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Tim and Lauren Schrager, 2020.140.

Vaughn Spann was born in Florida and lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. He received his BFA from Rutgers University in 2014 and his MFA from Yale School of Art in 2018. In We used to play amongst the fireflies, Spann addresses an autobiographical anecdote through the formal concerns of color, texture, and materiality. The painting’s surface is enhanced by the application of textiles, materials reminiscent of the laundry he folded as a child alongside his grandmother. Its title refers to the artist’s childhood in Florida, chasing fireflies in the carefree summer evenings—before the reality of racism in America marked the passage from innocence to experience. The painting was part of three works produced for an exhibition titled Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, referring to the popular children’s bedtime prayer. According to the artist, We used to play amongst the fireflies is about the dawn of “subjectivity as an African American male, considering the everyday lived trauma for all people of color” and is a memorial to families that have been fractured by racial violence.