There is something inspirational about Towns work--a sense of history and hope. Lucy Thomas was a slave and her photo was taken as part of the Works Progress Administration effort to document ex-slaves. I suspect the image inspiring this painting is HERE. But you would need to ask the artist to be sure.
The artist's work is not all from a particular era but rather a collection of works examining various points in history, and in the present, that have and are influencing African-American culture. He is a painter and fiber artist. Portrait of Lucy Thomas is acrylic, oil, fabric, buttons, metal leaf and Bristol paper on panel. We shall part the waves through turbulent waters is natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle, polyester and cotton thread, cotton/polyester blend batting, crystal glass beads and resin buttons.
As you can see, the artist uses a variety of materials in his work.
Towns holds a BFA from the University of South Carolina. You can see and read more at stephentowns.com. I strongly encourage a visit to his website.