Saturday, April 11, 2009

Marissa's Latest: Map Piece

Map Piece is definitely a working title for this one. I've been experimenting with watercolor, gouache, and ink on the pages of old books for about a year now. This page came out of a book I found at Goodwill called The East Indiamen. I chose it because it was full of maps and illustrations of boats, movement, and travel. This particular page has a wonderful texture, almost like watercolor paper, and I was also liked the illustrations of spices traded and the map of Africa. The woman is painted in gouache and ink, and was inspired by stylized illustrations of the so-called "Hottentot Venus", Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman. I was considering the objectification of the black body, and how Black women's bodies have been viewed as chattel and a commodity for centuries.
. How does this history affect the way Black women themselves relate to their bodies? How much of our self image and self worth is tied up in the size of our posteriors, for example? This is why I embellished my character's backside with feathers and leaves. The perception of Black beauty and the reality of exploitation has been tied to a woman's curves. During slavery, a woman's voluptuousness meant fertility, which was tied to increasing a plantation's workforce. Now a woman's body sells everything from alcohol to cell phones. The idea of our bodies as a commodity has not changed. Saartjie Baartman was brought to the western world from Africa and paraded through circuses, homes, and exhibitions for the size of her behind and genitals. One cannot help but draw comparisons between these illustrations of Baartman and today's Black video and magazine models. Using the map, I contrasted this objectification with the colonization of Africa. Many of the issues Black people face today can be tied to the history of slavery and colonization beginning on the continent. The shapes I drew in ink all over Africa are symbols, each representing issues faced in Africa. There are symbols for invasion, colonization, genocide, AIDS, drought/famine, and war. I'll edit this and post a key soon.
I wanted to directly tie the Black woman's sense of self to the hardships faced in Africa and followed us to America during slavery.