North America

Tschabalala Self

Youth by Tschabalala Self is a nude portrait of a black woman on a vivid hot pink background. The composition is made of various materials, including fabric, acrylic paint, and digitally printed linen to create a textured and layered image. Self’s work focuses primarily on the representation of Black bodies, particularly Black women, with the aim to challenge stereotypes and celebrate individuality. In the image, the figure leans back while extending her hand towards the foreground and obscuring her breasts, as if to create a barrier, or layer of protection between the subject and the viewer gazing at her. The graphic stylistic quality of the image, with its bold black shadows in stark contrast underscores this narrative element of the portrait. This work is both a portrait of a woman in power, putting forward her identity, and the representation of a complex character, full of fear and a defensive attitude.

Tschabalala Self builds a singular style from the syncretic use of both painting and printmaking to explore ideas about the black female body. The artist constructs exaggerated depictions of female bodies using a combination of sewn, printed, and painted materials, traversing different artistic and craft traditions. The exaggerated biological characteristics of her figures reflect Self’s own experiences and cultural attitudes toward race and gender.