“Giving back the gaze”: exploring complex and multifarious self-representations in the work of Myra Greene and Renée Cox

Jones-Berney, Jessica K. (2010) “Giving back the gaze”: exploring complex and multifarious self-representations in the work of Myra Greene and Renée Cox. MRes thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In this thesis I explore photographic attempts by African American women artists to produce experimental and diverse self-representations of the black female body. It considers the works of two black women photographers, Myra Greene and Renée Cox, and their contribution to a new visual language that focuses on abstractions and multifarious depictions of the black female body to explore the ever shifting identity of African Americans.

The first chapter focuses on photographer Myra Greene and how she embraces abstraction, ambiguity and obfuscation as a form of intellectual and aesthetic empowerment. The artist deliberately complicates readings of her body in order to decentre the black body and shift it out from under the intense scrutiny of the ethnographic gaze. The second chapter examines the work of Renée Cox. It is an interdisciplinary analysis of the artist’s multifarious and multilayered self-representations to reflect the impossibility of defining the black female experience as one monolithic construct. By engaging with ideas of recontextulisation, reappropriation and inversion, both photographers are self-aware rather than complicit in the perpetuation of the black woman’s body in exhibition. They deliberately embrace notions of hybridity and ambiguity to defy single interpretation and contest ways in which the black female body continues to be read through representation of the past.

This thesis considers the importance of positioning these women in a larger artistic movement of African American women artists who explore similar systems of observing and defining the black female body. In very different ways, Cox and Greene both challenge derogatory cultural and historical representations. I will explore their artistic efforts to reinstate and appropriate self-representations in a black female creative paradigm, for purposes of individual and communal empowerment.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (MRes)
Supervisors: Monteith, S.J.
Bernier, C.
Subjects: T Technology > TR Photography
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
Item ID: 11676
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2011 09:42
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2017 11:51
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11676

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