With these collages, my intention was to create celebratory relics of Golden Age Hollywood, but to subvert them through a bold and stylized insertion of black womanhood. I painted with pure black acrylic over a series of World War II pinup dolls by Tom Tierney, and collaged them over glamorous backdrops—floral dreamscapes and gold foil. The dolls, drawn from famous 1940s stars, are all of thin, white women, whose glamorous outfits and seductive, sweet poses lend to a romanticization of the World War II era. The artist’s series, while glamorous, fails to incorporate any sort of diversity.
In the vein of collagist Romare Bearden, I wanted to use pure black material to make the figures themselves unmistakably black. As Bearden retells stories of Greek mythology, replacing their heroes with unmistakably black bodies, I wanted to do the same for these icons of America’s “golden age.” These bodies still conform to the Eurocentric standards ascribed to the dolls—thin and straight-haired. The black paint leaves them faceless and featureless, to call into question the objectification of the black woman’s body and the voyeurism attached to that. The work in its final form is intended to examine: What bodies are considered beautiful? In what forms is blackness considered beautiful?