PRINT January 1992


Black Women Directors

THE INVISIBILITY OF black women has been much on my mind of late. Asked recently to speak on the topic “Can women artists take back the nude from a voyeuristic male gaze as a site to represent their own subjectivity?” I have to discard the premise: from mass culture to high culture, white women may have been objects of the fetishizing gaze, but black women have had only the blank stare. In fact we feel lucky when we get to take our clothes off. Manet’s Olympia, Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, and Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, 1973–78, are landmarks in our unseeing erasure by both the multicolored male and the white female. I believe in the mathematics of myth, which is why I’m always asking, How many black women in this anthology? in this exhibit? in this picture? What are they made to signify? Of the 39 places at Chicago’s dinner table, 35 are set with plates painted with vaginas that

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