Wanda D. Ewing

Region: West

Beauty and all the arguments for what it is and isn't will always be debated. My contribution to this dialogue is the series of paintings "Black As Pitch, Hot As Hell". I hoped to create a dialogue addressing the politics of body image, beauty standards, and sexuality.

Each figure was painted on a 4' square sheet of plywood panel. I carved the grain away, creating a tension between the flatly painted figure and the low-relief surface. The square format references a box. Compositionally, I derived the paintings' poses from the illustrations of pin-up artists from the 50's. I then altered each figure, making thighs and backsides fuller, changing their outfits, hairdos, made their lips fuller, noses broader and made their skin black. Each woman has been made to conform to the box she exists in. Although none of them are standing upright, they effortlessly contort and occupy the space. They all have expressions of ease, seduction and playfulness. They are as comfortable in their compartment as they are in their own skin. These images don't offer up solutions, but asks questions:

"Is this imagery empowering or degrading to women?"
"Is this a feminist statement?"
"Is it a black statement?"
"Is it important to know the race, gender and sexual orientation of the artist who painted them?"
"Are they sexy or pornographic?"
"Can they be seen as beautiful?
"What is beauty?"