The eye of the heart of a superwoman –Renee Cox has not disappointed her public for over two decades. Well, except for that moment when Mayor Rudolf Guillani objected to her take on Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” titled “Yo Mama’s Last Supper”. It was a manifestation, no doubt; but in flipping the art scene and cultural assumptions at large, Cox turned over gender roles bringing the black woman to the forefront, finally.
What is Cox doing? Whatever she feels like, that’s what; mostly mixed media and fighting for her rights. Embellishing the world with black beauty, she continues to astonish by admonishing the colonizer’s standards. And she in not shy about revealing, right in the faces of those brave enough to look. Let her pull back the curtain and show you her woman.
Primarily known for her nudes, but more so her intrepid nature, she uses her own body as an object of art, a statue of sorts because she is quite statue-esque. Without using proper analysis, one might call her work egocentric. But they couldn’t be more wrong. How can a black woman’s voice be heard if she uses the devices of the colonizer? She must use what she knows; and the results attest to a soul as strong as any iron or as brazen as any mother’s heart.
Imitating scenes of classic proportions, reinventing the solider narrative, criticizing the bourgeois –Cox approaches her subject with the strength of many black women, for she is many black woman layering one upon the other for fortitude and perseverance. Behind each photo is a story with Cox as the protagonist. There is nothing passive about her position. At the same time, she assumes the role of director; the viewer cannot invent a story because Cox has already written it. In using a variety of backdrops –from nature to cityscapes– she proliferates that the black woman is everywhere; has been and always will be.
Both fearless and reckless, she takes the world on by storm introducing herself as super hero, super woman. Tearing away at the standard role of men as warrior, pulling back the curtain on the “women are the weaker sex” argument and offering a positive image of black women, Cox seems to revel in her ability to breakdown what society has fashioned by fashioning her own world. In this world, she rules, thus reclaiming identity –which has predicated the erasing of many black women throughout history. In power stances, she claims her identity and those of who have been forgotten, accumulating generations of overlooked women.
Reinforcing a black woman’s persistence, she assumes power positions typically reserved for the colonizer. Calculating the risk, she weights in favor of telling the truth –of what was and what will be. Protesting through her art, she demands a change and she is the change she wants to see.
WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela