Monday, November 23, 2009

Adrian Piper - Self Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features

Adrian Piper’s piece entitled Self Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid features is a drawing which was done in 1981. This piece was perhaps a self portrait of the way she saw herself, as opposed to the way she appeared physically as alluded to by the title. In this drawing the image presented is that of an African American woman, perhaps one that would not be mistaken for a white woman as Piper had experienced.

According the article found at, “Her direct gaze in this drawing seems emblematic of how her art confronts you.” This seems to be the case in the work of Piper which almost forces individuals to come to terms with the rules and norms of the society in which we live, as opposed to their own, perhaps, distorted views. This is evident in the work of Ellis Cose entitled "Color Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World." One may wonder if this concept of racial, or color, blindness is even a reality, or if it is a term coined by sociologists to glamorize the idea of equality as opposed to dealing with the notion that using terms like this in itself is a way of ignoring what is, and trying to paint a picture of what ought to be. One could say that to ignore race would create a whole other problem, while the best approach is to realize there are different races, yet, they should still have equal treatment. Adrian Piper’s work personifies this in the fact that she views herself as an African American woman, while others view her as a white woman and, at times, treat her differently when they think she’s white as opposed to how they would if she were black.

Interestingly enough, Piper did a follow up of this work in 1995 entitled Self Portrait as a Nice White Lady in which she presented herself with a red background behind the image using colored crayons, as opposed to the pencil sketch of her 1981 work. She displayed both pieces at an exhibit. Ironically, in her 1995 work she also included a thought balloon using African American lingo which read “Whut choo lookin at, mofo.” This cross referencing of cultures is a perfect example of her philosophical influence. Although these pieces contrast each other, they are also very complimentary.

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