An exhibition challenging the stereotypes that diminish black female bodies

“Abandoned Margins” is an exhibition tackling Western beauty standards, cultural identity, historical erasure, trauma, and the representation of black bodies.

Abandoned Margins: Policing the Black Female Body is an exhibition at the Chicago-based Woman Made Gallery that uses art to tackle the lack of diversity in how black women are represented in American popular culture and public discourse.

The Woman Made Gallery was founded to promote and support the work of female-identified artists. It provides exhibition opportunities and professional development. The exhibition title is a reference to American critical race scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work and literary legends such as Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.

Curated by Janice Bond, Abandoned Margins is a group show presented through multimedia, installations, sculpture, film, printmaking, and photography. Frustrated by the portrayals of black women as “overweight and asexual, or hyper-sexualized and in need of less protection but more policing for moral failures”, Bond assembled a cast of artists to use art to deal with the tired stereotypes of black females in the media.

The stereotypes of black females in the media first emerged in slave films with the heavyset mammy figure that would cook and care for children and family. It later developed into the jezebel figure of hyper-sexualized woman who cannot be trusted and today, popular culture is obsessed with the sapphire stereotype, which sees black women portrayed as rude, loud, and disagreeable. There have been various cries on social media claiming television shows such as Scandal starring Kerry Washington and How To Get Away with Murder starring Viola Davis contribute to the existing stereotypes of the sapphire.

“Abandoned Margins will feature works of art that seek to create a new and empowering visual language that challenges the supremacist systems under which black female bodies are marginalized and lack agency,” says Bond.

Featured artists include Nakeya Brown, a photographer documenting the politics of beauty that surround black women, LaToya Hobbs, an artist using printmaking to address the ideas of beauty and cultural identity and Nature’s Intent, a pair of hybrid artists made up of Abigail Lucien and Jessica Gatlin who frequently integrate installation, sculpture, and performance in their work.

“Abandoned Margins: Policing the Black Female Body is on show at Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery until 25 February 2016.”

Images via Afropunk and Dazed Digital.