Monday, April 9, 2007

Double Identities, Who Are We?

It is habitual for people to stereotype people based on characteristics and ideas associated with race. Some stereotypes label people in ways that lead them to think that something is wrong with the way they are; when it turns out that is not the case at all. Some misconceptions include the thought that Asians are smart in mathematics and can play the piano well. Alternatively, that African Americans love chicken and collard greens and need to be watched closely when they enter into a store. These stereotypes have developed in western society over several years of fallacies. No matter what background, people label someone who looks different from them based on what they have been taught by ones parent or by society in general. Sometimes, the labels that are associated with different categories of people create a sense of double consciousness, for both African Americans and women.

African Americans’ sense of selfhood has always been dominated by the white “gaze.” This mainstream has long been dominated by the western culture leading minorities to think that their only way of being was “incoherent and fractured.” The fact that people are aware of how others view and judge them causes them to view themselves in an entirely different way. According to feminist and postmodern artist Emma Amos, in the same way people are able to make judgments of through a visual, people can make connections and interpret the different stereotypes of race through art. It is easy to determine that art has long been marginalized for male artists. In Emma Amos works, she fixes herself to identify with not only the offended of her culture but that of women as well. Being able to look at herself through someone else’s eyes shows her the racism that has been excluding both blacks and women. As a feminist, she sardonically criticizes the norm by saying that she wants to be a white male artist. However, Amos refuses to accept that art is painted in the medium of a white, male perspective claiming that gender differences in art also need to be acknowledged. Women, she argues has been under the shadow of the male gaze for too long and should viewed as an equal to men in any area.

Involved in politics of culture and feminism, Emma Amos challenges her audiences to think about how these ideas about race, sex and identity are “constructed and disseminated through images.” While art has normally been gendered around a white male perspective, Amos chooses to paint of historical and political ideas that focus around both race and gender. Whether it is etching, monoprints, silk collagrpahs, photography or painting in general, Amos paints of opportunity for women and blacks. In one particular piece tightrope, Amos easily shows how someone tries to balance himself or herself in a demanding society biased upon women and people of color. The American flag leotard shows the woman confidently overcoming all of the demands and negativity associated with her being herself.

However, aside from the creativity of showing the humorous, playful possibility of a double identity, one argues that Amos has failed to realize the dangerous consequences of loosing one’s self in impersonation of art as foreseen by Du Bois. He acknowledges that the two-ness of being American and a Negro does little to contradict the fallacies that have been known to define race. Not only is it a misrepresentation of the truth, but it also leads to internal conflict for African Americans. During the first wave feminist, impersonation was only used to exploit the results of conforming. These false interpretations of different cultures result in a negative outcome for these people in what W.E.B. Du Bois terms as double consciousness. Dividing someone’s identity into several aspects as with stereotypes may cause people to try to conform or change their identity to fit the likings of others. Although the warnings perceived by Du Bois were silenced by the creativity of Amos’ work, some continue to say that the “two-ness” forms of impersonation and identity still punish those who are unsure of their well-beings in society.

Although Du Bois calls for black people to create their own definition of their culture, Emma Amos has found a way to cleverly make Du Bois’ fear of conforming to identity less serious while at the same time realizing that identities in her work is important for herself as well as others. She has used her paintings to show cultural meaning accounts for the generations that have been biased of women and colored artists. Her arguments against the norm in aesthetics and society gives a more colorful look on the multiple views society can have for a person.

Emma Amos. 4 April 2007.

Gupta, A. Houston. “Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970.” Art
Papers v.29 no.4. July 2005. 4 April 2007.
Patton, Sharon F. “Thinking Paint.” 4 April 2007.
Percent for Art in NYC. 4 April 2007. Picture.
Titus, Catherine Wilcox. “The Perils and Pleasures of Double Consciousness: Strategies
of Impersonation in the Artwork of Emma Amos and Sherrie Levine.” Southeastern College Art Conference Review. 4 April 2007.;jsessionid=GPY3HOFDVDUF1QA3DILSFGGADUNFMIV0

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