The Spelman College permanent collection dates to the 1940s and includes more than 350 objects. The growing collection also includes African art and works by celebrated artists of African descent. To honor its unique mission, the Museum acquires art that highlights the wide spectrum of works that women artists of the African Diaspora create. Look forward to a monthly inside peek on a work from the College’s permanent collection.
Nandipha Mntambo, Mlwa ne Nkunzi
Nandipha Mntambo is recognized as a leading artist in South Africa. She investigates and interrogates stereotypical ideals of the female form, as well as notions of femininity in her art. Mlwa ne Nkunzi is a diptych in which the artist is posed as the matador (Mlwa) in one of the photographic panels and as the bull (Nkunzi) in the other. Mlwa ne Nkunzi references a Swazi fighting ritual and recalls the bullfighting of colonial Mozambique and modern day Portugal.
Employing cowhide as a medium, the artist questions the use of conventional art materials and products. Additionally, because the cowhides must be manipulated and shaped, she works through aspects of control. She further explores the broader themes sexuality, male and female, internal and public, conflict and contest, and the thin line between the repulsive and attractive. Through Mntambo’s study of the spectacle of bullfighting, the artist deftly addresses the cross-cultural struggles around gender-definition.
Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, Man with Dignity and Woman with Dignity, 2008
Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry have worked and exhibited their work internationally. Through their large-scale public projects, performative sculpture, painting, photography, video, and self-portraiture, they explore complex issues revolving around marginalized members of society. They also challenge audiences to face issues of race and social justice in communities, history, and the family. Embedded within their work, whether it is of an historical, personal, or civic-based nature, is their ability to address the complicated and layered issues of race and power as a mixed-race artists collaborative.
Man with Dignity and Woman with Dignity are from Whitewash, a series of paintings that examines the history of race in the United States through the depiction of social injustice during the civil rights era. A striking combination of painting and photography, the artists’ distinctive process for this series was inspired by the concept of ‘whitewashing’ as a means of masking the truth. With an almost three-dimensional effect, these doubled images stand as a visual metaphor for the variety of ways that memory and history are both similar and different.
Lauren Kelley, Big Gurl, 2006
Lauren Kelley uses stop-motion animation to explore stereotypes of femininity and race. By using her voice to speak for a cast of black dolls, Kelley breathes life into plastic characters while poignantly and humorously addressing issues such as gender, womanhood, and the human condition. Whether telling stories of unplanned pregnancy or exploring the world of flight attendants, Kelley’s work introduces its viewers to a world in which dolls and puppets are caught in endless streams of consciousness and are trapped in a bizarre theater of the absurd.
In Big Gurl, Kelley uses a combination of Barbie™ dolls, Claymation, and stop animation to create a series of satirically comedic and outrageously humorous vignettes. While Barbie™, the popular mass-produced doll, is frequently referenced in popular culture, the artist brings a unique perspective to the doll’s iconic frame. In this work, Kelley alters the doll to create a variety of shades, shapes, and sizes to address the spectrum of black female physique as well as tackle the serious subjects of pregnancy, male chauvinism, self-image, intergenerational relationships, and class. Challenging the notion of physical imperfections, Kelley ultimately investigates the spaces, allotted and claimed, to explore ideas about female adolescence and womanhood.
Lauren Kelley, Big Gurl, is featured in tête-à-tête, a group exhibition in its seventh iteration curated by Mickalene Thomas. tête-à-tête is concurrently on view with Mickalene Thomas: Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities through May 20, 2017.