The art exhibit in the Hillwood Gallery on March 28th, Color Blind by Denae Howard, was very powerful and left me thinking about things in a different way. In the display, senior and Fine Arts/Mixed Studio major Denae Howard took some very famous people and turned them into a different race. Color Blind is a play on the idea of a world composed solely of black people.
As Howard was growing up, she found herself wondering why black or African cultures were secondary to the white or European norm. Howard took popular American icons and changed the color of their skin. By displaying the idea of an all black society, Howard forced the viewers to see themselves as another race.
Howard’s display featured images, such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Justin Timberlake, depicted as black. Howard also put up two mirrors that were only large enough to view one’s face. The mirrors are sepia-toned brown, and as each person looked into the mirror, they saw themselves as another race.
“In terms of the project, I want people to take away the ideology of race dominances and familiarity,” said Howard. “Though people speak of diversity, I believe there will always be an unspoken notion of dominance because of race, class and gender; but I would also want the viewer to question my work and question themselves. For instance, how does my concept or idea affect you, the viewer?” She wanted to provoke her viewers through discomfort and uncertainty, which would ignite conversation. Howard explained, “I would like the viewer to live temporarily in this all black world that I have created.”
Ara McPherson, a junior Sociology major, spoke about her favorite piece and its impact. “She took a spin on iconic faces. It’s a view point as to what it would be like if we were all one color. My favorite piece is the Marilyn Monroe piece because a lot of women, no matter what color, shape or size, look up to her because she was so comfortable with who she was. I think it holds a huge message, depicting her as black.”
Other students explained how the exhibit was like nothing they had ever seen before. “I think it’s different, very unique, and cultural,” explained Miguel Murillo, a senior Finance major. “This is awesome; it’s a different way to see yourself. This is definitely inspirational. Being Hispanic, I actually appreciate it a lot because she is representing her background to the fullest.”
“It’s very unusual; I’ve never seen something like this,” said Nancy Kaur, a freshman Business major. “It goes past just one side of art.”
I loved the exhibit and the message behind it. I found myself questioning a lot of things within society and the norms it challenges. Howard’s exhibit really impacted me, and it also impacted many others. It began to make me think a lot about what is considered normal, beautiful and powerful. I really feel as though I was seeing things through the eyes of the artist. I completely understand the message Howard was trying to send when I looked at myself in the sepia-brown mirror. Howard’s work is very inspiring, and I am eager to see what mark she will leave on society in the future.