Mixed media artist Florine Demosthene’s latest series of paintings, titled "Capture", looks at the black female form and the stereotypes associated with the bodies of black women with the aim of constructed a new black heroine.
Born in New York, Demosthene grew up between New York and Haiti. After completing her MFA in New York, she travelled to Africa, a trip that gave her art meaning.
“I was inspired to create a new body of work that was totally different from what I normally made. Most of the early pieces of "The Capture" series was created on my lap while sitting on the beach,” she explains.
We caught up with Demosthene to find out what else inspires her work.
How do you go about creating a new piece?
I see each work as a response to a question or an idea. Often times the works are inspired by something I have read or written. I simplify this response by creating a title for the piece. I envision the title as an encapsulation of the thought process. I create a series of thumbnail sketches of what I want to convey. These sketches serve as a guide for the photo shoot.
I use the sketches as a sort of script for the photo shoot. I don't create elaborate set ups for these photo shoots. Instead, I focus my intention on how the body should be posed. From there, I use the images from the photo shoot to create a digital collage. I source other images from the Internet, books and other image resources. Once I'm satisfied with the collage, I scale it up to the desired size and print it.
I create a light sketch on the paper or canvas (using the print as a guide). I pour the ink into different areas and blot them out as they dry. Some inks create a chemical reaction on the surface, and I allow that to be part of the work. Once the inks have dried, I use oil sticks in order to delineate the space a bit more. I use metal leaf and charcoal to highlight some areas.
What are some of the running themes in your work?
The overall theme of the work is the analysis of the black female body. The premise of the work is the construct of an atypical heroine figure and her journey through the self-discovery of her special abilities. In the "Capture" series I focused on the ephemeral qualities of her thoughts and ideas. Often times you would find our heroine tethered, floating or hovering amid ruins in a post-apocalyptic world.
As the series progressed, the physicality of the heroine's body became more exaggerated and grotesque. She fled the land of destruction and is now hovering in the cosmos. She underwent this internal shedding, much in the way a snake sheds its skin. I became less concerned with rendering the body in its natural form. I was engrossed with creating a figure that was deformed and attractive.
In the most recent series, "The Burst", the heroine has accepted all the powers that have been bestowed upon her. She now stares back at the viewer and is allowing the viewer into her world. This work is an emptying out, a sort of purge before the heroine can rise fully into her being.
What do you hope to achieve with your work? How do you hope it’s received by viewers?
I have had the privilege to live and experience Black people in three distinct locations: USA, Caribbean and Africa. Through these experiences, I have come to see and understand the common thread regarding the Black female body (as well as what it means to travel and engage in the world as a Black woman). The stereotypes persist in all locales and I have found that my work initiates a dialogue on our perceptions of the Black female body. Thus far, the reception has been positive and supportive.
Where do you see your work headed in the future?
I have a strong interest in creating a series of installations that incorporate video, sound, paintings and sculptures. I'm still formulating how this will work ...but I feel that this is the next logical step for me.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing to keep in mind as a creative?
I feel as an artist you must always stay true to what you believe in and what you do, regardless of what anyone says. I believe you should make the time to nurture yourself and your creative process.
What sets you and your work apart from other artists?
I don't think that anything necessarily sets me apart from any other artists. I'm using readily available materials and I'm painting the figure. Perhaps the only thing that might make me unique is my commitment to live and work in Africa (Ghana & South Africa) and to dismantle the myth that you have to be in NYC in order to be active in the art world. I have had more exhibitions since I moved to Ghana/SA.
Demosthene's work has also been featured on African Digital Art.