How does the work of Gordon Parks and Robin Coste Lewis expand the conversation around identity?
1. Choose a topic that has been discussed in class (see below), then choose two artists/Key Figures (see below) whose artwork explores this topic.
a. Topics: (Choose one)
i) identity, power, freedom, or resistance
b. Artists/Key Figures: (Choose two)
i) Gordon Parks, Robin Coste Lewis, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Toni Morrison, Carrie Mae Weems, Prince, Oscar Micheaux, Paul Robeson, Jacob Lawrence, Frederick Douglass, Kara Walker, James Brown, or Madam CJ Walker.
*CLARIFICATION: You may choose other Black artists who are not mentioned above, but ONLY from our course materials.
2. Answer the Guiding Question (below)
a. 2-4 quotes from any source from class that relates to the artists/key figures you chose
i. Paraphrase/Explain the quotes in your own words.
a) CITE YOUR SOURCES (Include the title of the source), EVEN IF YOU ARE SUMMARIZING THE IDEAS
i) Include the title of the article/video and the timestamp, if applicable
Step 2 Guiding Question:
Question 1: How do these two artists expand the conversation around the topic? (See list of artists and topics in Step 1 above.)
a. Example: How does the work of Gordon Parks and Robin Coste Lewis expand the conversation around identity?
b. Example: How does the art of Kara Walker and James Brown expand the conversation around power?
a. CONSIDER: What trends, themes, and forms of imagination are found in their artwork?
b. CONSIDER: What ideas is their art challenging and supporting?
c. CONSIDER: How are histories of struggle, justice, solidarity, cultural and creative practice, identity development, and/or liberation relevant to their artwork, identities, and social structures? How are the conversations around these histories expanded, challenged, supported, reflected, expressed, or explored through their art?
Robin Coste Lewis is a poet and scholar who also explores issues of identity, race, and gender in her work. Lewis’s poetry draws on her personal experiences as a Black woman, as well as the histories and legacies of slavery, colonization, and racism. She uses language to unpack the complexities of identity and to challenge cultural assumptions and prejudices.
Together, Parks and Lewis expand the conversation around identity by shining a light on the diversity and complexity of human experience. They show that identity is not fixed or singular, but rather a complex and evolving process
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Kara Walker and James Brown are two artists who have used their respective mediums to explore the complex and often fraught issues surrounding power and its relationship to race, gender, and history.
Kara Walker is a contemporary artist known for her large-scale, silhouette-style cutouts that explore the legacy of slavery and its ongoing impact on American culture and society. Her work often depicts scenes of violence, degradation, and sexual exploitation, using the stark contrast of black and white to highlight the stark power dynamics at play.
Walker’s art expands the conversation around power by forcing viewers to confront the uncomfortable truths about the history of racism and oppression in the United States. Her work challenges the dominant narratives that have long obscured the violence and brutality of slavery and its aftermath, and highlights the ongoing legacy of that violence in the present day.
James Brown, on the other hand, was a legendary musician known for his electrifying performances and his role in shaping the sound of funk and soul music. Brown’s music was infused with a powerful sense of rhythm and energy, and he used his platform to address issues of social justice and empowerment.
Brown’s music expanded the conversation around power by giving voice to the struggles and aspirations of black people in the United States. His songs celebrated black culture and identity, and he used his music to demand equality and respect for black people in a society that often denied them both.
Together, the art of Kara Walker and James Brown highlights the ways in which power is shaped by race, gender, and history, and demonstrates the power of art to challenge and transform our understanding of these complex issues. Their work encourages us to confront the uncomfortable truths about power and its relationship to oppression, and to imagine a more just and equitable future.