September 8 - November 4, 2012
Davenport, IOWA (September 2012) The Figge Art Museum is pleased to present Posing Beauty in African American Culture, an exhibition that explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse array of media including photography, video, fashion, and advertising. Posing Beauty opens on Saturday, September 8 and runs through November 4, 2012.
Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. The images in this exhibition challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining their portrayal and exploring a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture and politics as seen through the aesthetics of representation.
This exhibit features approximately 50 works drawn from public and private collections, and the accompanied book, published by W.W. Norton, will be for sale in the Museum Store. Artists in the exhibit include, among others, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Gary Winogrand, Renee Cox, Mickalene Thomas and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.
The Figge partnered with St Ambrose University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Gathering of Women, RI County NAACP, and Imani! Dancers & Studio for Cultural Arts, Inc. to develop programs for this exhibition. “Posing Beauty is a provocative and thoughtful sharing between African American women on their struggle to define their ‘beautifulness’ and to share their personal feelings with other ‘sistas’ on how their ‘beautifulness’ have been defined and continue to be refined,” said Liz Sherwin, President RI County NAACP. Shirleen Martin, founder of Gathering of Women, also worked closely with the Figge Education Department to develop programming for this exhibition. "Beauty is both internal and external and the true beauty of a Black Woman is worthy of all the attention and exploration that the world can offer," stated Martin.
An exhibition reception for Posing Beauty in African American Culture will be held at 6pm on Thursday, September 27. Following the reception, exhibition curator Dr. Deborah Willis will lead the discussion “Posing Beauty in African American Culture.” Willis is chair and professor of photography and imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where she also has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies. Willis, a 2000 McArthur Fellow, is one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and a curator of African American culture.
Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. The exhibition is sponsored locally by the Riverboat Development Authority and Hunt and Diane Harris.
The Figge Art Museum will present a variety of special programming to enhance the visitors’ experience of Posing Beauty in African American Culture. Admission to all programs is included with museum admission or museum membership, unless otherwise noted.
"As Seen through the Lens"
7 pm Thursday, September 20
Local photographers Mark Mess and John Mohr will discuss selected photographs from the exhibition followed by a live photo shoot with public participation.
“Is My Black Beautiful?”
1-4:30 pm Saturday, September 22
A panel discussion on the ever-changing concepts that define black beauty in the context of fashion and time.
1-2 pm • Panel Discussion, Moderator: Bobbie Lastrapes
2-3 pm • Gallery Talk • Led by Rima Girnius, PhD, Figge Art Museum associate curator
3-4:30 pm • Reception and informal performances by the Imani! Dancers & Studio for Cultural Arts, Inc
Inspired by the exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture, this symposium will begin with a panel discussion moderated by community leader Bobbie Lastrapes and will include local African American women spanning sixty years in age, all of whom will be reflecting on what it means and has meant to be beautiful in the traditional sense and also on a personal level. Audience members will be encouraged to contribute their thoughts and add to the conversation. Following the panel discussion, participants will visit the exhibition for an informal tour, led by Figge curator Rima Girnius, after which there will be a reception and performances by the Imani! Dancers & Studio for Cultural Arts, Inc. Refreshments will be served.
5:30-7 pm Thursday, September 27
Join the Figge staff in celebrating the opening of the exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture. Refreshments will be served, cash bar.
"Posing Beauty in African American Culture"
7 pm Thursday, September 27
Exhibition curator Dr. Deborah Willis will talk about the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. The lecture will explore contemporary under- standings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class and gender within art, popular culture and political contexts.
Deborah Willis, PhD, is chair and professor of photography and imag- ing at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where she also has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies. Willis, a 2000 McArthur Fellow, is one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curator of African American culture. Her most recent works are Posing Beauty–African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; Michelle Obama, The First Lady in Photographs; and Black Venus 2010: They Called Her ‘Hottentot’ (editor).
“Posing Questions: Inquiring About Portrait Photography for Personal Meaning Making”
7 pm Thursday, October 11
Ann Rowson Love, director of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Museum Studies Program, will lead a discussion about interpreting portraiture from a variety of perspectives and current graduate students will demonstrate approaches.
SAU “Race Matters” Reception
6-7 pm Thursday, October 18
Mingle with fellow art-enthusiasts before the evening’s lecture about the exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture. Refreshments will be served, cash bar. This reception and the talk that follows is offered in conjunction with St. Ambrose University's yearlong series, "Race Matters" and is co-sponsored by the Women's Studies Department at St. Ambrose University.
Inspired by the exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture, this event will feature a variety of activities that encourage students to explore identity and personal expression. This event is free to college students, faculty and staff.
"You Look Beautiful Like This: Selling Race and Heritage to Chicago's African American Community in the Era of the New Negro"
7 pm Thursday, October 18
Scholar Kimberly Glenn will discuss the New Negro Movement, a blossoming of the arts founded on the premise of African American empowerment and pride in African heritage, which took root in the mid-1920s. This lecture will explore how the ideal of black womanhood was championed through the advertisements of new beauty products that promoted African and African American aesthetic sensibilities with regard to hair and complexion during this time period.
6-9 pm Thursday, October 25