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Posing Beauty in African and African American Culture

Friday 10 February at 18:30
Concordia University, EV-1.605

Deborah Willis
Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

 

This lecture will explore the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in art. Deborah Willis will look at notions of black beauty through the eyes of the photographer, using a variety of artistic and theoretical positions about beauty to suggest diverse readings that challenge conventional perspectives on identity, beauty, and cosmopolitanism. She aims to stimulate a lively conversation around diasporic art that is both regionally and globally thematic. Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, and within contemporary art and popular culture, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex. The images considered in this lecture challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture, and politics in relation to the aesthetics of representation.


Deborah Willis
is an artist, a professor in the Department of Photography and Imaging, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and is University Professor of Africana Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, also at New York University. Pursuing a dual professional career as an art photographer and as one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curators of African American culture, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fletcher Fellow, and a MacArthur Fellow and is a recipient of the Honored Educator award from the Society for Photographic Education. She is the author of Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photography 1840 - Present (W.W. Norton, 2000); A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois and Portraits of Progress (Amistad, 2003); and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present (W.W. Norton, 2009). She is also the co-author of Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (W.W. Norton, 2009), the editor of Black Venus 2010: They Called Her 'Hottentot' (Temple UP, 2010); and co-editor of The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Temple UP, 2002). Her curated exhibition, Posing Beauty in African American Culture has been touring the United States and will be at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from February through April, 2012. Her own photographic work will be exhibited at the Johnson Center Gallery, George Mason University, from February through March, and at the Zora Neale Hurston Museum, Florida, from January through March, 2012.

 Book cover image:  Ken Ramsay, Susan Taylor, c.1970s.


Of Related Interest

Deborah Willis’s NYU faculty page

Deb Willis Website

Deborah Willis Artist Page at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery

Posing Beauty Exhibition

Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

New York Times review of Posting Beauty

Black Venus 2010: They Called Her 'Hottentot'

Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs

The Black Female Body: A Photographic History

Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photography 1840 - Present

A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois and Portraits of Progress