Doreen Garner, Rack of Those Ravaged and Unconsenting, 2017 [from artforum.com]
Should art be beautiful, or should it simply evoke strong emotion in viewers? Doreen Garner’s work focuses on the horrible abuse black women went through; specifically, at the hands of Dr. J. Marion Sims. Sims was widely considered “the father of modern Gynaecology”, however, he performed brutal and often unnecessary surgeries on enslaved black women without the use of anesthesia (claiming “they didn’t feel pain as much”, so it wasn’t necessary). Garner attempts to recreate that trauma in an experienceable way, so others can see and feel it even though the events have long passed.
Doreen Garner, A Fifteen Year Old Girl Who Would Never Dance Again; A White Man in Pursuit of the Pedestal, 2017 [from pioneerworks.org]
Garner’s work rests in a strange place for me – somewhere between grotesque and beautiful. When I first saw the thumbnail for the video I watched [https://art21.org/watch/new-york-close-up/doreen-garner-sculpts-our-trauma/], I mostly clicked because it looked weird and gross. However, upon closer inspection, there is something very pretty about her works – she uses glass beads and pearls in place of fat and muscle, and I found once I noticed this that there was an odd beauty to them. I would love to see these works in person to spend more time with them – they are very physical, and I imagine images can never truly do them justice. Her works definitely portray the trauma she wants them to, but I think they are even more compelling because there is something visually appealing about them, despite how graphic they are – perhaps there is something to be said about how we think there. I am unfortunately sort of out of the art loop, but if she hasn’t received much recognition yet I hope she gets it soon – there is a lot to be learned from her art.