Nona Faustine’s Powerful Nude Photographs Expose NYC Locations Connected To The Slave Trade

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Nona Faustine’s powerful imagery looks back to a time of slavery that exposes locations around NYC where humans were once bought and sold in the slave trade.  Entitled “White Shoes”, Faustine photographed herself completely nude except for a pair of white shoes in areas where much of this illicit activity took place. On Manhattan island, this includes a busy street on Wall Street and the steps of City Hall. In the photographs, Faustine stood atop a box on the Financial Street, as if she were back in a slave market and then walked up the steps of City Hall built over an African burial ground. Her visuals speak volumes to the viewer as we can only envision someone like her in that detestable situation.
Some of the more powerful shots of “White Shoes” find the artist passed out in the water near rocks on a beach and atop three gravestones in Brooklyn. Her courage to use herself rather than a model is exemplary in that it shows her genuine interest in having a direct connection with the narrative. Along with the photographs, she uses quotes which mimic passages from the Declaration of Independence and other human rights documents. Slave trading was legal in New York for almost 200 years. It began in 1626 with the Dutch West India Company and ended in 1827 with the help of slave advocacy group the New York Manumission Society.
Nona Faustine is a 2013 MFA graduate of Bard college. Her work delves into gender politics, folklore and how the past affects the present and future. (via blackgirllonghair)

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Kara Walker’s Gigantic Sugar-Coated Female Sphinx Makes A Powerful Statement

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Kara Walker’s new sculpture “A Subtlety” is pure white, coated in 160,000 pounds of bleached sugar; with this modern take on the ancient sphinx, the legendary artist crafts a towering black face in honor of the slave laborers who worked in sugar cane fields. The powerful work is meant to address racial and sexual exploitation; like the sugar that coats her polystyrene core, this black female figure has been pressured, against nature, into succumbing to whiteness.

The work is now on display at the old Williamsburg, Brooklyn Domino sugar factory shed, where it reaches to the ceiling and extends for a magnificent 75 feet. The mythical creature is a powerful assertion of the black female self; the face quite resembles the artists’ own, and a carefully wrought bandana subtly references the stereotypical (and often offensive) symbol of the mammy, a slave woman who nurtured and brought up white children. Walker has been the subject of debate in the past for her use of contested imagery, and despite the controversy surrounding the “mammy” figure, she is presented here as powerful and divine.

Like the ancient sphinxes of Egypt and Greece, Walker’s monolithic creation is godly, simultaneously fearsome and comforting. The sphinx, known for protecting the tombs of royalty, becomes the guardian of history, interrupting a white-washed historical narrative to make visible the labor of the men and women who were kept enslaved. Her face is serene, assured, and unyielding. The sphinx character, in addition to being a protector, is also dangerous, renowned for devouring those who cannot answer her riddle; Walker’s sphinx is similarly confrontational in her overwhelming size, forcing viewers to confront the complex and painful history of American industry. (via The New York Times)

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