By Peg Lourie
Oct 14, 2011
In conjunction with her new course, History of Art 286 “Art and Empire in Antiquity,” History of Art Professor and Kelsey Curator Margaret Cool Root has designed a temporary exhibition titled “Dominated and Demeaned: Representations of the Other.” The show places images illustrating ancient Egyptian tropes of the enemy Other in dialogue with a display of household artifacts produced for White America in the early to mid-20th century.
These 20th-century artifacts, now called “Black Collectibles,” legitimized demeaning characterizations of African-Americans. Some of them evoke nostalgia for the house slave cooking and serving meals on the old plantation. Others depict African-Americans as carefree smiling or lazy boys eating watermelon or fishing. Some have layers of sexual innuendo. Many use disembodied human forms to convey the impotence of the subject. Some express through visual cues the idea of the Black man as perpetual child or subhuman. By juxtaposing these recent items with ancient images, the installation suggests varying ways in which image saturation and the deployment of images of Otherness on objects of “daily life” may operate.
The show opens October 21 in the first-floor elevator alcove of the Kelsey Museum’s Upjohn Exhibit Wing.
This project was made possible through the generosity of Professor Kenneth W. Goings, a scholar of African-American history at Ohio State University who lent the artifacts on display from his personal collection. All the objects are discussed in Professor Goings’ 1994 book, Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black Collectibles and American Stereotyping.