“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
—Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Sometimes we see something more clearly by seeing less of it, as extraneous detail is filtered away. Print is built up of a multitude of mechanics and systems. In its simplest form, print consists of three components: The Matrix, The Transfer, The Support. Using and reinterpreting this system through print and paper, I explore the use of filtering specific information away, in order to reveal authentic narratives.
Silhouette portraiture and the production of cameo jewelry are some of the earliest instances of racial profiling. Nearly two hundred years ago, before the camera was invented, someone wishing to have an inexpensive portrait created of their loved one or of themself would have visited a silhouette artist. Within minutes, using typically only a pair of scissors, the artist would have produced a small image with a remarkable resemblance to his subject.
If the silhouette gave shape to a broad vision of American citizenry, the form equally allowed Americans to mark out those who were less welcome in the new nation: the foreign, the un-American, and the strange. By observing the slight curves of the face and angles of noses and foreheads, the absence of facial information was able to reveal identity in an instant.
Employing previous art history references, this body of work embraces contemporary symbols and communication native to the Black American and poses the question,
“What does it mean and look like to be Black in America right now?”
My work through paper and print tells a connected narrative of isolation, alienation, and rejection but ultimately explores the nature of love and familiarity amongst blackness. Central to this, reoccurring themes and symbols are the silhouette and profile cameo, contemporary language, and culturally symbolic imagery help form a concentration of recognition.