Student name: Seung Je Ch0
Student ID : 1568943
I found this illustration on Pinterest which I sometimes search through to find some stuffs to draw. I like this artwork not only because it is such a visual and novel image but also it provokes me to think more about black women’s sexuality. It has a lot of symbolic elements, some of which are closely related to the course. I will discuss more about the symbolic meanings later.
This artifact was drawn by an underground black artist. His name is Brandon Dudely. He was born in Kingston, North Carolina in 1991 and still lives there. There is not much background information about him since he is not a well-known artist. According to a website for underground artists where he is registered, he is a portrait artist who aims to “elevate the humanity of each individual and to explore the unique character and personal strengths of his subjects” (Dudely, 2012) through his works. He seems deeply motivated by the love for humanity and by the interest about different human experiences. I personally think that because he is not a mainstream artist, he can represent better the experiences of black people who have been marginalized by multiple criteria.
Let’s talk about the artwork. There is an anonymous black woman’s torso figure which is quite beautiful and there are six non-black hands wrapping her body. I think these hands can be interpreted in two different ways. Firstly, it could be seen as white males’ hands trying to sexually exploit and abuse a black female’s body. This might convey black people’s deep-seated perception of themselves; still vulnerable to the violence of white male dominance. Next, these hands could also be understood as white women’s attempt to steal sexual attractiveness from black people and spread the image of sexually unattractive black women. Sexual symbols of big breasts and butts might have been taken from black people and supplied to the mass culture of the US. (Am I being a racist here?) These two interpretations is in line with the Jezebel/Mammy dichotomy. “Jezebel symbolized the sexual exploitation of black women while Mammy symbolizes asexuality and other functionalities of black women” (Pittman, 2015)
One more notable thing about this artwork is that the woman’s torso is portrayed as being made of wood and carved out. I think this shows how African American women have been objectified as subjects, not as agents of action. “African Americans were objectified as chattel, their black bodies commodified as property, and exploited as property and workers” (Pittman, 2015). The identity of black females were shaped and manipulated by dominant white population with the intention of economically, socially, and sexually subjugating them. The female figure is also faceless, which signifies black women stripped of their individuality and forced the fabricated images of “typical black women”.
I don’t want to necessarily pair this piece of work with any particular time period in the African American history. That is because the process of sexually exploiting black women and objectifying them has always been on going since the arrival of the first black people in this country until now. The recent arrest of an African-American actor Danièle Watts exemplifies that the process is still going on to a certain degree. She is alleging that the LA police department unfairly detained her for showing off affection for his white boyfriend. “The incident brings up the long and tortured history of the ways in which black female bodies are perceived and translated, especially when they are in close proximity with white bodies.” (Adewunmi, 2014)
I think this artist is trying to fix this problem with his works. He understands the hardships that black women have gone through in the US and is making efforts to let people know about it. And his other works are portraits of African-Americans with their own signatures. I thinks he’s got a point there. By emphasizing and expressing their own personality, African-American women might be able to break away from the old and rusty fetters of their history.
Branden Dudely. (2012). “About”. Retrieved from http://www.rawartists.org/bdudley
LaShawnDa Pittman. (2015). Black Feminism lecture2. (PPT slides) Retrieved from https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/986700/files/folder/Course%2520Lectures?preview=33866317
LaShawnDa Pittman. (2015). Black Sexual Politics lecture. (PPT slides) Retrieved from https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/986700/files/folder/Course%2520Lectures?preview=33866362
Bim Adewunmi. (Sep 15 2014) Black women’s sexuality has always been overpoliced. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/15/black-womens-sexuality-overpoliced-daniele-watts-handcuffed