Chelle Barbour

Sur·re·al·ism. noun. “A 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.”

While surrealism was a cultural movement began in the early 1920s, it was re-contextualized in the 1970s by the late, Amiri Baraka who coined the term, Afro-Surrealism, raising the notion that the experience of being black in America was surreal, and built on the survival of oppression beyond one’s imagination. Using Afro-Surrealism as a prompt, the collage work in this series elevates the imaginary of black women, by eradicating unfair media representations. My process includes carefully researching objects, materials and examining thousands of images. My work also includes references to Afro-Futurism and the Asian and African Diaspora with a twist of fantasy, avant-gardism, and minimalism. You will identify architectural elements, objects and structures, weapons, knives, organic forms, animal and reptile skins, vehicles, and human body parts taken from photographs, publications, and found objects that form representational themes and metaphors.

The general idea about surrealist art is that there is no rhyme, reason, or logic. It is elusive often challenging the viewer to unpack divergent images on paper. My objective is to juxtapose and integrate disparate images so they fit evenly or symbolically together. The end result often depicts black women who are confident and regal; whose assuredness envelops you, the viewer. The females featured in my work represent the complete archetype of a black woman—unapologetically colorful, in possession of inner strength, and beyond objectification. These women epitomize feminine/feminist queens, warriors, heroines and non-gendered binary interlocutors who embody ageless beauty and grace. While black women are typically devalued and perceived in the social-cultural imaginary as a threat, what You Is Pretty! Surrealism in the Black Imaginary attempts to elevate and portray is their vulnerability, strength, resistance, and power.