Margaret Rose Vendryes
Richmond Hill, NY, USA
Visual Artist/ Art Historian/ Curator
oil on canvas and paper; collage; assemblage
My African Diva Project questions the construction and function of race and gender identity in contemporary African and African American visual culture. Drawing on my life experience and academic training in art history, I revisit and revise popular consumer imagery that provoke views on beauty, sexuality, race, power, and the role Blackness plays in these United States of America. The Project features a wide range of black female music legends painted with textured and saturated oils in scales that range from 12 inches square to life-size or collage directly on vintage LP covers. Each painted figure is surrounded by graffiti, song titles or lyrics, written into wet oil mixed with cold wax. For well over a decade, I have linked African American celebrities with their African roots by picturing them wearing traditional African masks. The pairing of mass-produced consumer images of celebrity Black women made to sell product with African masks, now made in workshops based on consumer demand after their ritual uses were curtailed, speaks volumes about cultural losses due to slavery and the colonization of Africa and the African American mind.
Margaret Rose Vendryes is an art historian, visual artist, and curator. She received her BA in fine arts from Amherst College, MA in art history from Tulane University, and Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University. She taught at Princeton University and Amherst College before entering the faculty at York College & The Graduate Center of the City University of New York where she received tenure in 2006. Among several honors, Vendryes held an American Association of University Women Fellowship and was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2008, University Press of Mississippi published Vendryes’ book Barthé, A Life in Sculpture, the first comprehensive monograph on the late African American sculptor Richmond Barthé. Vendryes has had solo exhibitions of her African Diva Project paintings in Boston, NYC, and Biloxi, MS as well as exhibited in several group shows over the last decade. Her studio practice has expanded to include commissioned public installations and interactive projects. Vendryes is currently Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Performing and Fine Arts and Director of the Fine Arts Gallery at York College, CUNY.
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