Donna L. Woodley
The third residency was one of the most informative and beneficial thus far. My work consisted of six smaller paintings of African American women in underwear, collages combining photos of the women in the paintings with magazine cut outs of women, Victorian underwear, and some small scale nonrepresentational works on paper. Group critiques with faculty, graduates, and peers along with one on one critiques generated a discourse surrounding the work that informed and spawned potential paths of research that I believe will add new layers to the current topics of my work this semester in addition to exploring other topics.
Much of the feedback from the critiques concentrated on the six paintings as well as the collages. Technique was discussed very little if at all during the critiques which was significant since a large portion of the conversations during the second residency dealt with painting techniques. It was specified that turning the collage compositions into paintings would be an interesting exercise. I agree with that suggestion. Seeing the relationship between the figures would likely read somewhat differently using paint as the medium. Other observations and comments consisted of the possibility of reintroducing me back into the work as well as the “granny panties.” The figures with the black “sexy” underwear appeared to be typical to some viewers as it related to the underwear and the posing of the figures. It was also an interestingly noted point to consider that I had the control and power as the photographer in the photo shoots thus raising questions about placing the models in a vulnerable position versus a comfortable and confident position. Was my role as a female photographer the same as a male photographer? The self-made underwear captured the curiosity of the viewers. Some of the viewers resonated with the underwear from more of a costume perspective mainly because of the polka dotted pattern. It was suggested that I should continue to explore sewing as a medium which is being considered.
The professional development seminar as well as critical theory seminar were informative and thought provoking. Professional development was a wealth of knowledge of the unspoken rules of the visual arts industry and a laundry list of tips to facilitate the success of the artist. Critical theory was a thorough lesson on ideas of construct, history, enlightenment theory, and philosophy. These courses were a perfect combination for the third residency and presented in enough time to start thinking about the thesis from a critical point of view and to revise resumes, CVs, and artist statements.
Based on the feedback received during the third residency, continuing to build the work through research and the development of my ideas is the primary focus. More specifically, combining self-portraiture with the consideration of posing and narrative is one of the paths I will explore this semester through a series of paintings incorporating the underwear represented in the work from group 2’s residency with contrasting poses similar to paintings from the group 3 residency. Among the artists that will aid in informing this semester’s work is Cindy Sherman. Similar to Ms. Sherman, I seek to raise challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society. However, my work will focus on the demographic of African American women and their role in hip hop culture as video girls. The purpose is to start a conversation on societal views of black women and the role, if any, that hip hop culture plays in shaping those views through the depiction of humorous narratives embedding myself into the work. With this work, ideas of absurdity and strength versus femininity are associated topics that could possibly be a part of the discourse.
In addition, empty interiors and the examination of social spaces are among additional topics that I plan to explore this semester. The energy of an empty room in comparison to a room with living organisms be it humans, plants, or animals is a topic that I am very interested in. How does empty social space compare to occupied social space? What does the energy feel like when there are only two people occupying the space? What is the energy when there are five hundred occupants?
Goals for this semester include creating habits of allowing the research to better inform the work. Artists such as the aforementioned Cindy Sherman along with Mickalene Thomas, Marlene Dumas, Jenny Saville, Francis Bacon, Yinka Shonabare, Kara Walker, and Whitfield Lavelle are among artists to research this semester. Further review of John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage are also included on the lists of artists. The bibliography for this semester include the following:
- “Narcissus in the Studio: Artists Portraits and Self Portraits,” by Robert Cozzolino
- “Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe,” by Lisa Milandri and Mickalene Thomas
- “Cindy Sherman,” by Cindy Sherman
Overall, I was extremely thrilled with the feedback that I received in group three. During this residency, I felt more successful at effectively talking about my work and clearly relaying my intentions for the work. That accomplishment was the catalyst for feeling more confident and validated as an artist as well as the spark of new ideas for this semester’s independent academic studies and studio work.