Skip to main content


Lorna Simpson; 21 Steps; Jeff Ryan

Artwork Details

Lorna Simpson; 21 Steps; Jeff Ryan
wood box, waterless lithographed felt, and ceramic, rubber, and bronze wishbones
13 9/16 in x 5 1/2 in x 2 3/16 in (34.5 cm x 14 cm x 5.5 cm)
Gift of The Peter Norton Family Foundation

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

Simpson was comissioned to create this piece for the Peter Norton Family Christmas Project, of which an edition of 5,000 was made. Although Simpson is first and foremost a photographer, the nature of her work has changed over time. Simpson often includes text with visual images/objects, and there is an intentionally crafted air of mystery in her work—such as a piece unseen, anonymity, vague wording—that engages the viewer in the process of not just interpreting, but also creating meaning. Common themes throughout the artist's work include intersectionality, Black womanhood and society's gaze, and, memory and interpretation.

A Christmas card was included with this piece, and the text on the back was written by Thelma Golden; at the time, she was associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The text reads: "Lorna Simpson is best know for her photographic work which combines charged words with potent images of Black women whose faces are not revealed. By being elusive, her works involve the viewer in the creation of their meaning. At the heart of her subject matter is an investigation of the issues of race and gender. In her recent work, sculpture has been added to enrich the relationship of words and image. This work, "III", continues the evolution of her art. It centers on a wishbone, a key of her artistic imagery, and draws on the metaphorical meanings of the project's materials. III is Lorna Simpson's meditation on wishing."

Physical Description:

A rectangular wooden box containing ceramic, rubber, and bronze wishbones encased in felt. A lithographed felt card rests on top of the wishbones. The text on the felt card reads: Wish #1 Wish # 2 Wish #3. The box top is engraved with "III" on the front. 

Usage Rights:

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.