"Becoming Monumental: The Contemporary State of Black Female Subjectivity"
What are the methods used by an artist to achieve symbolic freedom from the dominant narratives of trauma embedded in the historical archive? Through a close examination of Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus, Simone Leigh’s Brick House, and Wangechi Mutu’s The NewOnes, will free Us, I examine the construction and sustained strength of the European and American historical archive. The aim of this paper is to use the monumentally scaled sculpted works to interrogate the entanglements of capitalism, the art object, historical narratives, and the unique impact they have on the construction of Black female identity. A critical lens of Walter Benjamin and Toni Morrison will serve as examples of engagement with history and identity, ultimately lending support to my argument that the contemporary Black female artist is perpetually connected to the archive and the inflicted trauma. Additionally, there is a consideration of the bifurcated approach of Saidiya Hartman and Fred Moten on the methods of how historical trauma should be depicted. My examination will ultimately draw attention to the lines of flight that exist between the 20th century Black female literary canon, art production of the same period, and the present 21st century moment.