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Creole Portraits II: "A Collection of Singular & Scarce Creole Portrait Heads to perpetuate the Memory of the WOMEN of EGYPT ESTATE in JAMAICA"

Pointing to omissions in the history of colonial representation, Creole Portraits II (2007), commissioned for the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art, plays on strategies associated with eighteenth-century European portraiture in order to open up a space in which the traces of a disordered past can be reconstituted from a postcolonial feminist perspective.  In this large contemporary wall installation (9’ x 15’), the women of a particular colonial sugar estate are commemorated through a series of framed “portrait heads” and text panels that replicate an eighteenth- century “gallery” of prints while speaking to the submerged and painful history of plantation slavery. Each delicately engraved stone lithograph is individually named for one of the women who lived on Egypt Estate in Jamaica in the 1700s. Building on the earlier Creole Portraits suite of lithographs (2002-03), in which (imagined) subjects are similarly inverted, each portrait illustrates tools of torture used during slavery entwined within intricately braided hair. Iron collars, bridles, shackles, and a 'man-trap' appear as horrific decorations within the elegant hairstyles. Simultaneously attractive and repugnant, these ambiguous portrait heads allude to the performance of identity that was central to eighteenth-century portraiture.

Subverting Colonial Portraiture: A Contemporary Memorial to the Women of Egypt Estate by Joscelyn Gardner, in Small Axe, A Journal of Criticism, Issue 26 (Indiana UP, NY, 2008)

Joscelyn Gardner talks about the Creole Portraits II suite of lithographs at the Brooklyn Museum (2007). Listen HERE: 

Please click on images for image details.

In the Collections of The National Art Gallery of Barbados and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico.

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