Tawny Chatmon Shifts The Paradigm Surrounding Black Beauty with Painted Photographs

tawny chatmon the redemption series

The Redemption series by artist and photographer Tawny Chatmon is an ongoing collection of lavishly decorated photographs that celebrate the often negatively portrayed hair and style akin to black culture. By combining her stunning portraits of black women and men with the ornate golds and decorative elements inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, she draws attention to the existing and ridiculous paradigm that infers black hairstyles and accessories are “unacceptable” or discriminated against in schools worldwide.

Tawny Chatmon The Redemption Series

Tawny Chatmon The Redemption Series

I’m so drawn to the quiet beauty and implied strength in these portraits. From the subjects’ sullen gaze to the adept application of painted elements, these pieces are both aesthetically captivating and socially compelling.

Tawny describes the series in her own words below:
Is there redemptive power in visual arts? Do artists have the ability to control and shift the narrative through their work? These are questions that inform my creative process while creating this ongoing body of work; I believe both to be true. In the same way that literature continues to be a tool for shaping the human psyche, I believe visual arts carry the same ability.

tawny chatmon the redemption

In the United States and abroad, the hair types and styles that are distinctively akin to Black people and culture continue to be policed and labeled as unkempt, unruly, unattractive, and unprofessional. While we proudly celebrate and adorn these styles with beads, barrettes and other accessories within our cultural norms, they continue to be labeled unacceptable. In schools worldwide, there are rules set in place deeming cornrows, barber designs, hair beads, afros, locs, and protective styles that use hair extensions as “violations of the dress code”. “Violations” that are punishable by ridicule, suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities and expulsion. Still, today, black women and men are faced with similar discrimination in the workplace.

With this series, it is my intention to celebrate and reinforce the beauty of black hair, features, life, and culture. These portraits are meant to act as a counter-narrative and redemptive measure to uplift and elevate black hair, tradition and culture freeing us from negative stereotypes. An intent, not to be confused with seeking validation, but rather an unyielding affirmation of Black beauty. – Tawny Chatmon

The painted dresses and clothing are directly inspired by the beautiful and vastly beloved works of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, during his Golden Phase. This is intentional and I wanted the connection to be made immediately. Visually, Klimt’s use of gold and decorative elements brought about strong feelings of grace, magnificence and beauty within me upon my first discovery of his work and have remained in my subconscious mind ever since. Likewise, these are the emotions I am looking to evoke within the viewer of The Redemption.

Tawny Chatmon

all images and information courtesy of the artist Tawny Chatmon

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