Tour: 'Erica Deeman: The Artist Speaks' at MOPA in San Diego
While I love going to see exhibitions, it is not often that I get to actually meet or speak with the artists and gain deeper insight into the work. Luckily, this was what was in store for me when I strolled into Erica Deeman: The Artist Speaks at the Museum of Photographic Art a few weeks ago, already teeming with excitement. Deeman gave an intimate artist talk in the galleries and discussed, among other things, her previous career in advertising, the way she went about finding her subjects, and how her perception of the work changed upon moving to San Francisco from the U.K. Two of her series, Silhouettes and Brown, are on display at MOPA through September 16.
I've admired her work for many years, as a black female photographer, creating traditional portraits of subjects of the Diaspora. I think it is safe to say that photography and image-making are still very male-dominated in some ways. And this, in turn, has an impact on how we consume and process images. The lens of black female photographers can be strikingly subversive and poignant in their ability to reshape how we read images. I think of the work of Deana Lawson and LaToya Ruby Frazier- artists who are dedicated to imaging people not typically seen in the media, through traditional modes of portraiture. I truly believe that this approach to portraiture makes us aware of how we make meaning from looking, and it has the ability to shift the way we see and thus understand and value the world around us.
I also find it fascinating how Deeman's cultural background and understanding of her identity changed after moving to the States. I think this plays a role in how I understood the work and how it challenged the way I thought about the Diaspora. You see, although I consider myself as a person of the Diaspora, as in a person of African descent living somewhere other than on the continent, I didn't really consider my "African-Americanness". The later implying that a part of my understanding of my identity as African American means that I don't know and am not able to identity with the African portion of that in the way that perhaps a black British person can. And while Deeman and her U.K.-based subjects may see themselves as black, perhaps it's a different experience of my own blackness. Well, this really opened up my own ways of seeing, highlighting my own subjective biases and challenging the way I find meaning in the visual. I think these series absolutely accentuate the complexity of the Diasporic experience in the most subtle and powerful way. The photographs are beautiful, a testament to the relationships Deeman formed with her sitters, and to the deeply thoughtful and respectful intentions behind making this body of work.
You can watch the latest vlog where I walk you through this exhibit and then head over to About-Face at the San Diego Art Institute below. I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Erica Deeman: The Artist Speaks at the Museum of Photographic Art in San Diego.