The Golden Age is a tribute to black people. I got tired of living under the constant negative narratives and stereotypes assigned to black people and black culture and wanted to reclaim our majesty with work that showed the truth. And that truth is we are beautiful, we are powerful, and we belong. I created this body of work as a form of healing for myself. We are witnesses to the constant abuse of black lives. I decided to use my visual voice to change the messaging we receive about being black. If the media insists on depicting black people as ugly, I will show you beauty. If the government insists on a narrative that we don’t belong, I will show you how we have built this country from the ground up. If the arts cannot find room for our voices, I will build a stage and give the microphone to as many underrepresented voices that I can. We live in an increasingly volatile world. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’ve decided to use the rest of my life being a part of the solution in whatever way I can. And if The Golden Age has inspired or given hope to someone, then I feel I have lived a purposeful life.
Endia Beal Am I What You're Looking For?
My work merges fine arts with social injustice. I use photography to reveal the often overlooked and unappreciated experiences unique to people of color. I also incorporate video, which allows those in the photographs an opportunity to share their personal testimony. Video lends greater empathy and awareness to those unaccustomed to being the minority.
As a director of a museum and professor at a historically black university, I witnessed that many of our students have never been to a gallery or exposed to art. I instill that their voices are important and their perspective would give even greater depth to the art world. Ultimately, my work is a reflection of the philosophy I teach my students, which is your voice matters and deserves to be heard even in the most elitist of circles.
Medina Dugger Chroma: An Ode to J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere
Chroma: An Ode to J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, is an on-going series which celebrates women’s hairstyles in Nigeria through a fanciful, contemporary lens. The images are inspired by hair color trends in Lagos and by the late Nigerian photographer J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere.
Hairstyles such as braids, locs, and threading, have been prominent in African culture for many centuries and Nigerian hair culture is a rich and extensive process which begins in childhood. The methods and variations are influenced by social/cultural patterns, historical events and globalisation. Hairdos range from being purely decorative to conveying deeper, more symbolic understandings, revealing social status, age and tribal/family traditions.
Ojeikere's approach was documentary in nature as he photographed over 1000 styles and amassed an enormous index spanning over 40 years. He began photographing hairdos in blackand- white, following the re-emergence of traditional Nigerian hair designs which became popular again following Nigeria’s independence. Prior to de-colonization, wigs and hair straightening became commonplace (especially in urban centres) as women conformed to Western standards of beauty.
The availability of colorful extensions and wools in local markets today has led to unique variations on threading and braiding techniques. Chroma is a celebration of both traditional and contemporary braiding methods. The series takes more of a whimsical approach and recontextualizes some of Ojeikere’s (and other) hairstyles to highlight current and imagined hair designs, celebrating the art of Nigerian hair culture.
We are thrilled to open the fall season with a compelling show by three women who confront the way African Americans are perceived in art, the work place, and through their physical appearance. How do you see me? features photographs by Alanna Airitam, Endia Beal and Medina Dugger. Each artist’s work will be presented in a unique and non-traditional manner.
When Alanna Airitam (b. 1971, Queens, NY) was studying the history of art, she noticed the absence of black people in the history of Western art. This exclusion is familiar to many dark-skinned people who are used to seeing themselves represented in paintings and films as domestic workers, slaves or barbarians. By inviting African Americans to pose in the style of classic Dutch portraiture, Airitam reclaims art history, shining a light on the racial disparity in her series, The Golden Age. Titling her images after places in Harlem -- Saint Sugar Hill, Saint Minton and Saint Lenox -- the artist pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance, which opened doors for many young African Americans working today. It is a powerful series that celebrates black identity while highlighting the racial divide that exists throughout art history.
Endia Beal (b. 1985, Winston-Salem, NC) focuses her camera on how African American women are perceived in the corporate world based on their physical appearance. As a young black woman in a mostly white dominated corporate job, Beal knew people talked behind her back about her hair, which did not conform to their definition of beauty. Now, as a professor at Winston Salem State University, Beal tackles the stereotypes that her students and other black women face when they do not fit the corporate mold. Am I What You’re Looking For? poses black women in front of a photographic backdrop of a typical office setting, wearing an outfit they find suitable for work. Through this work, Beal challenges the viewer to look at their own biases or sterotypes as they view the photographs.
Medina Dugger (b. 1983, Corpus Christi, TX) pays homage to Nigerian photographer J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, whose 40 year black and white photographic study of African women’s hairstyles set the standard for the celebration of black hair culture. African hair braiding methods date back thousands of years and Nigerian hair culture is a rich and often extensive process, which begins in childhood. The methods and variations have been influenced by social/cultural patterns, historical events and globalization. Hairdos range from being purely decorative to conveying deeper, more symbolic understandings, revealing social status, age and tribal/family traditions. In her Lagos studio, Dugger pays homage to historical and imagined hairstyles, honoring Ojeikere’s work through a contemporary lens in her series Chroma: An Ode to J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere.
How do you see me? brings together work by three women who dare to question racial stereotypes and biases that are seen in our history books and continue to exist today. Through these important photographs, the artists challenge the perception of beauty, and the different standards that exist based on skin color.
Catherine Edelman will be in conversation with Alanna Airitam, Sheridan Tucker Anderson, Jeffreen Hayes and Kate Lorenz on Thursday, October 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at 300 West Superior Street. A reception in the gallery will follow the panel discussion.
As a self-taught fine art photographer, Alanna Airitam (b. 1971, Queens, NY) creates portraits that help shift stagnant (and often negative) narratives about communities of color and other misrepresented and/or underrepresented people. Using photography as her delivery system, she offers the audience a look into a reality that is not based upon the limiting constraints of narrow media messaging about people of color but instead offers a glimpse into her belief about the necessity and beauty of diversity in culture. Airitam has recently participated in the San Diego Art Institute exhibition titled ABOUT-FACE. She was also the subject of a short film titled “Haarlem to Harlem” about The Golden Age and has been featured in numerous publications, podcasts and speaking events around the subject of representation of people of color in the arts.
Endia Beal (b. 1985, Winston-Salem, NC) is a North Carolina based artist, educator and activist, who is internationally known for her photographic narratives and video testimonies that examine the personal, yet contemporary stories of minority women working within the corporate space. Beal currently serves as the Director of Diggs Gallery and Assistant Professor of Art at Winston-Salem State University.
As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008, Beal earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Art History and Studio Art. During her undergraduate studies, she attended the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy focusing on High Renaissance Art History and the romance languages of the Italian culture.
Following graduation, Beal was one of four women nationally selected to participate in ArtTable, a program designed to promote women in the visual arts. Representing the Washington, D.C. district, she assisted in the curation of the Andy Warhol Exhibit at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of George Washington University. Beal used this experience as a platform to advocate for minority opportunities within the arts. She was instrumental in creating marketing campaigns that redefined the way minority communities interact with art. Her work experience includes, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, and The New York Times Magazine.
In 2013, Beal graduated from Yale School of Art, with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography. While attending Yale, she created “Can I Touch It?” a body of work that explores the relationship of black women within the corporate space. Her work was fully developed during the artist-in-residence program at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. Beal aligns herself with artists such as Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson, who use stories as the vehicle to question conformity and gender norms.
Beal is featured in several online editorials including The New York Times, NBC, BET, the Huffington Post, Slate, and the National Geographic. She also appeared in Essence Magazine, Marie Claire Magazine South Africa and Newsweek Japan. Her work was exhibited in several institutions such as the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, Michigan, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture based in Charlotte, NC, the Aperture Foundation of New York, and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.
Medina Dugger (b. Corpus Christi, Texas) is an art photographer from California, based in Lagos, Nigeria since 2011. She studied at Spéos Photographic Institute in Paris, France. Following four years as a project coordinator/co-curator for the African Artists’ Foundation and Lagos Photo Festival, Medina turned her full attention to photography. Through collage and photography, her work seeks to bypass the "go-to" bleak storyline so commonly assigned to Nigeria and Africa, instead focusing on themes both contemporary and timeless including acculturation, ethnocentrism, cultural homogenization, globalization, identity, tradition, modernity, imagination, the female form and style. Her work challenges Western preconceptions and contributes to a dialogue on the representations of race and color in visual culture today.
Her photographic work has been featured in CNN Africa, Dazed, Refinery 29, Design Indaba, Marie Claire SA, Colossal, Konbini, Infringe, Heaps Magazine, De Standaard, De Volkskrant and Ours Magazine, among others.
Alanna Airitam: The Golden Age images are available as 36 x 24" and 48 x 32" pigment prints made in editions of 10 and 3, respectively. Pieces range in price from $2000 to $9,500 depending on size and availability.
Endia Beal: Am I What You're Looking For? images are available as 40 x 30" pigment prints made in an edition of 3. Pieces range in price from $4200 to $9000 depending on availability.
Medina Dugger: CHROMA images are available as 24 x 18" and 47¾ x 36" pigment prints made in editions of 5 + 2 AP's. Pieces range in price from $2000 to $7000, depending on size and availability.
Please call: (312) 266-2350 for prices of specific pieces. Prices are print only unless otherwise indicated.