Zoe Antona Art Blog
I am excited to announce that the latest publication brought to you by the students and faculty at Utah State University, Sink Hollow! Their latest publication features one of my images from the Beyond the Next Door series and is not only located with my bio on page 56 but is also the cover of the issue. Check out the publication here or head over to my publications page to read more about it.
Sink Hollow Issue IX
Could you imagine slavery still being a living thorn in United States’ side 153 years after slavery is said to have been abolished; seems unfathomable right? Though in the eyes of the law slavery is no longer legal, the separation between Black and White America is still ever present. There is no better example that explicitly represents how slavery has evolved in America than Hank Willis Thomas’ art. Hank Willis Thomas created his chromogenic print titled The Cotton Bowl (2011) from a digital file in 2011 that explores the parallels of the United States’ slavery ridden past and its current favorite past time of football. Just as the title suggests, the piece displays a cotton field on the left side and a football field on the right with two men mirroring each other in a three-point stance looking on. The Cotton Bowl (2011) is currently mounted in a frame that is relatively the size of the largest flat screen television at the Princeton University’s Art Museum but has been exhibited in a series in 2011 titled Strange Fruit. America’s treatment of Black Americans today in the sport entrainment industry is an evolved version of how African Americans were treated during slavery in America.
In order to fully experience The Cotton Bowl (2011) piece one must understand the history of slavery in the United States and how to this day black bodies are being exploited in the sports entertainment industry at multiple levels. By depicting two black men mirroring each other in two seemingly split settings on either side of the image, The Cotton Bowl (2011) makes the viewer question wither or not both men are serving the same purpose in their labor. The man depicted on the left side of The Cotton Bowl (2011) is most certainly represents the exploitation of African Americans doing free labor for their white owners. The man depicted as a young football player on the right side of the image represents the current day and how college football players are not compensated for their labor on the football field. In an interview with Rollins College, Hank Thomas explains that the work is about the past and the present coming both face to face in both land and labor and that these men are repeating history (Rollins College). Slaves during the 1800’s and College Football players today, are not, or were not, compensated for their work. Both men in The Cotton Bowl (2011) are being preyed on by a white dominated society. For example: prior to the Civil War, slave owners believed they were compensating their slaves for their labor by providing food and shelter and, after all, in the eyes of white society at the time it was a crime to be born black. Fast forward to 2018 and “schools take advantage of poor, talented athletes who accept whatever is offered to them because they can’t afford not to,”(Siebold). And how might the racial makeup of these “amateur” football programs look? According to TIME “black men comprise 57 percent of college football teams, on average, and at some universities it’s over 70 percent,”(Roberts) while “under 10 percent of head coaches in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision are black; 87 percent are white,”(Roberts). The people in power at most universities are benefiting off of the football players who are their work force. In Hank Thomas’s The Cotton Bowl (2011) the connection of free labor from black bodies during slavery and in college football is all too similar.
Though it could be argued that college football players are being compensated for their labor on the football field by receiving an education. If you take into account that the Universities nation wide make a profit of $3.5 billion a year the players who put in 40+ hours a week on practice, games, and other related activities do not see a dime. On the flip side the Universities coaching staff makes a very comfortable living. Take for example Alabama’s Football Coach Nick Saban, “Saban earns $11.1 million dollars per year,” (Siebold) with a contract that last for up to 10 years according to the Huffington Post. On the contrary the players that play for Saban are only guaranteed max of 4 years playing time and within that time can withstand life-altering injuries with zero compensation. Relating this to The Cotton Bowl (2011) the working time span of both the man working on the cotton field and the football player were short durations compared to the revenue that they both generate. Now taking into consideration that college football players do receive an education out of their labor a majority of players do not even graduate before they enter into the NFL draft where there they have a 1.7% chance of making it big (Siebold). For some viewers who look at The Cotton Bowl (2011) many may relate the men in the image to those who were sharecroppers and an NFL player.
Of the 1.7% of college football players who make it to the NFL only a handful of these men will actually make millions. In Thomas’ piece The Cotton Bowl (2011) it could easily be interoperated that both black men in the image are compensated for their work but not fully compensated for their work. During the 1800’s sharecroppers only received a fraction of what the land owner made off of the same land, looking at the present day black NFL players are only making a fraction of what white players make. In both the eyes of the white landowners of the past and the all white NFL team owners today black bodies are tools for profit (Wilson). As previously stated, all NFL team owners are white, this is true, of the 32 NFL teams every single one is owned by a white male, female, or family. When you look at Hank Thomas’ The Cotton Bowl (2011) it is easier to understand the meaning behind it just by understanding the statistical makeup of the NFL alone and how a majority of the players are black. If one were to look at the demographics of the NFL over 60% of the players are African American and less than 30% are white. Of the approximately 1500+ players who make up the entire NFL 9 out of 10 of the top paid players are white. According to forbes “NFL’s 10 top-paid players will earn $424 million in salary,” (Badenhausen). The meaning behind The Cotton Bowl (2011) is certainly loaded with meaning behind the parallels of both the NFL and Americas past.
Both men in Hank Thomas’ The Cotton Bowl (2011) don’t have their faces showing making them unidentifiable making the message behind the piece greater than these two men; the two men represent black America. In a nation where racial inequality is illegal in the eyes of the law it is still ever present in American society as a whole especially in the sports entertainment industry. A major post football season game titled The Cotton Bowl that generates a lot of revenue, is played by a majority black team. The name Cotton Bowl is ironic because it was cotton that generated a lot of revenue for the south during slavery in which black bodies were exploited. It’s quite interesting to see the racial demographics that make up both the NFL and college football and how similarly structured the two are in terms of who is in power and who is not. The Cotton Bowl (2011) is a piece that screams both history and present day issues that are still occurring and the viewer must listen up.
Badenhausen, Kurt. “The NFL's Highest-Paid Players 2018: Aaron Rodgers Leads With $76 Million.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Sept. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2018/09/20/the-nfls-highest-paid-players-2018-aaron-rodgers-leads-with-76-million/#212ab3c0117b https://aperture.org/blog/cotton-bowl-super-bowl/.
College, Rollins. YouTube, YouTube, 6 June 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1tPApzypJc.
Roberts, Diane. “College Football's Big Problem With Race.” Time, Time, 12 Nov. 2015, time.com/4110443/college-football-race-problem/.
Siebold, Steve. “NCAA's Football Slavery Scheme.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 5 Jan. 2018, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ncaas-football-slavery-scheme_us_5a4fec40e4b0f9b24bf31727.
Upon entering the top floor of the Contemporary Art Center and working ones way down each level, works from Robert Colescott, Saya Woolfalk, and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum are displayed in perfect order. It is interesting that each artist not only worked in such a large scale piece to piece, but all the works were in one way or another about race. All of the concepts flowed nicely with one another because they were relative to the African American experience. The curation and execution of the flow of the gallery space was perfectly thought out so that the viewer was thoroughly captivated. The current exhibition up on display at the CAC is truly culturally transcending and immersive from the scale of the pieces to the layout of how the works were arranged.
The flow of the gallery space was utilized to its full capacity. As one walks out of the elevator on the top floor you are greeted by Robert Colescott’s life work and an excerpt about Art and Race Matters. The excerpt itself gives insight into Colescott as he created work in the 1970’s that changed the art scene by transforming well-known masterpieces of art history by blackfacing them. Not only is Colescott’s work meant to be blunt and crude but just the sheer size of the paintings that he created are capitative spanning nearly floor to ceiling and being just as wide. The order of which Colescott’s paintings are presented are seemingly chronological to when they were created, transitioning from Manet and oil paintings to the use of acrylic and more racial and erotic female experience subject matter. It is notable that Colescott uses bold colors and depicts not only the African American experience but also the female experience.
This leads the viewer down to other floors where works from Saya Woolfalk and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum depict a female perspective of the African American experience.
After leaving Colescott and his heavily erotic paintings you are greeted by soothing sounds and a low lit dark room filled with Saya Woolfalk’s work living on the walls. Just as the last artist Woolfalk’s work depicts a female experience through her mixed heritage in a futuristic sense. Each wall nearly 20 feet high is filled with a projection of a colorful alter like scene with a female sitting at its base. Every projection has rotative movement with bold use of purple, green and orange in circular shapes accompanied by a physical piece such as a colorfully dressed manikin or a bull skull hanging from the wall to give more physical context to the entire piece. Not only did the projections on the wall captivate the viewer Woolfalk utilized the floor space by also projecting onto the floor. Though her work was visually capitative in terms of digital and physical material, conceptually she is not as strong as Colescott and Sunstrum’s work. A room over from Woolfalk as you leave her last piece you seamlessly run into Sunstrum’s work. As you pass the statement on the wall about the work unlike Colescott and Woolfalk, Sunstums pieces are independent from one another. Sunstrum uses different materials for each of her pieces some being on canvas others being done in a series on paper. She even created a mural installation. This perhaps added more to her concept and title All My Seven Faces. Each work is loaded with context into the African American experience and female experience which is also explained in a pamphlet provided upon entering the room. As the viewer approaches each piece the scale seems to exemplify the meaning behind the work. The mural being very captivating visually with movement where as the smaller paper series is more intimate in detail.
The sheer scale and content of all the works curated at the CAC is truly impressive. All of the works are large in scale which not only draws the viewer in but also conceptually blows the mind. All of the works flowed seamlessly by Colescott contributing not only a male perspective to the female and Afican American experience but also a look into culture back in the 1970’s. Whereas Woolfalk and Sunstrum contribute to the modern day female and African American experience all in one. If there was any flaw into the curation of this exhibition I beg to argue there is none.
Latoya Ruby Frazier
Latoya Frazier is a photographer who builds visual archives that addresses political issues revolving around industrialism, healthcare, and family. She uses these topics to drive more awareness as well as tie it to her personal life. I really enjoy how she makes her personal work more larger scheme, especially her series The Notion Of Family. I find the black and white imagery she uses makes the images more dramatized than in color. I find it makes them more compelling and that is something I am doing with personal work I am exploring while shooting images of my family. I find that also compositionally she composes her images seemingly strategic having split compositions as well as using mirrors in her images. That is a tactic I am currently really interested in as well. I find the use of window and lamp light she uses to her advantage. I enjoy the rawness of her images and how compelling they are.
From my initial observation of Nydia Blas’s work In her series: SOMETIMES YOUR EDGES ARE ROUGH AND I WRAP YOU IN RAINBOWS, THE TROUBLE WITH BEING A MAMA, and WHATEVER YOU LIKE. Her work revolves around the ideas of identity, the body, and personal relationships. Which is the visual language I picked up on with the majority of her work. I also am interested in creating visual language similarly to this. I enjoy throughout the bodies of her works she has the use of reflective surfaces that added another layer to her images. Also the relationship of the body in/on said surfaces I find is intentional in the ways they are positioned. I also find the use of natural light is very successful in her work. These are topics I am very interested in exploring as well as gaining inspiration from Blas’s work.
Matt Eich is a photographer who works on long term projects that relate to family and memory. His series I Love You, I’m Leaving is the series I find most compelling. Like Latoya I am interested in the ways he uses black and white photos to his advantage to essentially ‘puts plainly’ what the viewer needs to read while looking at his images. I find the use of accompanying text is successful as well and using it as a split composition. I do find that his images are more candid which makes me pay more attention to the attention to detail he put into creating his composition. I also wonder if he put thought into the composition at all or was just waiting for the divine moment. I would like to take away from this series by using black and white images to my advantage as well as having a fine balance between divine moments/ candidness and having control of the composition of the images.
During these times of the Covid-19 quarantine, I thought it would be a good time to go over some previous work that I did back in 2017-2018.
A lot of the work that I produced was either ceramic or mixed media. My concentration for a lot of my work revolved around my fascination with roses and using them as a metaphor for my experience with heartbreak as well as the loss of a loved one. Each individual rose goes through different stages in form and color that are symbolic of individual human life experiences. Each piece was a representation of the emotion I felt as I was experiencing heartbreak from a break up, mourning the loss of my uncle, and discovering more of who I am through these experiences and the creation of my work.
Recently I had the privilege to be able to write about the parallels and difficulties of being both an athlete and a Fine Art major in the DAAP program.
Beyond the stick and the goggles I use on the field, off the field I am a Fine Arts major in the DAAP program here at UC. So to say I wear many hats would be an understatement. However, being a UC athlete and an artist are by far the most important. I don't create two-dimensional art which is very similar to my outlook on life. I am neither just an athlete nor an artist, I am both. Though the world of sports and art have absolutely no connection to one another they are both vital to what makes me who I am.
Growing up I always wanted to do everything; I rode equestrian, played soccer, softball, basketball and of course lacrosse all the way up to high school when I decided to focus just on lacrosse. If you're not familiar with the sports dynamic down south, let me tell you, lacrosse was not popular when I first started playing. For girls, you either played soccer or basketball if cheerleading wasn't your thing. So being me I wanted to try a sport that no one really knew anything about (at the time) and I fell in love with the game. I loved the game so much that at the age of 13 I knew I wanted to play in college. So I started searching for a school that would allow me to merge my arts life along with my athletics. Thank God for UC.
Off the field, growing up my love for art started developing more. As a kid I always wanted to create art entering into the school art shows, taking part in the talented and gifted program, taking as many arts classes as possible, even becoming a yearbook Editor-in-chief (in the 8th grade lol). That developed into take AP art classes in high school which in turn led me to apply for the DAAP program here at UC. It still to this day was the best decision I have made....
In the 19th century, the shift from traditional academic art was beginning to immerge due largely in part of artists feeling suffocated and confined. Artist during this time were beginning to break free from the decorative and seemingly meaningless art displayed in institutions. Enter the avant-garde, artists wanted to push for a revolutionary approach to aesthetic and societal ideals of what art can truly be. The practice of art in this movement rapidly caught attention and eventually grew less controlled as each new style and technique came about, which not only shocked the public but enraged critics. In spite of the negative responses of the public and critics alike instead of turning away from these practices artists began to start desiring the shock and disgust of their viewers. It would be naïve to say that there was one singular artist that was the most important during this era. However, it is arguable that Marcel Duchamp was one of the most, if not the most, influential artists during this period. Especially his piece titled Fountain. Marcel Duchamp’s piece Fountain revolutionized the way art is not only made, but also challenges the idea of what can be considered art.
Being the first of its kind, The Fountain is both the most notorious Ready-made pieces and successful pieces that Duchamp created while also being extremely controversial. In terms of its visual composition The Fountain is a urinal placed on it‘s back. Being a mass produced American product signed with R. Mutt 1917 on it with the signature R. Mutt 1917. The signature as well as the decision to display the object on its back is the only original aspect from the artist himself. The possible intent of this was so that the viewer seeing the object not only out of context of its intended use, but also to be viewed from a different aspect in terms of its composition. It is interesting that not only did Duchamp coin the term Ready-made but he also chose perhaps the most undesirable of objects that are readily made in order to display it. In The Blind Man which was a publication at the time Duchamp’s piece was considered outrageous for two reasons being that,“1 Some contended it was immoral, vulgar. 2 Others, it was plagiarism, a plain piece of plumbing,” (Lippard). Aside from the object itself looking at the title of the piece instead of titling it urinal the idea that titling it Fountain alienates the object from what it truly is. Even the very signature that is on the object itself is challenging the object and perhaps the institution.The name R. Mutt when rearranged is the German word Mutter meaning mother. It is arguable that Duchamp was using a play on words when choosing to sign the piece R. Mutt because the urinals shape is very similar to that of a vagina. The concept and the ideas behind the piece became more important than the physical work itself challenging what art is and what the public deemed as tasteful.
Once again in The Blind Man publication Duchamp states “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view — created a new thought for that object,” (Lippard). In short the idea that it doesn’t matter who made the actual urinal itself what matters is the context in which the piece is understood. It is considered that the precondition of the avant-gardists intent is that art was dissociation from the praxis of life. So by Duchamp displaying a piece of plumbing as a work of art he is challenging what the middle class status of art. What is interesting is the idea that had the urinal not been in an art gallery space it wouldn’t have sparked as much outrage had it been in any other setting space. Duchamp’s idea that The Fountain needed the institution and all the work that coincides with the institution is what makes “it logically possible for the avant-garde to call art into question, and therefore the fountain (Burger). What makes The Fountain and the whole Avente Garde movement so successful is the fact that is completely rejects that is considered to be art by the institution. It is a complex relationship though. When The Fountain was entered into the 1917 show the gallery space rejected to even show the piece because of the piece itself. Though it was not displayed just by the audacity to even enter such a work of art to the institution it is a criticism of not only the artist to the institution but also the institution to the art. Through satirical humor Duchamp epitomized The Fountain as a rejection of the institution and used the conception of the idea to be superior. The aesthetics of art are called into question with Duchamp’s piece.
So what is the role of aesthetics of a work of art and how important is it especially The Fountain? In Peter Burger’s,The Theory of the Avant-Garde he states “Aestheticism turns out to have been the necessary precondition of the avant-gardists intent,” (Burger). Objects and just what is found in day to day activities can be deemed as a viable art piece. In this case, a urinal, can be considered a work of art based off of its aesthetics and the concept that drives the work. It is interesting that to displace a piece such as The Fountain from its “intended purpose or function, the avant-gardist manifestation is difficult to define. In the aestheticist work of art, the disjointure of the work and the praxis of life characteristic of the status of art in bourgeois society has become the work's essential content” (Burger). It is because of Duchamp’s piece that it is arguable that he is considered a Genius. Depending on who one might ask. Duchamp can be a Genius in the sense that he had a different way of thinking than that of anyone who came before him that helped paved the way for other artists and conceptual works all with a piece of Ready-made porcelain plumbing.
Thus Duchamp created this notion of who can be a critic, as artists create a movement based that rejects every art idea, aesthetic notion, object, and everything that Dada embodied. Duchamp created the idea that the avante garde movement rejected the rejection: so what and who is left to reject? According to Ferial Gbazoul in Edward Said and Critical Decolonization he writes “In bourgeois society art has a contradictory role: it projects the image of a better order and to that extent protests against the bad order that prevails,” (Gbazoul). During The Fountains time the institutional self criticism and the advancement of both literature and art in terms of thinking were making self criticism more critical. With this idea Duchamp and his Fountain mocks individual creativity by making claim over work that is mass produced. So therefor his signature is more important than the piece itself making it a manifestation. By signing a ready made object, The Fountain, Duchamp has adapted to the art market once the piece is excepted in that space. Perhaps this is why the art market splintered because even the critic (the institution/ salons) didn’t want the criticism of what The Fountain presented. The notion that the avante garde is meant to challenge the past only allows for it the evolve even past what Duchamp’s intent was with The Fountain. Ideas such as the Neo-Avante Garde weren’t necessarily meant to be the death of the Avente Garde but to evolve it past itself.
Why cant a piece of everyday plumbing be considered a work of art? The quick answer to this question is that it can be. Marcel Duchamp not only challenged individual creativity but also criticized and revolutionized what art is be creating the idea of conceptual art. The Fountain is the embodiment of what the art world needed in order to evolve into a new era and sparked new ways of thinking and creating. Duchamp paved the way for all artists to not be able to have a basis to argue that the signature on a ready made object can be considered a work of art.
Bürger, Peter, et al. Theory of the Avant-Garde. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Ghazoul, Ferial J., and Ferial Jabouri. Ghazoul. Edward Said and Critical Decolonization.
American University in Cairo Press, 2007.
Lippard, Lucy R. Dadas on Art: Tzara, Arp, Duchamp and Others. Dover Publications Inc., 2007.
As a Fine Art student in the Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning school at the University of Cincinnati in my second year I have found that building your brand is essential to the process of creating work. So that is why I have created this portfolio and blog to not only have a means to create an online presence of the work, but to also build my credibility by sharing my thoughts and findings as I continue my undergrad. This blog will consist of my views on exhibitions, announcements on new work, as well as a paper here and there.
If you are reading this... thank you for taking the time and please feel free to leave a comment on your own ideas!