Today I saw Lorraine O’Grady speak.
In the above photo, she is doing a performance piece titled
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire. Here is some information about the performance:
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, O’Grady’s first public performance, remains the artist’s best known work. The persona first appeared in 1980 under the Futurist dictum that art has the power to change the world and was in part created as a critique of the racial apartheid still prevailing in the mainstream art world.
Here is a short excerpt, from her website about the performance,
Wearing a costume made of 180 pairs of white gloves from Manhattan thrift shops and carrying a white cat-o-nine-tails made of sail rope from a seaport store and studded with white chrysanthemums, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (Miss Black Middle-Class) 1955 was an equal-opportunity critic. She gave timid black artists and thoughtless white institutions each a “piece of her mind.” Her first invasion of an art opening unannounced was of Just Above Midtown, the black avant-garde gallery. Her second was of the recently opened New Museum of Contemporary Art.
I swear she is #blackgirlfromthefuture#12.
Today, she was real insistent about:
The importance of thinking about WHY certain Black artists
are allowed to shine, and others are not.
The need to focus on the uncomfortable stuff, and to stretch
in our work.
The need for dissertations to be written about Black artists
other than Kara Walker.
The importance of Black art being connected to a political
The need for Black artist to make art that didn’t look like they
were wearing white gloves while constructing it.
As she was talking, I couldn’t help but think about my essay
about Beyonce, and why it was challenging for some folks to see
that I was not “talking about” Beyonce per se, but that I felt
it was important to analyze WHY Ms. Knowles made $87M in a calender
year, when Black wealth is so hard to come by in this country.
We always need to scrutinize who “makes it.” And ask ourselves
whose intersts are being served by the fact that “So and So Negro”
is the one shining right now.