Tag Archives: race

Female Gaze Friday: Nina Chanel Abney

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll be looking at the work of painter Nina Chanel Abney:

Nina Chanel Abney, King of Sorrow, 2010, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, King of Sorrow, 2010, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, The Boardroom, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 77"x153.5" (overall)

Nina Chanel Abney, The Boardroom, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 77″x153.5″ (overall)

Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas

Figures in Abney’s paintings are often ambiguous in terms of gender and race. While they at first appear to be male with emphasized mustaches and jock straps that leave little to the imagination, you’ll notice that many have highlighted breasts or other feminine features.

Her works often feature colorful, distorted celebrities in surprising situations (or political figures who are treated as celebrities). Of her subject matter Abney says, “I’m fascinated by how celebrity news has become not more interesting, but more important than politics. I like to infuse that with race issues.” There are strong narratives throughout her paintings, but they’re disjointed. It’s usually difficult to understand what exactly is going on.

Abney’s figurative work is personally very inspiring. The way she creates abstracted stories that make the viewer think harder about what they’re seeing appeals to me, and the themes of gender, race, and celebrity are highly relevant to the world today.

You can take a look at more of Abney’s work here.

Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Paintings by Meghan Howland.

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Women in Art: Kara Walker

‘Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such may be Found, by Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored’

During my junior year of high school (2008-2009) I was lucky enough to take an art history class. I was even luckier in that I lived in a Chicago suburb, meaning I had access to multiple museums, galleries, and festivals in which I could view amazing artwork. Work by the greats, just a quick train ride away.

One day, our class took a trip down to the  Museum of Contemporary Art for the Jeff Koons exhibit. Koons’s work was interesting, yes, but in my eyes, didn’t hold a candle to this piece.

It filled the room. At first I looked at it and thought, “They’re just silhouettes”. Then I looked closer and jumped. Surprising work, to say the least.

I had my sketchbook with me and wrote the title of the piece down. Luckily I brought this sketchbook (Finished, but it’s nice to have around) to RIT. Upon deciding to further research Kara Walker I immediately scrambled to find it, breathing a sigh of relief when I was able to locate it and read the title of the piece scribbled inside.

It’s an interesting title, isn’t it? At first its length bothered me; I thought it was kind of pretentious. But it really does work with the piece. It adds more detail to an already intricate narrative and helps the audience better understand the work. It is a little bit silly and old-timey, but that’s part of what makes it so effective.

Kara Walker is most well known for her work with silhouettes; room sized tableaus of cut-paper figures exploring America’s tension surrounding race and gender. She utilizes a traditionally stuffy and orderly Victorian medium to express her opinions on oppression and power, race and sexuality. She takes a “boring” medium and makes it theatrical and chaotic. Her work is full of slaves and black Americans being hurt and abused, complying with and being forced into racial stereotypes and caricatures, full of women and men fighting, fornicating, and running amok. Her work is over the top in its depiction of violence, sexuality, and in the features her cut-paper figures possess. It’s meant to shock the viewer. Make us question our attitudes about race.

Walker’s silhouettes fill the room. They surround the viewer and force the us to think about what is being depicted. The fragmentary nature of the narrative invites viewers to participate in the work, making us complicit in these horrible acts. In fact, Walker sometimes displays work in circular rooms, with the intent of making the viewer question whether there is a beginning and end, if there’s a narrative at all. We are engulfed by the world she creates. Walker says of this effect, “I always wanted to make work that would surround the viewer, to place the viewer in an uncomfortable relationship to a type of imagery that undermines all our fine-tuned, well-adjusted cultural beliefs.” Essentially, Walker is trying to bring us out of our comfort zone so that we will think.

As a black woman born in the late 60s, Walker is no stranger to American issues with race. Raised in a California suburb, Walker encountered a culture shock upon moving to Atlanta at the age of thirteen and experiencing increased amounts of racism in her daily life. While California was far from perfect, living in the South proved to be difficult, to say the least.

Here’s more of Walker’s work, including some close ups in which you can see how she exaggerates figures and features to conform to racial stereotypes (Trigger warning: some silhouettes depict sexual violence): Continue reading

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I Don’t Think the Tea Party Understands what Terrorism is.

I think that the tea party is having trouble getting their position straight. They hate terrorism? But they’re terrorizing others based on race and presumed religion.

In case you didn’t watch the video, it shows right wing extremists harassing–terrorizing–the Islamic Circle of North America, a group hosting an Orange County charity fundraiser which raised money for women’s shelters and the homeless.The tea party group is shown here screaming death threats and racial slurs. Called “We Surround Them OC 912”, they are not only terrible people, but they’re terrible people supported by a few terrible politicians. Ed Royce, US Representative for California’s 40th district attended the protest and said, “I am proud of you. I am proud of what you are doing.”

Really Ed? You’re proud of a group of racist cowards hiding behind their “patriotism”?

More after the jump!

Continue reading

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