The Front Lines
For Deborah Roberts, otherness has been at the center of her consciousness since the beginning of her artistic career. Roberts early ideals of race and beauty were shaped by and linked through paintings of renaissance artists and photographs in fashion magazines. Those images were mythical, heroic, beautiful, and powerful and embodied a particular status that was not afforded equally to anyone she knew. Those images influenced the way Roberts viewed herself and other African Americans, which led her to investigate the way our identities have been imagined and shaped by societal interpretations of beauty. Her process combines found and manipulated images with hand-drawn and painted details to create hybrid figures. Having one’s identity dismantled, marginalized and regulated to non-human status demands action. This has resulted in Roberts developing an artistic practice that critically engages image-making in art history and pop-culture and ultimately grapple with whatever power and authority these images have over the male and female African American figures.
For All That I AM ll Roberts created The Front Lines, which is a piece that speaks to the importance of early childhood development. Roberts believes that education during the early stages of childhood builds the foundation and sets the direction of a child’s life and dreams. This is where the battle for the next generation and the soul of Black boys begins.
All That I AM is an edition series organized by curator Larry Ossei-Mensah in collaboration with Art and Culture Projects that explores the complexities of cultural identity through the lens of contemporary art. The second installment of this series features three dynamic female artists Firelei Baez, Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Deborah Roberts, all of whom skillfully utilize figuration as a tool as to explore the complicated layers that encompass the African American and Afro-Caribbean experience and identity. As a result of their rigorous studio practices, Baez, Richmond-Edwards, and Roberts portray their subjects with surgical care as they unapologetically engage the viewer’s gaze with regal self-assurance.
Using techniques that incorporate painting, collage, mixed media in addition to other materials, Baez, Richmond-Edwards, and Roberts construct transformative narratives replete with a web of cultural, social, political, and art historical references that celebrate marginalized individuals who history has mistreated, exploited, or grossly overlooked. These three artists create colorful works with bravado that beguile and invite the viewer to confront the plethora of issues, ideas, and concerns manifested through their work as they embark on a quest to rewrite the constructs that shape our culture, society, and identity today.
The first edition of All That I AM featured Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Phoebe Boswell, and Kameelah Janan Rasheed.