One avenue of exploration that runs across several of my series is the positing of women in traditionally male-dominated roles such as astronaut, pilot — and to some degree wearer of hoodie, which then resulted in there being paintings of Black women as astronauts, pioneers of aviation, and Black men and women as wearers of hoodies. There is an intention for emotions and injustices surrounding these images to be visible and understood.
Every now and then I combine themes such as “Bathing Cap” and “The Phone” which, after painting “Bathing Cap and Phone #2” (below) I realized the style of phone indicated 70s or 80s era and the bathing cap referred to a swimming pool and combining the phone (a stationary device in the home at that time) with a pool equaled opulence / wealth because who but the wealthy would have a pool in the 70s or 80s? The personality then became somewhat ominous. Who makes or takes a call during a swim? What sort of shadiness was being discussed on the phone? I believe the buyer asked this last question during the transaction!
Bathing Cap #43
The Phone #13
Also, viewing a double-element painting makes it seem like previous single-element (bathing cap or phone) paintings may have been priming the viewer for a narrative yet to arrive. In this way the project feels sequential (in a strange way).
A double-element painting might also have the viewer wondering if there was meaning they didn’t catch in the single-element paintings, because the double-element paintings seem to have a more narrative nature. If there hadn’t been the single-element paintings, I doubt the double-element paintings would feel as narrative as they do.
Deducing the potential for a naturally occurring narrative to come across in my double-element paintings, I decided to paint a Black woman for “Bathing Cap and Phone #3” to see what would happen in terms of my theory that exposure to single-element paintings (“Bathing Cap” and “The Phone”) over time (many months) prepared / encouraged viewers to engage with double-element paintings differently in terms of generating or considering meaning.
Painter Kerry James Marshall talks about using existing works of art featuring white people as models for work featuring Black people in this interview from 2014 in which he refers to a painting called “The Swing” where a white person is on a swing in a tree, and he talks about his series of a Black man swinging a Black woman around in his arms, connecting the paintings, talking about how he didn’t want to do the obvious replacing one person with another.
“Black invisibility is a psychological issue,” Marshall says. “It means that people do not want to see you in the fullness of who you are.”
The paintings in the “Bathing Cap and Phone” series feels vaguely reminiscent to me of how powerful photos taken by Jacob Holdt (a young Danish guy travelling around in the US in the 70s) made me feel years ago when I discovered the book “American Pictures“. I found evidence of it online some years ago.
Bathing Cap and Phone #2
Bathing Cap and Phone #3