Black Beauty in 24-karat gold leaf
Inheritance, by Tawny Chatmon (American, b. 1979), invites the viewer to look beyond the decorated and nuanced portraits to examine issues of race and the historical positioning of African American portraiture in the absence of subjugation of the “black body” in Western art.
Chatmon, a mother of three black children, draws from her life experiences and belief that children inherit our memories, beliefs, traditions, and the world that we leave behind. Through her photographs, she conveys a message to her children, and to all black children, that they are precious, valued, and loved.
While the camera is her primary tool of communication, Chatmon takes a multi-layered approach in producing her photographs—her process does not subscribe to conventional photography. The photographs are often manipulated and hand-embellished with acrylic paint and 24-karat gold leaf, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) “Golden Phase.” The use of gold and ornamentation in Klimt’s work evokes feelings of grace, magnificence, and beauty within Chatmon and has remained in the artist’s consciousness. These are the emotions Chatmon seeks to convey to those viewing her photographs. Her portraits are staged vignettes with models, who at times are her own children wearing elegant garments. Chatmon experiments with various art practices and does not restrict herself to follow any set of rules, allowing her to create instinctually and fluidly. The result is a beautiful and powerful iconography that speaks to “the disparities that continue to affect black people around the world.” [source]
Fotografiska, New York
February 22nd, 2020