This photo set showed in my dashboard but I am not reblogging it because it makes me uncomfortable. Here is the thing: contrary to mandates by art critics I do not look at art as if it exists in a vacuum. To me, the producer of a work of art is the last piece that infuses meaning and context. I know we are supposed to look at art and judge it on its merits, “the canvas” becomes a site isolated from the context that produced it. But at this point in my life, I cannot do that. More so than looking at the canvas, I look at environment that produced the canvas. And that informs the meaning and symbolism I consciously (or not) ascribe to a work of art.
So, when I came across this photo set, I saw a Black woman’s body inscribed with the words “Your ignorance is more scandalous than my promiscuity”, I had to immediately check who had produced that photo. And it did not surprise me that it was produced by a white woman photographer. And then I cringed and winced. Because obviously, a Black photographer calling a body like hers “promiscuous” does not have the same symbolic value as a white photographer calling a Black woman “promiscuous”. The supposed promiscuity of Women of Color was created in opposition to white “purity”. Of course I do not discount the Black woman’s agency in posing for the photo. However, it is not her name that is seen as “producing” these supposedly “feminist” photographies. It’s a white woman artist that gets the credit and exposition. The Black, faceless body remains anonymous while a white woman advances her artistic career without having to interrogate her own implication in the way that WoC bodies have been presented throughout history. This faceless WoC becomes her anti racist alibi: all she has to do is “point” to the stereotype. As if the stereotype was not created to preserve her.
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