fall ‘22 critique

On Dec 1, we had our last group critique of the graduate program. Whoa.

I installed 3 pieces in the grad gallery: the dress, the face, and the banana skirt. These works are currently untitled, so my labels for them are purely for the sake of making sense for this blog. Both the dress and the face had been shown in a critique or workshop setting, but this was the first time the banana skirt had been exhibited as a finished piece for my peers, professors, and our guest, curator Elliott Ramsey.

The layout in the grad gallery.

This final critique felt like a great way to show my most recent work, combining both an element of past exploration (painted paper cutouts) and new experimentation with fabric. Though my newer work might allude to ”soft sculpture,” I prefer to call them garments as I situate my practice/research more in conversation with costume and fashion.

The banana skirt was crafted in the same conceptual vein as the dress, reinterpreting a costume worn by Josephine Baker and recontextualizing its cultural and historical meanings. The original banana skirt had several variations for her electrifying dance performances, sometimes fabric or plastic but always glistening in the spotlight, so for my version I decided to play up their silliness with stuffed, cushy phallic shapes. Not quite bananas or dildos, the organic forms could depict any assortment of ”exotic” fruits, vegetables, roots, or tentacles. My intention with keeping the shapes ambiguous is to point to the racial and sexual ambiguity in Josephine’s performance, somewhere outside of fetishization and sexual liberation. Each is hand sewn with 3 different fabrics and stoned with discount rhinestones that were labeled “tarnished”. The center ring, something between a belt and hula hoop, uses a thick wire and polyester stuffing to connect the 16 bananas. The banana skirt rests on a hand sewn fancy pillow, made of magenta fun fur, emerald green tassels, and a blue button in the middle. The entire piece sags on a short plinth, elevating the humorously DIY display of opulence.

For the dress, I made a small plush hanger to display the garment. The magenta fabric is the same as the pillow, connecting these two faux fancy display objects. I included a baby pink velvet bow to decorate the ultra feminine hanger.

The face reinterprets the flat, graphic quality of my paper doll series by pushing the caricature aesthetic. This piece references 1920s cartoons, advertisement styles, and exaggerates Josephine the public figure into a weird, comedic image. Her eyes stare at the dress with jeweled eyes and a toothless, bright white smile. She is part Kit Kat clock, part promotional illustration, part racist caricature, but constantly shifting and ambiguous.

I’m very happy with the feedback from this final critique and I look forward to revisiting all my work from this program in the spring semester.

Fall 2022 explorations

I’m currently experimenting with fabric and clothing as a way to think through my research + practice. This started with an exaggerated gown that is both too tiny and long for the human (femme) body. The design references a dress Josephine Baker wore in one of her many stage performances, in which she wore a blonde wig, lightened her makeup, and sang “Si j’etais blanche!” I came across some press photos of her promoting the number in my research of the historical figure and was immediately struck by the horrifying and sad nature of the images. The dress in these photos served as a signifier for the contradicting ways Josephine manipulated her racial identity for French audiences in the 1920s and gives a telling glimpse of her inner turmoils as a fetishized Black performer thrust onto the world stage.

My work installed in a grad gallery. The length of the garment stretches just above 8 feet.
Closeups of the garment.
Promotional photos of Josephine. These images served as references for the bust and straps of the garment.

Another current work is a large acrylic painted image on paper. Using the same materials as the paper dolls, this giant face plays with the history of caricature, exaggeration, and retro style to create a larger than life image of Josephine. I looked at cartoons and advertising illustrations from the 1920s for inspiration.

The two pieces together in my studio space.

State of Practice exhibtion

I had the pleasure of designing the poster for the State of Practice MFA exhibition. The concept was to illustrate a selection of plants native to British Columbia that bloom during the summer, which speaks to the growth and exploration exemplified in each grad student’s practice from the summer semester.


During summer 2022, I painted this paper doll series and exhibited the work for the State of Practice MFA exhibition. My research turned to Josephine Baker, a complex historical figure who performed fractured identities. As she became an international glamazon in 1920s Paris, she constantly negotiated empowerment and fetishization by leaning into racist stereotypes via exaggerated costume and performance. This series of acrylic painted paper cutouts plays on my prior paper doll series (Mary Pickford & Anita Bryant) while tackling a more complicated figure that resonates with queer Black history.

The series was installed on one long wall in the Michael O’brien Exhibition Commons on Emily Carr’s campus.
Closeup of Josephine in her iconic banana skirt.
Closeup of beauty products sold by Josephine or from the 1920s-30s. Lucky Brown was a prominent Black beauty brand from this time period in the United States. Josephine’s products were only sold to the French public and included bronzer oil and hair gel.
Dolls of Mary Pickford and Josephine Baker. Both figures had several dolls designed and sold in their likenesses, and can often be found now on memorabilia auction websites.

reading list

The following are books/essays/articles I am currently reading/have read for my graduate research:

  • Can I Live? Contemporary Black Satire and the State of Postmodern Double Consciousness, Lisa Guerrero (2016) Studies in American Humor
  • The True History of the Ku Klux Klan: Defining the Klan Through Film, Tom Rice (2008) Journal of American Studies
  • Can One Get Out? The Aesthetics of Afro-Pessimism, Ryan Poll (2018) The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association
  • Inventing Whiteness: Cosmetics, Race, and Women in Early Modern England, Kimberly Poitevin (2011) Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
  • Teaching Satirical Literacy and Social Responsibility through Race Comedy, Jessie LaFrance Dunbar (2017) MELUS
  • The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860, Barbara Welter (1966) American Quarterly
  • Women in the 1920s’ Ku Klux Klan Movement, Kathleen M. Blee (1991) Feminist Studies
  • Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy, Elizabeth Gillespie McRae (2017)
  • Women, Race and Class, Angela Davis (1981)
  • The Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation, Nicholas Sammond (2015)
  • Antiabortion, Antifeminism, and the Rise of the New Right, Rosalind Pollack Petchesky (1981) Feminist Studies

studio explorations – oct 2021

a selfie with two paper doll props. the bible belongs to Anita Bryant and the Oscar belongs to Mary Pickford.

the hand of Anita Bryant’s doll caressing Mary Pickford’s signature smile.

playing with the intersection of paper dolls and drag. i’m trying on one of Anita’s wigs, this one coming from one of her infamous Florida Orange Juice commercials.

Anita’s americana look, referencing a photo taken from her beauty queen days.

Anita and Mary both represent the ideal white American woman from their respective time periods. Anita, a born again Christian whose fame started with Miss Oklahoma and sang to the troops with Bob Hope, became a symbol of the New (Religious) Right in the 1970s by crusading against LGBTQ+ rights. Mary was one of Hollywood’s first starlets of the silent movie era who pivoted to directing and producing with the threat of talkie technology. She remained a symbol of pure American white womanhood by starring as ingenues, strong-willed little girls (well into her 20s) and rustic women of the frontier. In her 1919 film, Heart O’ the Hills, Mary plays a Kentucky country girl fighting for her land against developers, in which she dresses in a Klan robe with her white brethren to terrorize the outsiders. Her association with D.W. Griffith & public praise for Birth of a Nation are incredibly alarming as she is still widely recognized as a pioneer of women’s roles in entertainment and the gendered history of filmmaking.

Through this exploration of paper dolls and the aesthetics of 1950s-70s American pop culture, I want to connect the political unrest and rise of the Religious Right to prominent white women figures throughout American history.