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Whitney Harris
Brooklyn, NY
Neighborhood: Flatbush



ARTIST STATEMENT: In my work I explore the structural relationships between abstract forms that serve as proxies for an array of symbolic references. In my latest series of drawings I reference the body directly by using hair as the impetus for the swirling, linear forms. Hair, as both an important personal signifier and a cheap, commodifiable organic object, embodies liminal qualities that reflect the state of flux black female identity typically inhabits in contemporary western culture. My formal interests in hair's texture, patterning, it's organic nature and mutability, as well as it's controversial place in black identity, make it suitable for artistic exploration. Historically, hair has been observed as a point of contention in the struggle for mainstream acceptance among black people in the Unites States, post-slavery. As casual as attitudes can be about hair, black hair was and continues to be viewed as second-rate and even contemptible. While traditionally men have been allowed the privilege of cutting their hair short to play down their "blackness" and gain acceptance, black women had to remain "feminine" and "attractive" by keeping their hair long, and were tasked with finding suitable straight alternatives to often unrelenting kinky, curly and coiled locks. This oppressive legacy continues to this day, with black women subjected to direct and indirect pressure to maintain unrealistic standards for their hair all while appearing to relate to white society's insouciant regard for the hair itself. I am concerned with evolving the subject formally and passing it through different mediums in an effort to complicate the hair's form and find new meaning through formal and chromatic elements. I draw with oil stick on gesso-coated paper as a method of communicating the hair's tactile quality, specifically the curly coils of dreadlocks. Screen printing helps me understand and convey the hair's ironic position as a repeating form of endless structural and chromatic variety. Through meticulous layering and coloring I mimic the hair's perceptual depth and chaotic entwined structure.
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