Derrick Woods-Morrow (b.1990 Brown Summit, NC) is a multidisciplinary Chicago-based artist, born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He salvages, displaces, and moves raw material from sites of historical significance and trauma, reimagining their future and function, as he traverses the fault lines of cultural appropriation and of the contested histories of land ownership. Focusing on questions of legibility and on his own bodies relation to traversing unwelcome terrain, Woods-Morrow utilizes childhood narratives to connect past experiences of growing up in the American South with present modalities of envisioning ‘playfulness’ & ‘restoration’ as necessary considerations for seeing bodies, like and unlike his own, renewed. His current practice can be seen as mutable; a transient meditation on deviation & disruption displayed through the performative nature of having contemporary bodies ‘inhabit’, exist alongside & in conversation with his work. 

In conjunction with photography and video, Woods-Morrow’s work employs charged objects removed from commemorative sites in Chicago, from his childhood playgrounds, and from waterfront vacation locations built on zones of colonial contact.  His use of these objects dredges their buried or suppressed histories of sexuality and race, as he envisions the ways these objects deserve activation. Through the personal & experiential his work positions viewers to see the experiences of queer black peoples as an articulated and confrontational essentialism, and he asks what it would mean to imagine a past or a future for their bodies to exist as ‘whole’ —to not perpetually labor merely in order to exist, but to thrive and play.

 Woods-Morrow is an emerging artist & adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, who has had film screenings at the Art Institute of Chicago & the Chicago Cultural Center. Recently he has exhibited work in the Ground Floor Biennial exhibition at the Hyde Park Arts Center, The BGSQD in New York, as a 2018 Chicago Artadia Awardee, exhibited during the EXPO Chicago Art Fair and has an upcoming performance & lecture at the MCA Chicago in April 2019. He was a participant in the 2016 Fire Island Artist Residency, and concluded his residency with the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2018, culminating in his first solo exhibition in Chicago. In 2019 his work will be included in the Whitney Biennial as a collaborative effort with the Artist, Paul Sepuya.




My recent work, Keeping Record brings together fragmented memories and the emotional detritus of coming to terms with the notion of self.  Using history and dialogue as materials, I connect stories of youth with the struggle to understand a deep-seated urge to do violence to bodies - to your body- to my body [Black] – to their bodies.

affect interactions - from the holy vibration to otherwise mundane things - as he reaches back to his past - as a meditation on safe futures...

Branni can you hear me? I can hear you...

“A few days before Philando Castile was pulled over for having a tail light out I was pulled over leaving a gay bar named Big Chicks in Chicago, blocked into an ally, and approached at gunpoint by cops who called me “boy.” After mentioning I was leaving the gay bar, which managed to diffuse the situation, I was left in a tailspin and needed an outlet to create a body of work that I hadn’t dared think about creating–at least not until a publication called Headmaster gave me an assignment for their upcoming issue inspired by the village people and told me I had full agency over the project. It was here that the “Roach Is Coming” was born over the idea of multiple identities, a multitude of questions around Blackness, whiteness, queerness. One question I had: what it would mean for white bodies to perform labor, instead of my own? In this film, Adam, a boy he grew up with, now a police officer, and myself are never really what we once were. We were never really meant to have a future, but in the moments we share we discuss things that I think we always wanted to discuss, things that are hard to discuss, things that others may never discuss…”

(WATCH) Short Film - The Roach is Coming (2018) below on short release until August,1st.



  In Spring of 2018, I received funding from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and it was announced that I was  to receive a 2018 Individual Artists Program (IAP) grant to fund the exhibition the solo exhibition, Keeping Record on display @ the Chicago Artist Coalition from March 30th - April 19th -  [click here for media packet]



Documentation of Keeping Record Exhibition @ the Chicago Artists Coalition consisting of multi dimensional installation consisting of photography, Kinetic sculpture, film, light installation & writings.


Dear Branni, 

By myself in the darkness with the flashlight you once gave me I've been searching out a path where i could be both happy, and carefree and attempt to smile amidst everything that is happening in the world today. A Shelter behind closed doors. A home like you once provided.

I wanted to thank you. A few months ago I was scared and couldn't process something that happened...


But maybe you already know this.

I got pulled over by the cops in a dark alley. No one was there but us. I thought about how I didn't know what would come next but maybe you, my superhero, could stop what might transpire. 

... I keep thinking about the the black speedlight that usually sits a top my camera but was resting in the glove box. The one that could have been mistaken for something else as the three cops approached my car... and I was scared...but couldn't process until a few days later... and here I am now.


….and here I am now.

 "Me, photographing Josh, performing for me, performing my childhood, in a Chicago back alley," (2018), Photograph.

 "Me, photographing Josh, performing for me, performing my childhood, in a Chicago back alley," (2018), Photograph.

"Adam reimagined after 15 years |photographed as if he still is, but we aren’t... | Dear Derrick, bathe him in darklight..." (2017) Photograph as postcard 5" x 7"

"Adam reimagined after 15 years |photographed as if he still is, but we aren’t... | Dear Derrick, bathe him in darklight..." (2017) Photograph as postcard 5" x 7"

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Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 1.02.17 PM.png

In 2017, I returned home to reconnect with Adam. He was once, like myself, a young boy on the playground, lost in the bushes - finding other boys, finding other futures. Over 72 hours, after not connecting for 15 years, we reconnected as I journeyed with him in his police cruiser, laid with him in bed and bathed him in a bathtub. My finger, rich in color, snaps a photograph... [Click here] for access to more to more content & interview with Nicole S. Lane for Sixty Inches from the Center, Intimate Justice: Derrick Woods-Morrow.


Selected Works

The Sand is Ours (2016 -)

The Sand is Ours compiles an archive of reflections during a summer on Fire Island – a cascading paradise of boardwalks, utopian ideals like no other, romantic hope for inclusionary spaces – none of which actually exist. The boardwalks are broken, the utopia is dystopian, the romances only last for brief moments at best – there were no safe spaces for those like me. And so, the work developed within the exhibition focuses on struggling to locate a sense of selfhood beyond those expectations. I navigate and negotiate sexual identity through photography, sculpture, creative writing and performance, weaving together autobiographical objects for intimate engagements. Throughout, objects punctuate images as I enact my desire to position audiences to encounter my longing for child-like play juxtaposed against psychological and physical detritus from my adulthood encounters.

While on the island I began to notice that people of color strolled the boardwalks, playfully succumbing to laughter, all the while appearing hyper aware of their existence as other on the island. If they seemingly chose to ignore it, I noticed it for them, noticed it for all of us. As I strolled, I never found myself wanting to introduce queer bodies of color to the same skepticism that I approached with bodies who perceived themselves as being non-colored. And as I sought constant physical stimulation, sexual activity, loving kinship, respective projects were developed. Unmistakably, the moments I shared with the men on the island have shaped me, haunted me and changed me for the better. My desire to know Fire Island was encapsulated in these interactions and the pieces on display in the exhibition are meant to position you at the fulcrum of this experience, however sordid and however fleeting.

As my time on the island passed, I struggled with a double desire. One to preserve the beautiful innocence of the people that I found most dynamic on the island. In anguish, contorted, embracing, empowered, these bodies personify my feelings with their performances through portraiture – Romantic angels, children & men, silhouetted bodies of love that are often disregarded and sunken into shadows which hide the details that make them kings & queens. Simultaneously, I dangerously positioned myself as an object of desire in order to gather an archive of images rendered as physical reminders of my experience – Polaroids to take with me as I left the island. Each polaroid became an instant receipt to the transaction of a mutual agreement: a sexual encounter with me, in exchange for access to the archive of images found on the personal mobile devices of men I engaged with – I had no sexual activity with men who did not consent to my parameters while on the island.

Reflecting on both of these spaces made me think of home, a home that I missed for its safety, a home for my childhood imagination, although my homes were never actually safe. And so I erected better homes for my desires – future places for anonymous play, cavernous in nature, penetrable, guarded and unprotected, welcoming to some and unwelcoming to most. Ceramic totems to impending happiness, vessels out of clay from my childhood playgrounds, glazed in sand from the not-so mythological Fire island, Meat Rack – adolescent fantasies into architectural sculptures bringing into contact, literally and figuratively, aspects of my childhood playground and an adulthood playground for lost boys – Fire Island.

If anything The Sand is Ours is wishful thinking. The world created within the exhibition is at constant odds with itself. In my safe spaces, queer people of color have reclaimed power, reclaimed their youth, and their sexual desires are not sacrificed at the expense of masculinity politics that condense their being into anything less dynamic, less beautiful, and less sanctimonious. A new world should challenge conflicting conceptions of emotional and physical boundaries, gender roles, sexuality, queerness, and of course racial stereotypes and the world within The Sand is Ours attempts to do just that, but remains unsafe, unsettled and unwelcoming for the new “outsiders” – the new others.


Red Room | White Views (2016) 

Short essay from 2016 Ground Floor Exhibition Catalogue by Tempest Hazel

Derrick Woods-Morrow's practice is an autobiographical exercise that moves effortlessly between sculpture, photography, printmaking and installation. The work is a body-less, body-referencing elegy to the orchestrated and documented interactions he's had and the codes of queer culture. He speaks a language and references things to which outsiders don't have access. If you know, you know. That the only glimpse into this world that is made available to you.

Although Woods-Morrow shuts outsiders out, he also offers an entry point for interested interlopers. After spending a while making performance-based work, he decided to see what happened when he removed himself and made more space for you, the curious observer. He open his world up and invites you to manipulate the common interpretations of what the absence and presence of the body could mean. Even so, the body is always references in a whisper through clothing, beds, shoes - all things that require the body to validate their existence. 

Derrick Woods-Morrow, Installation view of various pieces from the Hyde Park Art Biennial: GROUND FLOOR (2016) Chicago, IL


A Tale of Three Women (2015 -2016)

The Following passage can be found within Blindspots:

Darryl Terrell, Derrick Woods-Morrow, TeeJay Hayche, Mariel Zinman, Shellie Zhang,

an essay written by Dainesha Nugent-Palache


Derrick Woods-Morrow’s series of photographs, A Tale of Three Women (2015), demonstrates how history shapes the contemporary experience. Woods-Morrow’s images are saturated in pastiche, as the artist embodies three women situated within different places in history, while at the same time speaking to his current experience as a queer black man. In the series, images of Saartjie Baartman, Grace Jones, and Kim Kardashian are reimagined through the use of the artist’s own body. Colonial histories have rendered the black female body as hypersexual, though simultaneously undesirable, and the bodies of black males as violently hypermasculine and oversexualized. In both cases, these readings have moved black bodies into the realm of taboo and fetishism, often disallowing black people from being seen as more than sex objects. These ideas are perpetuated in popular media, and particularly in pornographic representations. The idea of black queer love is not often illustrated, rather, sexualized black bodies are seen to represent otherness and the forbidden. In the artist’s words, “black males are often seen as nothing more than twelve-inch dicks who rape and pillage.” A Tale of Three Women attempts to flip this reading, while simultaneously illustrating how certain ideas that surround the black queer identity have been constructed and continue to be maintained.

Saartjie Baartman, Grace Jones, and Kim Kardashian have each been hypersexualized, exotified and framed as objects of desire to be consumed, at varying levels of agency.Saartjie Baartman was removed from South Africa by white European colonizers in the early 19th century, and exhibited across Europe as a freak show attraction, due to the large size of her bottom7. Grace Jones is a model and musician who was often photographed by her partner, Jean-Paul Goude, during the 1980s. However, Goude primarily photographed Jones nude, always accentuating her features (for example, her dark skin tone, androgynous features, and prominent bottom) which rendered her as different. Then there is Kim Kardashian, who is famous for not much other than her curves and love of selfies. In 2015, Jean-Paul Goude photographed Kim Kardashian for Paper Magazine in the same style as he had with many of his black female subjects in the past. Although Kim Kardashian can pass for Caucasian, Goude deliberately highlights her posterior as abnormal nudging her into the realm of otherness, inviting the viewer to further fetishize her. These are just a few examples pulled from a long history of black bodies being viewed as sexual objects for the consumption of the white gaze, perpetuating the wide-reaching legacy of colonialism. A Tale of Three Women allows the artist to stand in solidarity with these women who have had their identities shaped for them, quite literally presenting how an image or an understanding of a person’s identity is constructed through photography and popular media. By reinstating his own agency and presenting himself as he would like to be read, Woods-Morrow rejects a projected macho and aggressive masculinity, allowing him to be read as feminine. Whereas Woods-Morrow’s work explores expectations and fetishism imposed upon the black queer male body...

Whitewash Trails ( 2014 -2015)

Sun-baked cheeks spread welcoming your invitation. Pause. Your brash incessant need to create euphemism where your neurosis falls short of your own realization. Pause, one moment and the black body will almost blind you. Here you’ll find wood – untreated, untamed and unpolished - logs bursting out into the mid-ground. Taint. Crack. Ass. Boys with white socks and black crocs. The boy in the middle looks hesitantly over his shoulder, aware or maybe unaware of what has happened. I imagine the young man to the right is posing. Back propped in an upright position - too stiff to just be standing there, presenting his cheeks to the audience, who like the photographer plays the role of voyeur, as he exhibits his goodies for us to see.  His hands resting on his genitals – a type of seduction that asks me if he is playing with himself. Does anyone else have a better angle?  Half way through the frame an iron structure cuts a direct line – separating the light from the shadow. What lies inside this room is unknown to the viewer. 

He may not be in the frame, but he cast the frame for which this image should be viewed, this document should exist, this composition should be read. 4 beautiful men – beautiful and black and for so long beautiful and so long forgotten.

(c) Alvin Baltrop Trust

(c) Alvin Baltrop Trust

 ... Stopwatch in hand, I smiled. He smiled back and I thanked him for his service. Click. The clock started for me. How long would it take? Not Long. After twenty four minutes & fifty two seconds of conversation, he agreed to meet me later that week under the terms I had laid out before him: I would have full control over the photograph, but he would have the right to stop whenever he likes. After we were finished, I asked him why he did it. He responded, “Because you made me want to do it.”– We haven’t spoken since




Derrick Woods-Morrow

Chicago Artist Coalition

217 N Carpenter St.

Chicago, IL 60607



2016 M.F.A School of the Art Institute of Chicago

2014 P.B.C (Fine Arts) - Massachusetts College of Art & Design

2012 B.A Randolph College

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2018   Keeping Record | Chicago Artist Coalition | Chicago, IL


2017    The Sand is Ours | Vandernoot Gallery, Cambridge, MA

            Silent Heat | Chazan Family Gallery, Providence, RI

Selected Two & Three Person Exhibitions 

2019 Upcoming - TBD Exhibition | Aspect / Ratio Gallery | Chicago, IL

2018     Derrick Woods-Morrow & Leonard Suryajaya | Artadia | EXPO Chicago Art Fair

Love the Giver |Dutes Miller, Elijah Burgher & Derrick Woods-Morrow | The Franklin | Chicago, IL | curated by Kristin Korolowitz | tarot card reading & workshop by Alia Watson

2017     Flat Rate Shipping: Jesse Malmed & Derrick Woods-Morrow |Roots & Culture | Chicago, IL

Selected Group Exhibitions  

2018   Gold | Aspect / Ratio | Chicago, IL

Local Comfort | LVL3 | Chicago, IL

Instant Gratification | Redux Contemporary Art Center | Charleston, SC

           Love the Giver | The Franklin | Chicago, IL | curated by Kristin Korolowitz

           dangerous professors | Flatland Gallery | Houston, TX | curated by ruslana Lichtzer


2017   Positive + | Baltimore Gallery | Curated by Darryl Terrell

Preview 7: “The whole is always smaller than its parts" | Chicago Artist Coalition |Curated by Ionit Behar | Chicago, IL

Flat Rate Shipping: Jesse Malmed & Derrick Woods-Morrow |Roots & Culture, Chicago, I

Chicago Expo | Sullivan Galleries Booth | Curated by Sadie Woods | Chicago, IL

Instant Gratification | Ain’t – Bad | Atlanta School of Photography | Atlanta, GA

Petty Biennial, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Context | Filter Photo Festival | Chicago, IL

50 x 50 Invitational, The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities | Chicago, IL

STEADY MESS | Bureau of General Services Queer Division | New York

Precariat | Hyde Park Art Center | Chicago, IL


2016  Ground Floor | Hyde Park Arts Center | Chicago, IL

A Seed Don't Make a Tree | ACRE | Chicago, IL

Connect | Hyde Park | Chicago, IL

MFA Thesis Show | School of the Art Institute of Chicago - Sullivan Galleries

Patina Aorta - Photographic Work | Center on Halsted | Chicago, IL

Black @ SAIC presents The Black Experience | Leroy Neiman Center | Chicago, IL Blindspots – Selected Works | XPace Cultural Centre | Toronto,ON

De Nue | Student Union Galleries | Leroy Neiman Center | Chicago, IL


2015  New Work | Sullivan Galleries | Chicago, IL

Final Gathering | FNewsMagazine Virtual Space | Chicago, IL

The Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show | Grunwald Gallery of Art | Bloomington, IN


2014  Noetica, Post-Baccalaureate Art Exhibition | MassArt | Boston, MA

Mass Art – Ass Art, North Crackatorium | MassArt|  Boston,MA


2012  Symposium of Artists and Scholars | Randolph College | Lynchburg, VA

Maier Museum of Art BFA Exhibition | Randolph College | Lynchburg, VA


2019 Upcoming - Spring 2019 | Museum of Contemporary Art | Chicago, IL

Film Screenings

2018 The Roach is Coming (in collaboration with OpenTV) | Art institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL

The Roach is Coming (in collaboration with Open TV) | Chicago Cultrual Center| Chicago, IL


2017  The Roach is Coming: Invitation to Consent | Rhode Island College | Providence, Rhode Island

Issues of Genders/Sexualities/Culture | School of the Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL


2016   Standing before Grace – Kim -- & Sara? | Fire Island Artist Residency | Fire Island, NY


2015  Graduate Thesis Presentation | School of the Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL

No Oz for Tin Man | School of the Art Institute of Chicago | VCS Lecture | Chicago, IL

Illegible: White Will, a few extra inches | Acre Residency | Stueben, WI

White Will |School of the Art Institute of Chicago | MFA Photo Lecture Series | Chicago, IL


2018    Sixty From the Center | Intimate Justice: Derrick Woods-Morrow| interview with Nicole S. Lane


2017   “Footnotes For Fragments – The Translators”, Ground Floor, A Biennial exhibition of New Art  from Chicago, essay by Tempestt Hazel

 Antwaun Sargent,“ Feeling Petty About the Art World? This Biennial Is For you”, ART FAIRs, Vice   magazine


2016  SAIC MFA Photography Department Graduate Publication, essay by Meg Onli

Photography Department Catalogue. essay by Robert Clarke Davis

Canadian Art: Muse See This Week: June 23 –June 29th, Toronto

Bryony Stone, “the queer artist of fire island”, Vice iD

Exhibition Catalog: Volume VII, “Blindspots” essay by Dainesha Nugent-Palache


2015     BAD AT SPORTS | 10 shows to see Friday after expo | Stephanie Burke


2014   SAIC MFA Catalogue, essay by Shawn Michelle Smith

Canon: SAIC Visual & Critical Studies Publication

Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Centerfold Art Showcase


2012  Center for International Studies: International Photography Web Publication Hail Muse: Writing and Art

Student Publication | Randolph College


2011     Hail Muse: Writing and Art Student Publication | Randolph College


Awards & Honors

2017   Newcity's Top 5 Everything 2017: Art | Top 5 Noncommercial/ Alt Shows: Roots & Culture– Jesse Malmed & Derrick Woods-Morrow


2016   Professional-Development Fellowship in the Visual Arts award | College Arts Association

Graduation Dean Professional Development Fellowship | School of the Art Institute of Chicago


2015  Carol Becker Dean’s Merit Scholarship | School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Terry Plumming Scholar | ACRE Residency


2012   Chi Alpha Sigma

Kappa Pi Fraternity (2 consecutive years | 2011 & 2012)

Randolph College Founders Award (4 consecutive years | 2008 – 2012)



2017   Chicago Artist Coalition | Bolt Resident | Chicago, IL

          Chicago Art Department Artist in Residence | Chicago, IL

Latitude Residency | Chicago, IL


2016   Fire Island Artist Residency | Long Island, NY 2015       

ACRE Residency | Steuben, Wisconsin

(O -) Circle Minus Residency (affiliation with ACRE Residency) | Steuben, WI


Permanent Collections

2016  SAIC MFA Photography Exchange Portfolio box | Art Institute of Chicago

SAIC MFA Photography Exchange Portfolio box | Joan Flasch Artist Book Collection


Work and Other Professional Experience

2016 - 2018  Visiting Artist & Adjunct Professor –  | Intro to Photography: Theory & Conception | Art & Art History Department | University of Illinois Chicago


2015   Teaching Assistant | Robert Clarke Davis | Slow Photo – Alternative Process | Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Teaching Assistant | Lewis Toby | Large Format Photography |Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago| Chicago, IL

Teaching Assistant | Giovanni Aioli | History of Photography |Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago| Chicago, IL

Teaching Assistant | Jesse Avina | Advanced Color Concepts |Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago| Chicago, IL

Teaching Assistant | Oli Rodriquez |Intro to Photography | Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago| Chicago, IL


2014     Teaching Assistant | Lewis Toby | Large Format Photography |Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago| Chicago, IL



Contact me - for commissions | exhibitions | press & opportunities

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