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Eight images of Caribbean women: Exploring issues of representation and ontological in/security through visual art

Dixon, Carol (2016) Eight images of Caribbean women: Exploring issues of representation and ontological in/security through visual art. In: First Postgraduate Conference on Caribbean In/securities and Creativity, 23 May 2016, University of Birmingham, UK. (Unpublished)

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This presentation features eight artistic representations of black Caribbean and diasporan women, paired together to explore different compositional, social and technological modalities. The visual analysis commences with an art-historical critique of ways that black women have been portrayed in classical figurative painting, and then compares different styles of photographic portraiture, before concluding with a review of recent installations by contemporary Caribbean artists. Each selection provides opportunities to consider the role of artworks as archives of social history, artists as documentarians, and exhibition spaces as sites for critical engagement with the politics of black portraiture as an issue of ontological in/security.

The works in focus are:
• Two oil paintings showing aspects of Haitian history depicted through black female corporeality: Portrait of a Haitian woman (1786) by François Malépart de Beaucourt; and Mama Legba (2011) by Elizabeth Colomba

• Performance-themed artworks that feature coded styles of dress and movement: Dancing scene in the West Indies (c. 1764-96) by Agostino Brunias; and “Whip it Good!” (2015) by Jeanette Ehlers

• Contrasting examples of colonial photography and contemporary photographic self-portraiture: “Woman selling Jack Fruit, Trinidad” (1908-9) by Harry Hamilton Johnston; and Redcoat, from the series Queen Nanny of the Maroons (2004) by Renée Cox

• Twenty-first century mixed-media installations that question and challenge racialized gender stereotypes: “Brown Girl in the Ring” (2015) by Jodi Minnis and Edrin Symonette; and Post j'ouvert self-portrait (2013) by Brianna McCarthy.

Drawing on the work of art historians Charmaine Nelson and Samantha Noel, as well as black feminist scholarship from other subject disciplines, artists’ and curators’ reflexive commentaries on their own practice are aligned to wider discourses about the unmasking and counter-narration of “controlling images” (Collins 2000: 69-72), the de-centering of the “mythical norm” (Lorde 2007 [1984]: 116), and the importance of self-representation for “talking back” (hooks 1989: 9) and “restablilis[ing] the integrity of the black female self” (Henderson 2010: 6).

Type of Work:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences
Department:Department of Geography

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Black feminist thought: knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. 2nd ed. New York and London: Routledge.

Henderson, Carol E. 2010. Imagining the Black female body: reconciling image in print and visual culture. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

hooks, bell. 1989. Talking back: thinking feminist, thinking black. Boston, MA: South End Press.

Lorde, Audre. 2007 [1984]. Sister outsider: essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. New foreword by Cheryl Clarke. Berkeley, Calif.: Crossing Press.

Date:23 May 2016
Keywords:Artistic representations; Caribbean diaspora; visual analysis; art history; photographic portraiture; contemporary Caribbean artists; social history; black portraiture; ontological in/security; Haitian history; colonial photography; racialized gender stereotypes.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Related URLs:
Funders:Leverhulme Trust
Copyright Holders:Carol Dixon
ID Code:2193

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