An Artist Reinvents Herself to Mine the Fictions of America

Posted in Articles, Arts, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-10 02:24Z by Steven

An Artist Reinvents Herself to Mine the Fictions of America

Hyperallergic
2017-01-09

Alicia Eler

Genevieve Gaignard makes the personal political while also creating new American mythologies.

LOS ANGELES — In the lead-up to a Trump presidency, the worst possible outcome for an America that has come so far in the past 100 years in terms of social progress and civil rights, it’s not insane to think that conservatives could take us back to a pre–Roe v. Wade era, to a time when all race-based hate crimes were labeled as basically normal. Not to mention that the environment and the economy will go to hell. This is not our country, and this is not the new normal — this is a time for refusal, a time to resist rather than to hallucinate into some sort of feeble complacency.

The election was certainly on my mind when I saw LA artist Genevieve Gaignard’s exhibition Smell the Roses at the California African American Museum. The characterizations that she creates in her work mine the intersections of race, class, and gender, portraying some of the vulnerable Americans who will be most affected by the next four years (or fewer, if Trump gets impeached like Michael Moore is predicting!).

This is Gaignard’s first solo museum show, which follows her solo exhibition Us Only last year at Shulamit Nazarin Gallery in Venice, California. Here, Gaignard continues her exploration of the space between performance and the reality of race, class, and gender through different personas or avatars, domestic spaces, and collections of Americana kitsch and knickknacks, toeing the line between high and low culture, between fiction and personal history. As the fair-skinned daughter of a black father and a white mother, her work speaks to being mixed race, discussing issues of visibility and invisibility. She mixes highbrow and lowbrow aesthetics — a major influence is John Waters, who similarly indulges in camp and kitsch. Gaignard’s arrangements of objects ranging from books and records to family photographs mix the familial and the political in a way that’s reminiscent of Rashid Johnson’s post-minimalist, cold domestic “shelves.” The difference is that in Gaignard’s work, every object emanates warmth. It’s fitting that her exhibition deals heavily with the emotional experience of loss on both a personal and political level…

Read the entire article here.

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Artist Explodes Racial Stereotypes In Shape-Shifting Photographs

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-04 01:33Z by Steven

Artist Explodes Racial Stereotypes In Shape-Shifting Photographs

The Huffington Post
2016-10-20

Priscilla Frank, Arts & Culture Writer


Shulamit Nazarian

“My experience as a person of color is different than others’. I have something to say.”

Artist Genevieve Gaignard grew up in the town of Orange, Massachusetts. Her mother was white, her father black ― one of the first black men to live in the small town. “I was always really aware that we were different,” Gaignard explained in an interview with The Huffington Post.

While Gaignard was well aware of her biracial identity, most of her classmates and neighborhood acquaintances simply saw her as the pale-skinned, redheaded child she was. They assumed, in other words, like the majority of Orange citizens, that Gaignard was white. “I passed along with everyone else,” she said. “I blended in.”

As a kid, Gaignard spent a lot of time in her room. “I was shy, quiet, in my own little world,” she recalled. She would listen to the radio, make collages and plaster magazine cutouts on her wall. She’d also obsessively look into the lives of celebrities like Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys, women who also were both black and white. She studied how they defined themselves, the spaces they occupied and the ways they existed in the world. “I would think, ‘Oh, they get to be black,’ or, ‘They’re kind of passing as white,’” Gaignard said. “I would search for images of their parents, trying to get clues. It’s interesting how media or the industry often decides where someone will fit in.”


“Basic Cable” Shulamit Nazarian

With no outside force to define her, Gaignard was left, like so many young people, feeling undefined. “It was this not knowing how to identify,” she expressed. “Not feeling black enough, not feeling white enough, that was the struggle.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Genevieve Gaignard tackles race, class and identity at the California African American Museum

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Women on 2016-11-25 21:53Z by Steven

Genevieve Gaignard tackles race, class and identity at the California African American Museum

The Los Angeles Times
2016-11-17

Deborah Vankin, Contact Reporter


Genevieve Gaignard’s identity-bending “Extra Value (After Venus)” (2016). (Genevieve Gaignard / Shulamit Nazarian)

Growing up in the working-class mill town of Orange, Mass., Genevieve Gaignard wrestled with her identity. She was the fair-skinned daughter of a black father and white mother. She was the proverbial middle child. She struggled with body issues. Often, she says, she felt misunderstood, if not invisible.

Now 35 and living in Los Angeles, Gaignard has a strong sense of herself and her place in the world as a multidisciplinary artist. In “Smell the Roses,” the artist’s first museum show in Los Angeles, Gaignard tackles the big issues of race, class and, especially, identity.

The exhibition at the California African American Museum includes photography, video and assemblage works, but the nine large photographs, all richly colored performative self-portraits, are standouts. Like the artist Carrie Mae Weems, Gaignard uses the medium to explore the contemporary African American experience; like Cindy Sherman, she dons wigs and heavy makeup to create female caricatures that humorously embody societal stereotypes. The women she portrays are both anonymous and familiar — individuals steeped in aesthetics from pop culture, drag queen hyper-femininity, the working class, ’70s chic à la Netflix’s “The Get Down,” TV news and street fashion, among other influences…

Read the entire article here.

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An Artist Stands Before Her Fun House Mirror

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-01-27 02:23Z by Steven

An Artist Stands Before Her Fun House Mirror

The New York Times
2016-01-06

Amanda Fortini


Genevieve Gaignard, “A Golden State of Mind” installation, 2015.
Credit: Eric Minh Swenson, via The Cabin LA and Diane Rosenstein

LOS ANGELES — On a recent Friday afternoon, Genevieve Gaignard, a photographer, collagist and installation artist, was sitting on her bed in the room she rents in the Echo Park neighborhood. For the last year, Ms. Gaignard, who takes self-portraits costumed as various alter egos she imagines, then builds fictional domestic spaces for them, has lived in this nondescript, book-filled and thoroughly carpeted apartment with a professional couple in their late 20s, their chatty lime-green parrot and three cats.

Ms. Gaignard, who is 34, with strawberry-blond hair and long, acrylic nails painted the matte pastel colors of Jordan almonds, had decorated her bedroom with charmingly girlish touches, like a white net canopy befitting a fairy-tale princess and a Felix the Cat clock with a pendulum tail. On every surface were snowdrifts of stuff: piles of clothing, toiletries, plastic sunglasses. On her desk, a bra and a half-eaten granola bar shared space with an assortment of wigs. “This is what happens; this is how involved I get in the artmaking,” she said, waving a manicured hand around at the clutter. “Everything else sort of falls apart.”

A 2014 graduate of Yale’s photography M.F.A. program, Ms. Gaignard does work that reclaims everyday items: hair curlers, curling irons, plastic party favors, costume jewelry, towels. These she finds at thrift shops, dollar and beauty supply stores, or via her mother, who, she says with affection, “is kind of a hoarder.” A forest of Vanillaroma air fresheners dangles from a pair of yellow knee-high boots. A collage made to resemble the faux-wood paneling of a suburban basement is appended with miniature knickknacks. “It’s not like, ‘Hmm, can I make something out of nothing?’” Ms. Gaignard said. “It’s literally like, ‘What do I have access to?’”…

Her recent show, “Us Only,” at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in the Venice neighborhood, featured a variety of pieces that blurred the lines between highbrow and vernacular, unraveling stereotypes of gender, race and class in the process. Her photos are often likened to those of Cindy Sherman, arguably our most famous costumed self-portraitist. But this comparison takes into account neither the animating impulses of her art — Ms. Gaignard is biracial, and her background forms an essential through line in her work — nor the decades of intervening culture since Ms. Sherman began taking pictures in the late 1970s. Third-wave feminism, online dating, even the ascent of the selfie: All are likely influences on a female artist photographing herself today. (Ms. Gaignard told me that Diane Arbus, not Ms. Sherman, was her seminal artistic inspiration, in part because she feels like “one of the people she photographed.”)…

Sarah Lewis, a professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies at Harvard, said that Ms. Gaignard’s art explores “the often undiscussed subject of racial indeterminacy.” It is, Professor Lewis notes, a topic well covered by 20th-century writers — Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, Danzy Senna — but by few contemporary visual artists. Ms. Gaignard’s approach is not narrative, didactic or overtly political; she wittily employs symbols a viewer understands on a visceral level, even as a more explicit meaning remains elusive.

“Her work avoids any easy answers about race or identity,” said Gregory Crewdson, the director of graduate studies in photography at Yale. “I don’t think it’s in any conventional sense a critique. It’s more ambiguous than that. And that’s part of its power.”…

Read the entire article and view the photographs here.

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