The work of the sculptor Doreen Garner is featured in the “Greater New York” art exhibition that takes place every five years and can now be seen at MoMA PS1 Lucy’s agony (2021) refers to the heartbreaking experiments that doctors such as the so-called “father of modern gynecology” J. Marion Sims carried out on black women, who experimented on enslaved women without anesthesia. Garner’s work often reflects weighty themes of trauma inflicted on black bodies and the seemingly endless archive of mine.
Garner, who is also a tattoo artist, understands skin behavior better than most. After the height of the pandemic and protests against Black Lives Matter, the artist made a conscious decision to take a different path with her work and try to create sculptures out of white bodies – something she had never done before. In an exclusive interview with Art21, Garner reflects on her choice and says: “I don’t want to put one Pile of bloody black bodies, just for entertainment. “
In the video, Garner describes how difficult it was to make the white flesh look as lifelike as possible and discusses the historical problem of capturing black skin aesthetically, from photographic films that do not accurately reproduce black subjects to misrepresentations in paintings : “It’s really insane for me to actively try to get your skin tone right when you haven’t been as considerate as you represent us.” Garner also considers the fact that her more recent work – including one with white skin that could be seen at Art Basel – do not yet have to be sold, a problem that she never had with her black sculptures. “I’m just thinking about how my black-bodied pieces sold faster,” she says. “Something to think about.”
As she confronts the fears and troubling facts of a ruthless art market, Garner turns to her tattooing practice, which she regards as an extension of her visual arts. “With my tattoos, I’m just trying to create the images that blacks want to get on their bodies forever, ”Garner told Art21. “Things that resonate with you, things that make you beautiful.”
Check out the video that originally appeared as part of Art21 New York up close Row, below. Garner’s work can be seen until April 18, 2022 as part of “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1.
This is an episode of “Art on Video”, a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21, which presents clips from news creators. A new series of the flagship series of the non-profit Art21 Art in the 21st century is now available on PBS. Watch all episodes of other series like New York up close and Extended play, and learn more about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.
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