Stephen Towns is a painter working primarily in oil, acrylic and fibers. His work explores how American history influences contemporary society. He aims to create a body of work exploring the African Diaspora, and draws much of his visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, impressionist paintings, and wax cloth prints. The work he creates is deeply rooted in the constructs of race and its effects on society. It is developed in direct response to issues that have affected African-American culture–issues such as loss of ancestral roots, slavery, class, education, skin tone and religion. The subjects in Towns’s works are not only glimpses of the sitters; they are also a reflection of himself and mirror his struggle to attain a sense of self-knowledge, self-worth and spirituality. His practice provides an avenue for him to process all that he has learned about the violence of American history and imparted a framework on how to navigate and articulate the current anger and frustration that exists throughout the world today.

Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina, and received a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting from the University of South Carolina. His work has been exhibited locally and nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, York College, Goucher College, Galerie Myrtis, as well as group exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Jack Shainman Gallery: The School, August Wilson Cultural Center, Arlington Art Center, Montpelier Arts Center, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Cultured Magazine, ARTnews, American Craft Council Magazine, and The Baltimore Sun. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize and received a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Rubys Artist Grant in 2015. In 2018, Towns was a semi-finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize and awarded a MD State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award. Towns’s work is in the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, The Nelson Atkins Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, the private collection of Art + Practice, artist Mark Bradford’s nonprofit based in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, as well as other private collections nationally and abroadIn 2022, Towns will exhibit ​Declaration and Resistance, ​a solo exhibition of paintings and quilts at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania.

Towns currently lives and works in Baltimore, MD.


Museum acquisitions

Stephen Towns, 
Special Child, 2016.
#1 from the series Story Quilts. Natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle, polyester and cotton thread, metallic thread, Thermoweb, cotton/polyester blend batting, crystal glass beads, resin and metal buttons. 36 1/2 x 28 1/4 inches. Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Alice and Franklin Cooley Fund (BMA 2017.144)
Stephen Towns
Birth of a Nation, 2014
 Natural and synthetic fabric, polyester and cotton thread, metallic thread, coffee and tea stain, acrylic paint
90 x 66 inches. 
Private Collection
Stephen Towns
 The Pioneer, 2020
Oil, acrylic, fabric, buttons, Bristol paper, mica flakes, graphite, glitter, charcoal on panel 40 x 30 inches 101.6 x 76.2 cm Collection of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Stephen Towns
The Baptism of Ethelred T. Brantley,
Natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle, polyester and cotton thread, metallic thread, crystal glass beads, acrylic paint, acrylic fiber medium, and resin buttons
29 3/8 × 39 3/4 in.
Collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
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