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Seeing Through Time, 2018

oil on canvas • 48 x 60 inches
About the Work

This series of layered paintings seeks to create a conversation about the historic and contemporary representation of black people in painting. The first layer is a contemporary portrait of a young, anonymous black woman. The second layer is a portrait of a wealthy, European aristocratic woman being given an offering of flowers by an enslaved individual in her household. This kind of image represents a very old cliche. Within the context of 19th Century paintings most black characters play, at best, secondary roles in the composition. The prototypical image of a black person was as a slave or servant, just outside of illuminated areas of importance. Artists used the dichotomies of the physical world: dark vs. light and up vs. down, to visually reinforce institutionalized views of race and hierarchy. In this work, the central individual has been removed from the composition to reveal the contemporary black woman underneath. In this series, two paintings are overlaid to create a kind of a fictional, dimensional time warp whereby the removal of the European character from the painting creates a space for the young black servant to encounter the contemporary black woman. They exchange a gaze through time.