One of the most controversial African-American artists working today, Renee Cox has used her own body, both nude and clothed, to celebrate black womanhood and criticize our racist and sexist society.
In the series Flipping the Script, Cox took a number of European religious masterpieces, including Michelangelo’s David and The Pieta, and reinterpreted them with contemporary black figures.
“…Christianity is big in the African-American community, but there are no representations of us,” she said. “I took it upon myself to include people of color in these classic scenarios.”
The photograph that created the most controversy when it was shown in a black photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in 2001 was Yo Mama’s Last Supper. It was a remake of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper with a nude Cox siting in for Jesus Christ, surrounded by all black disciples, except for Judas who was white. Many Roman Catholics were outraged at the photograph and New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani called for the forming of a commission to set “decency standards” to keep such works from being shown in any New York museum that received public funds.
Cox responded by stating “I have a right to reinterpret the Last Supper as Leonardo Da Vinci created the Last Supper with people who look like him. The hoopla and the fury are because I’m a black female. It’s about me having nothing to hide.”
Cox continues to push the envelope with her work by using new technologies that the digital medium of photography has to offer. By working from her archives and shooting new subjects, Cox seeks to push the limits of her older work and create new consciousnesses of the body. Cox’s new work aims to “unleash the potential of the ordinary and bring it into a new realm of possibilities”. “It’s about time that we re-imagine our own constitutions.” states Cox.
Renee Cox continues to question society and the roles it gives to blacks and women with her elaborate scenarios and imaginative visuals that offend some and exhilarate others.
Words from the artist describing her new works are below. More information can be found directly at her website. Click here or see source links below.
My new body of work, “Soul Culture”, consists of digitally manipulated black & white portraits that display self-similar patterns. They are executed with precision, creating sculptural kaleidoscopes of the human body while exploring the power of symbols as elements of collective imagination. The inspiration for this new work comes from fractals, a mathematical concept centuries old and used by many ancient African cultures.
The work has also been the result of my embrace of the digital world. Bridging the gap between the old and new technology has brought on new challenges and endless possibilities. As the digital world has transformed the medium, I have embraced it and integrated it into my process.
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