Elizabeth / elizabeth (2018)
I create a portrait by using a Victorian-era silhouette in a vein similar to the work of Kehinde Wiley, wherein he appropriates and recreates historical paintings by changing the background, and the subjects to Black people in order to place Black subjects in a position of power, or simply to be seen. In Elizabeth // elizabeth I try to create a portrait of my possible slave ancestor by appropriating the silhouette for one of these paintings from the late 1700s. The silhouette that I appropriated was of a woman in a dress from the Victorian era. I recreated this portrait in gold glitter. I did not recreate any of the props in the background as I don’t think they belong to her history. I cannot assume what her context should be, so I did not add a background. Additionally, I do not know how she looked and therefore only used a silhouette to portray her. The sole purpose of creating a painting, a portrait, or any representation is owing to the fact that such objects can be considered items that signify importance and power.
This work is an installation that gets activated by the audience, and occasionally by the atmospheric conditions of the space where it is installed (wind mostly), causing the silhouettes to get erased. The work eventually gets fully erased by me. I kneel at the top of each silhouette and I begin to erase the silhouette by writing words in the glitter. Finally, I proceed to completely destroy the image by pushing the glitter with my hands in several directions. Bruno Latour, considers this action an iconoclasm in his book What is Iconoclash? Or is there a world beyond the image wars?. They describe a different way to think about an iconoclasm, where the viewer would also have the time to gaze at the destroyed icon.
“It is an attempt to turn around, to envelop, to embed the worship of image destruction; to give it a home, a site, a museum space, a place for meditation and surprise. Instead of iconoclasm being the meta-language reigning as a master over all other languages, it is the worship of iconoclasm itself which, in turn, is interrogated and evaluated.”