100 WHITE DRESSES
Nothing is as enchanting as your wedding day. At least this is what they assure you page after page in every bridal magazine, on billboards, internet sites, and other mass media locations pimping matrimonial harmony. Bliss is unavoidable if you have the right dress, shoes, bridesmaids’ dresses and gifts, invitations, décor, color scheme, flowers, venue, DJ, photographer, videographer, caterer, and the list goes on. You do not even need to be tying the knot with the right man or woman; as long as you have an open bar and some wedding insurance, your “big day” will be one to remember. This is absolutely our consumer reality, however, most critically thinking individuals and anyone who has been to a wedding in the last 10 years understands this pastel and watercolor portrait of happiness becomes more complicated once you close your bridal magazine or pull off that white dress.
The watercolor series, “100 White Dresses,” subtly confronts one of the most visible realities within the narratives of lifelong partnership, the white wedding. As a scholar/artist, I am constantly seeking out creative ways to bring into critical dialogue various environments, social norms, as well as notions of equality, citizenship, and American identity formations. I argue that art can be used to grapple with the answers status-quo society gives us to our most profound questions, including our most unsettling thoughts around wedding culture.
Within this large series of 120 plus 4.5 by 3in mini-collages, I renegotiate my own value as a bride within a fake or perverse representation of an originary ad context. Harnessing notions of marital bliss mass marketed within the guise of consumer culture, I construct my own wedded reality, albeit a fake reality, by cutting, pasting and painting over an original advertising narrative. This original advertising narrative is one from which my black/biracial body is predominantly excluded, or purported to visual niches of the perpetual bridesmaid, party go-er or service member. As a black woman using mass produced images, phrases, and symbols extracted from bridal magazines and catalogues, my wedding actuality, marital bliss, and dreams for a healthy, if not normative relational reality is inherently fake; as fake as my own imagined likeness parading around in 100 White Dresses.
This piece seeks to probe the boundaries of originality. Context, marital imagery, and ideology are swiped and appropriated in a way that creates another visual presence. This visual presence is one that still comes attached to the culture of selling life-long bliss, but is now in conversation with an alternative ‘real.’ This ‘real’ is concerned with my own visual positioning within the master narrative of who can make an acceptable bride, and ultimately, who can don 100+ white dresses throughout the entirety of a popular bridal magazine?
In this collection, I attempt to disrupt and draw attention to the master narrative of marketed happiness through wedding culture. This work seeks to interrogate how this master narrative functions and collides around advertising and the politics of representation and invisibility. The fact that within this popular publication only one or two black women were presented wearing a wedding dress out of hundreds of ads and images is telling. Using mixed media, I assert my own visual presence, using the problem of black womanhood within the visual field to draw attention to the veneer of white wedding culture.
Several images within this watercolor series can be viewed below. More of this series will be available for viewing on my website which is forthcoming.
Medium: Photo-paint collage on watercolor paper. 4.5x3in mixed media magazine and paint arrangements.