Skip to main content

Melvin Edwards lectures at the University of Connecticut

 Digital Record


  • 1971 - 1990


Sculptor Melvin Edwards delivered an incredible 19 lectures to students of the Black Experience in the Arts course. Edwards' lectures range from 1971 to 1987, covering much of the class' existence. Working mostly with metal, his work has been highligted in over a dozen solo shows and 40 group exhibitions. His most famous work are a collection of metal objects entitled "Lynch Fragments." Over 200 pieces, such as locks, nails, and chains, exist in the collection which symbolize the violence experienced by African-Americans.

Edwards also was married to poet Jayne Cortez, herself a frequent lecturer to the Black Experience in the Arts course.

Edwards spoke on 10/24/1978 (2015-0002/RR3), 10/26/1971 (2015-0002/RR141), 11/9/1971 (2015-0002/RR142 reel 1), (2015-0002/RR143 reel 2), 2/29/1972 (2015-0002/RR144), 11/28/1972 (2015-0002/RR145), 10/23/1973 (2015-0002/RR146), 9/30/1975 (2015-0002/RR147), 11/16/1976 (2015-0002/RR148), 9/20/1977 (2015-0002/RR149 reel 1), (2015-0002/RR150 reel 2), 9/25/1979 (2015-0002/RR151), 11/18/1980 (2015-0002/RR152), 11/24/1981 (2015-0002/RR153), 11/2/1982 (2015-0002/RR154), 10/11/1983 (2015-0002/RR155), 10/29/1985 (2015-0002/RR156), 9/23/1986 (2015-0002/RR157), and 9/22/1987 (2015-0002/RR316).

Biographical / Historical

Melvin "Mel" Edwards (born May 4, 1937) is an American contemporary artist, teacher, and abstract steel metal sculptor. Additionally he has worked in drawing and printmaking. His artwork has political content often referencing African-American history, as well as the exploration of themes within slavery. Visually his works are characterized by the use of straight-edged triangular and rectilinear forms in metal. He lives between Upstate New York and in Plainfield, New Jersey.

He has had more than a dozen one-person show exhibits and been in over four dozen group shows. Edwards has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey.

Melvin Eugene Edwards, Jr., was born May 4, 1937, in Houston, Texas. He was raised in Dayton, Ohio for five years, but by middle school age the family moved back to Houston. He was a creator from a young age and was encouraged by his parents with his father building his first easel when he was 14 years old. Edwards was introduced to abstract art by a high school teacher. While attending high school he started to take art classes at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

In 1955 he moved to southern California to pursue studies at Los Angeles City College. Edwards transferred schools to study art and play football at University of Southern California (USC), where he received his B.F.A. degree in 1965. While attending USC, Edwards took a history course that was rooted in a European-centric view, which upset him and fueled him to learn more about African history. This inspired his travel to Africa five years later.

He attended Los Angeles County Art Institute (known as Otis College of Art and Design) during breaks from USC to study sculpture with Renzo Fenci. Additionally, he was mentored by Hungarian-American painter Francis de Erdely, and studied under Hal Gebhardt, Hans Burkhardt, and Edward Ewing.

In 1965, he went on to teach at the Chouinard Art Institute (now known as the California Institute of the Arts) until 1967. He moved to New York City in 1967.[9] Additionally he taught at Orange County Community College in New York (1967-1969), and the University of Connecticut (1970-1972).

In 1972, he began teaching art classes at Livingston College of Rutgers University, (now part of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences). By 1980 he was a full professor and teaching at the Mason Gross School of Creative and Performing Arts at Rutgers University. By 2002, he retired from teaching.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US