Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Hand-signed in paint on the front in the bottom right corner. Certificate of Authenticity available with purchase. Varnished with satin varnish, sides painted for modern display.
“Josephine” is a tribute to Josephine Beall Willson Bruce, a woman’s rights activist and wife of Blanche Kelso Bruce -a Mississippi senator elected in 1875 & the first African-American senator to serve a full term. Josephine caught shade from women on both sides of the color line for not fitting into a black or white box, and one reporter described her as appearing like an “ordinary brunette” and said “it requires much more than usual attention to notice she has any African blood in her veins” but that “close scrutiny will reveal her peculiar lips and hair.” She could have passed for white and enjoyed white privileged but chose not to, and she was shunned by wives of other politicians in DC. I painted her portrait in blue due to the sadness of feeling rejection from both sides and included a motif of black and white boxes to symbolize how people tried to code and decipher her. The black box over her eyes puts the emphasis on her hair and lips, which the reporter referred to as racializing features. Whenever someone is racialized as black or white, their personhood is reduced to stereotypes and people obsess on “what” they are more than “who” they are. For more about her story and to reference the quotes by the reporter, read “A Chosen Exile” by Allyson Hobbs.