AT WORK WITH: Deborah ROBERTS.

  • Words Sala Elise Patterson
  • Photos Sadie Culberson

THE ARTIST ON PIECING BLACKNESS BACK TOGETHER.

Issue 52

, Features

,
  • Words Sala Elise Patterson
  • Photos Sadie Culberson

( 1 ) The Points of Light award was established by former President George H. W. Bush in 1989 to recognize American volunteers making an impact in their community. Roberts received her award for her work with young artists.

( 2 ) There is a particular significance to challenging beauty standards through art. For centuries, Western art has reflected and defined the conventional ideas around beauty, most notably in the depiction of classical figures like Venus. While preference for some factors like body shape has changed over time, one constant has been the whiteness of the figure.

Deborah Roberts talks quickly. Words come rapid-fire, keeping pace with a mind primed by keen observations and deep feelings. The 61-year-old artist doesn’t seem to be agnostic about anything, least of all questions of race and beauty in America. As an African American woman, she knows intimately how racist constructs of beauty play out in a country that “dismantles, marginalizes and regulates” Black people. At times, the experience consumes her: “It’s hard to get the anger and hurt out of your body.” 

( 1 ) The Points of Light award was established by former President George H. W. Bush in 1989 to recognize American volunteers making an impact in their community. Roberts received her award for her work with young artists.

( 2 ) There is a particular significance to challenging beauty standards through art. For centuries, Western art has reflected and defined the conventional ideas around beauty, most notably in the depiction of classical figures like Venus. While preference for some factors like body shape has changed over time, one constant has been the whiteness of the figure.

ISSUE 52

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