Donna Woodley: How You Doing?January 6th, 2020 through February 29th, 2020
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.