Natural Histories: Shoshanna Weinberger

Shoshanna Weinberger - Collection of Strangefruit, gouache & mixed media on paper, 18 panels, ea. 51 x 42 cm

Shoshanna Weinberger – Collection of Strangefruit, gouache & mixed media on paper, 18 panels, ea. 51 x 42 cm

Shoshanna Weinberger’s work takes beauty and sex appeal and turns them on their head. Her swollen, awkward humanoid creatures have all the trappings of beauty- gold chains, stilletos, and curves aplenty- but for all their glamour and glitter they are decidedly ugly, a potent and pungent distillation of stereotypes and female and racial objectification. Her use of grids, and titles like A Collection of Strange Fruit illustrate her interest in scientific discourse, and her own mixed race background fuels a fascination with hybridity.

Weinberger’s titles pack in a good dose of reference, enriching the work. Out of Many‘s reference to Jamaica’s national motto adds a new dimension to that work. Similarly, A Collection of Strange Fruit makes an interesting reference to the song Strange Fruit (most famously performed by American jazz songstress Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939). The song was written by teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem. It exposed American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans whose corpses are the macabre ”strange fruit” referenced in the title.

Shoshanna Weinberger - Out of Many, One (2013), gouache and mixed media on paper, 24 panels, ea. 52 x 40 cm

Shoshanna Weinberger – Out of Many, One (2013), gouache and mixed media on paper, 24 panels, ea. 52 x 40 cm

In an article looking at the work of Weinberger and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, Jared Richardson offers the following reading: ”In their efforts to speculate a fantastic black female body, Mutu and Weinberger take the terrors of a racist history and amplify them to a mutant proportion, suggesting an alternate psychology to our current place and time. Such bodily magnitude disregards our understanding of biological evolution and conflates racial fear with sensual fascination. […] In the gouache creations of Weinberger, Hottentots toddle around as essentialized hunks of breasts and buttocks. The oeuvre of these two artists envision alterity as it relates to hybrid corporeality, race, and gender…”.  (”Attack of the Boogeywoman: Visualizing Black Women’s Grotesquerie in Afrofuturism”, Art Papers November/December 2012 issue)

NS-J

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