(The following article is from thisiscolossal.com a wonderful site of all things to do with art)
In The Redemption, photography-based artist Tawny Chatmon celebrates the beauty of Black hair through a series of arresting portraits superimposed with 24 karat gold flourishes. Each photograph features a solemn child who’s dressed in hand-painted ornate, gilt garments that are inspired by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s Golden Phase. “These portraits are meant to act as a counter-narrative and redemptive measure to uplift and elevate Black hair, tradition, and culture freeing us from negative stereotypes,” Chatmon says in a statement. “An intent, not to be confused with seeking validation, but rather an unyielding affirmation of Black beauty.”
By evoking Klimt, the Maryland-based artist hopes to elicit similar feelings as when considering some of the painter’s pieces like “The Kiss,” for example. “I remember being drawn to the details, the poses, of course, the gold, and the grace,” she says of her initial reaction to his pieces. The ornamental additions immediately signal beauty, which has many different meanings for Chatmon.
Beauty is every child in these portraits. Beauty is individuality and nonconformity. Beauty is something that you saw, that you can’t stop thinking about because it made such a good impression on you. Beauty is the way I felt when I got to hold each of my babies after giving birth to them. Beauty is motherhood. Beauty is when my 15-year-old son makes it a point to hug me every night and tells me he loves me. Beauty is goodness. Beauty is knowing you’re beautiful even in a world hellbent on making you think otherwise.
To explore more of the artist’s layered photographs that consider both personal and cultural conceptions of allure, grace, and strength, head to her site and Instagram.
In this series of portraiture Tawny Chatmon says she wants to celebrate black hair, their cultural place with Klimt’s Gold Phase. She rightly points out the ridicule, suffering, and disparaging response to these many beautiful hairstyles. I can only assume that because of this history she has all her models sad, depressed and two even crying. How then is this a celebration? How then is this collection a redemption?
Great questions, Meghan. The photos are undeniably beautiful. I personally feel that the moods portrayed by the models are meant to do exactly as they did for you, cause the viewer to question how this particular portrayal is a celebration. I believe Tawny is asking her viewers to pause in reflection…they made me rethink what I consider to be beautiful. And they did make me, also, pause to reflect why the models are sad…I didn’t come up with any answers.
For all the gold trappings their culture, as to their hair styles only, still doesn’t come across. As viewers (well, me) we see the gold first and the young models last. I still don’t see “celebration” or “redemption”.