Being/Becoming: The Act of Portraiture
[Presentation & Publication: Exhibition]
WPA’s Project Space
Being/Becoming: The Act of Portraiture was a group exhibition exploring the self. The project features newly commissioned work by five Black women and gender non-conforming artists, Holly Bass, Renee Cox, Muse Dodd, Dominique Duroseau, and Marcelline Mandeng Nken, presented as performance-based, embodied self-portraits.
Artist-curator Yacine Tilala Fall began with the questions: What is visual emancipation? What does it look like? How do we radicalize Black visual language? She then invited the participating artists to respond by using portraiture as an action, a movement, and a physical experience to explore these questions and their own presence. Through their work, they consider how intentional action may transgress limitations of concepts and disciplines. Their portraits are not fixed. They live, breathe, and transform—as we are all constantly becoming.
Fall describes Being/Becoming: The Act of Portraiture as an exercise of decentralization, embodied self recognition and collective wandering, “born out of a need and a dream for conceptual space away from the container of the white gaze. The dream is simple: to break this container and allow Black artists to actively be and become.”
About the Participating Artists
Holly Bass (she/her) is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer, and director. Her visual artwork includes photography, installation, video, and performance. Bass has received numerous grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and was a 2019 Red Bull Detroit artist-in-residence and a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow. She is a 2020–22 Live Feed resident artist at New York Live Arts. Her video work and performance piece, American Woman, was selected for inclusion in the 2022 Outwin Triennial at the National Portrait Gallery.
Renee Cox (she/her) makes photographs, collages, and installations that invoke a critical vision of female sexuality, beauty, power, and heroism through nudity, religious imagery, and symbolism that inform her interdisciplinary process. She is most noted for her larger than life photographs of female bodies that reexamine the Black female figure in the context of structures of power. Cox’s work is a celebration of the spectrum of the Black female body. Her work challenges how women are seen respective to time, place, and the intangible spaces between representation and reality. Her work has been shown at Tate Liverpool, The New Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others.
Muse Dodd (they/them) is an anti-disciplinary artist, curator, and DJ. Their work centers on the questions: how do you remember and what do you choose to forget? Through the act of remembering, Muse uses their body to map the lived experience of Africans in America. Muse channels trauma to connect with, process, and alchemize pain; both personal and collective through movement, ritual, and collective dreaming. Through their work, Muse hopes to create space for Black people to be free, if only for a frame. Their work has been presented at The Shed, Lincoln Center, The BWI Marshall Airport, Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center, The DC Arts Center, and Flux Factory.
Dominique Duroseau (she/her) is a Newark-based artist, born in Chicago, and raised in Haiti. Duroseau’s interdisciplinary practice explores themes of racism, socio-cultural issues, and existential dehumanization. Her exhibitions, performances, and screenings have been presented at: PULSE Play, The Kitchen, Sculpture Center, El Museo del Barrio, A.I.R. Gallery, BronxArtSpace, Rush Arts Gallery, Smack Mellon, and The Newark Museum.
Marcelline Mandeng Nken (she/her) uses performance, sculpture, video, and sound production to build and deconstruct mythologies drawing from early childhood experiences spent in her grandmother’s garden, kitchen, and powder room. Her installations employ surrealist strategies of layering abstractions and figurative representations to relate themes of beauty, personal transformation, healing rituals, and the construction of female subjectivity. Each performance becomes a rehearsal for the next as ephemeral moments are recontextualized for the continuation of a living archive. She’s exhibited works and performances at The Kitchen, MoMA PS1, and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
About the Artist-Organizer
Yacine Tilala Fall (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist based in DC. Inspired by her Senegalese and Mauritanian heritage, her work and practice speak to the human body and its entangled relationship with labor, history, and faith. Using natural materials, she investigates concepts of heritage, ritual, and function through performance, sculpture, painting and installation. Fall received a BFA from the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in 2019 and is a current MFA candidate at Yale School of Art.