Donna Woodley: How You Doing?
Donna Woodley is a visual artist whose most recent works examine the relationship between Black culture and American culture. She works as a professor at Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN and Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN. Donna’s work has allowed her to emerge within the art community locally and nationally through her solo shows, participation in group exhibitions, and other professional happenings. She resides in Nashville, TN and is ecstatic about her future as a maker.
Thoughts, discussions, and many healthy debates about black culture over the years are seeds that I’ve subconsciously sewn, rediscovering them as an artist years later. At my core, I am a portrait painter, and I love making work that speaks to notions of the black experience. The figure in my paintings is confrontational towards the visibility and value of black people within American society, both historically and in a contemporary context.
The enlistment of men and women that I know, including myself, is a significant part of my process. It allows me to explore the idea of emotion, connection, and relationship, and also challenges me to render the figure accordingly. I discuss current themes and ideas that exist by combining the figure with metaphoric symbols such as granny panties and toilets. Informed by stereotypes, cultural similarities and differences, perception of beauty, mental health, and esteem, my work often uses subtle humor to create an environment conducive to healthy dialogue.
Currently, I am making paintings of black men combined with toilets that are representative of a throne. The image speaks to self-perception, American society’s perception of black men, and the discourse of black masculinity. They are large scale paintings in which the men are engaging the viewer using the gaze.
My primary desire for the viewer is to feel compelled and comfortable to first approach the work. The icing on the cake is if they dwell there, laugh, think, and walk away having felt something.