The series is entitled, Ugly Queen, to speak on the exotification of mixed-race peoples, when in harsh reality words are used to discredit how one chooses to identify with all aspects of their family. In a society steeped in the unresolved residue of slavery, superficial Beauty is the mixed-race woman’s (only) calling card. It reduces your talents and intelligence to an otherwordly beauty, feigning access while subjecting you to an over-sexualized plantation fantasy that incurs lasciviousness, jealousy and sometimes wrath. Adorning each image are handwritten words and phrases that have been said to her by stranger, by family and friends, throughout her life.

In her Ugly Queen series, she returns to her first experience in printmaking. As a teenager attending Saturday Art Classes at the Carnegie Museum, she learned the art of linoleum cutting. This series began with a self portrait sketch she drew with a ballpoint pen in one of her many sketchbooks. She was 21. Rediscovering this sketch at the age of 51, it dawned on her that it was communicating a tough perseverance through all odds and abuses. A strength that would take her many years to realize even existed. Like the lines carved on her face, it felt natural to use linoleum cutting as the medium. She chose canvas paper to symbolize “sand paper skin” and instead of ink, used acrylic paint. Ink would have been too fluid; paint was more akin to the notion of “dirt on our soul”. The main background colors of red and green represent life, one of blood and the other of leaves.

 

Living in between the middle, where your decision to not pass or not present is purely a decision to accept the complexity of your family. It is the bond of family that gives you the strength to not allow in and reject coded and uncoded words used in an effort to reduce and sublimate you to a system of oppression, where hues and shades determine your access to privilege and power, to social cultural families, to a twisted belonging.  For she would rather be an “Ugly Queen” than be beautiful by radicalized standards. Photos by photographer, Deborah Hoskings

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