Leo and Diane Dillon were one of the greatest illustration teams in the history of Fantasy Art. Books that have used their illustrations for cover or inside art include an edition of the Narnia books, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, Her Stories and The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton, The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin, Aida by Leontyne Price, The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese by Howard A. Norman, and many, many more.
These paintings represent a modern study in dichotomy and perception from a historical context using portraiture as the interpretive engine.
I often use the image of the black woman in unaccustomed/atypical context; derived to create a visual tension between historical fact, misinformation and myth. The viewer is lured into the possible narrative of the depicted figure by her beauty, strength and grace; however immediately enters an intellectual menagerie where they are confounded by the disconnected visual clues. Is she slave or slaveholder? Is she captive or free, is she servant or served? Is she factual or fictional in a historical context? All of these questions and more provide basis for the individual viewers journey of allegorical interpretation.
The images are imbued with cultural and ethnic symbolism that provides insight into the historical context of the painting. Yet, the icons, combined with my personal visual vocabulary, may remain unseen or misread by the “unknowing” eye; the eye that never learned the historic bases for all the possibilities in the lives of these women. In a society that often make instant cultural judgements based on visual cues that are often stereotypical, but not always, I feel offering ethnic imagery that defies common visual library of the modern citizen may challenge each individuals biases and foregone conclusions of their own notions of what race represents in history and therefore in humanity.
The images beg the question: Is “Truth” self-evident? Who’s “Truth”? How does knowledge, experience and perception of one’s “self” determine what is evident? If the view of oneself is skewed is it possible to see another clearly?
I think a lot of fans of Epic or High Fantasy tend to have a series that’s “their” series…the one the ends up setting the bar for the rest of their fandom adventures. For me, it was always Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I read the first book, The Eye of the World, sometime in 1991 and that was pretty much it for me.
Although it has plenty of flaws, it stands apart from a lot of medieval fantasy settings in that it’s a loosely medieval-ish world, not an endless Europe that goes on and on for thousands of miles. There are very specific nations and cultures at work in the main setting continent (as well as the “other” continent), and there are also in-universe races and cultures associated with nations, with aspects of various historical world fashions, social mores, myths, and even bric-a-brac chosen from a world setting, rather than creating a dichotomy of red-haired white people versus blonde-haired white people and other common fantasy tropes.
Although many of the characters can be read ambiguously in regard to appearance, Gallagher’s character designs are among my favorites, and generally faithful to the text descriptions.
The series explores a reoccurring gilt-bronze, “Moorish” aesthetic invention oft evidenced in European Medieval and Renaissance art. The arena in which this aesthetic is played in the series removes the ever-present narrative of servitude and alienation (persistent in European depictions) to expand upon how “Black and Gold” as a palette can create a variety of narratives. The storytelling throughout “Of Another Kind” highlights how removing markers in portrayals (based solely on utility) can transform the very notion of what an aesthetic can become.
Los Angeles native and New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley has firmly situated himself within art history’s portrait painting tradition. As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists—including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, and others—Wiley engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic, and sublime in his representation of urban black and brown men found throughout the world.
By applying the visual vocabulary and conventions of glorification, wealth, prestige, and history to subject matter drawn from the urban fabric, Wiley makes his subjects and their stylistic references juxtaposed inversions of each other, forcing ambiguity and provocative perplexity to pervade his imagery. Wiley’s larger-than-life figures disturb and interrupt tropes of portrait painting, often blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation and the critical portrayal of masculinity and physicality as it pertains to the view of black and brown young men.