Demosthene’s artwork examines how black culture is commodified and fetishized. Whether through paintings or drawings, she seeks to magnify the subtlety of racial constructs and how viewers have become comfortable with derogatory images. Her most recent work, The Capture, delves into the subconscious mind of a black heroine and the ephemeral quality of her thoughts and experiences. As she uncovers her special abilities, through a succession of serendipitous events, she comes to understand how these moments of self-realization can be so very temporal. With this new series, she has been intrigued by the black female body as an icon in contemporary imagery and how her physical size is supposed to dictate a certain set of ideals and behavior. The Capture is the initial phase to constructing a non-typical black female heroine persona.
Can you share a little about your background and your experience as a mixed media contemporary artist? How did you get started? draw inspiration and your journey as an artist?
My career began as soon as I finished my BFA at Parsons. Back then, I was appropriating images and drawing on top of them (via photographic transfer or toner transfer). I was also making sculptures from found objects, hair, etc. At Hunter College’s MFA program, my work began to shift a bit. I was trying to incorporate myself in it, but I just could not figure out how to do it. I was often told I was detached from what I was creating. After Hunter, I went through a long period where I could not create a thing. I wasn’t inspired and I was clear on my own voice as an artist.
Through a series of life changing events, I decided to leave NYC and travel (it’s how I ended up in Ghana). During that period of time I regained my creativity and found my voice. I had brought with me a limited amount of art materials and I accidentally learned this method (ink on drafting film). The early pieces I made while sitting on the beach…essentially, a small board on my lap. I found the process rejuvenating, in that, I was not attached to a particular outcome. I was more concerned in how I was conveying my idea. This is how the Capture Series began.
I have officially finished the Capture Series late last year. I am now working on the Burst Series. My work often references a particular event or series of events, that I try to sort out via drawing/painting. With this new series I am also exploring working on canvas and creating some sculptural installations. We shall see!
The Capture is a chronicle of your journey from the Caribbean to West Africa, how did this series come about? Where did you travel in West Africa?
This project began when I when I left NYC to travel to the Caribbean and Ghana. I did an artist residency in St. Croix then continued to Ghana to work as a designer at an eco-design company (while also making my art). Essentially I was looking for a concept that I could work for over a long period of time and one that could take many shapes/forms/media. The heroine idea really comes from my daily writings that I do. I began the project as sort of an extrapolation of a couple of sentences.
Your work focuses on the black female body, you say that The Capture features “ the non-typical black female heroine persona”. Can you please describe the new mythology that you are trying to create? Are there any specific mythology that has inspired your work? Are there any specific stories that speak to your work?
The large black female body is often portrayed in a stereotypical manner (Aunt Jemima, Mammie, etc.). The idea that a physically large black woman can be seen as a heroine is a bit of a revolutionary one. Quite frankly, the stereotypes have not changed much…aggressive, over sexed, angry. There is not a specific story per se that I am modelling. This project, in a way, is a culmination of many writings on folklore (especially African folklore) and the power that resides within women. One point of inspiration are the stories regarding the Benin women warriors.