Artist Statement—Deborah Roberts
Whether I was aware of it or not, the notion of otherness has been at the center of my consciousness from the beginning of my artistic career. My early ideals of race and beauty were shaped by and linked through paintings of renaissance artists and photographs in fashion magazines. Those images were mythical, heroic, beautiful, and powerful and embodied a particular status that was not afforded equally to me or anyone I knew. These images influenced the way I viewed myself and other African Americans, which led me to investigate “How has African American identity been imagined and shaped by societal interpretations of beauty ?” I then positioned my art practice in the vein of social commentary with a particular point of view on the perceptions of ideal beauty. Stereotypes and myths were the first to be challenged in my work; I created a dialogue between the ideas of inclusion, dignity, consumption, and subjectivity by addressing beauty in the form of the grotesque. By challenging beauty through the grotesque, I was challenging the notion of ideal beauty at its core and making room for women of color who were not included in this idea of beauty. I believe having ones identity dismantled, marginalized and regulated to non-human status constitutes action. Which led me to make confrontational-based work that challenged the notions of self and perceived self. Visually you are looking through multiple layers, double meanings and symbols when wading through my work. My process is to combine interspersed images of iconology like Afros, large hoop earrings, nappy hair, and big red lips. Each component has character and agency both in the motif and in the complicated narratives of American, African American and art history.