Unnamed Whiteness

According to George Yancy in his book, Black Bodies, White Gazes, when we ¨allow whiteness the power to go unnamed¨ we ¨reinforce its status as given¨ and ¨natural¨. ¨Non-raced white bodies are able to ´soar free´ of the messy world of racism¨(45). My plan for my initial research paper is to closely explore my work with Black figuration as someone outside the Black community keeping the above line of thought in mind. I have only started the preliminary research for this paper but, in the meantime, I am still painting Black bodies. Below is a painting I have recently done of my partner, capturing a moment when he was rifling through the refrigerator.

In the front of my mind, the image is a quasi-comical captured moment of domesticity with my partner. Any bum-shot is going to hint at comedy, especially when paired with brightly-colored socks. On a more personal level, I meant to capture the awkwardness of his position because his refrigerator is always packed and impossible to navigate and the area just to the side of the fridge is a cornucopia of plastic bags, mops, brooms, buckets and cleaning products.

Yet, I cannot ¨soar free¨ above the fact that by painting the bent over rear end of a Black person is loaded with and unwittingly connected to the historical objectification of the Black body. The socks that I find comedic and interesting can very well be seen as clowning the figure and there are further connotations to be given to the idea of a Black figure in a kitchen near cleaning products.

I am aware that anyone reading the second paragraph of this post may either believe I am over-analyzing this piece while others may think I have not even scratched the surface of how this image can be considered racist. Either way, I can only produce the work and be open to the conversation and the controversy it may provoke (even if it is a conversation and a controversy happening only in my own mind).