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Image of Kings and Queens

Kings and Queens

34 x 50 in. (86.36 x 127 cm)

Genevieve Gaignard (Orange, Massachusetts, 1981 - ) Primary

Object Type: Photograph
Medium and Support: Chromogenic print
Credit Line: Museum purchase with funds contributed by the Council of 100
Accession Number: 2018.05.02

SJMA Label Text

Genevieve Gaignard probes the uncertainty of self-representation. With dramatized femininity, wigs, makeup, and exacting fashions, she uses her own body to explore race, class, gender, and their intersections through photographic self-portraits. Gaignard’s personas evoke the kitschy aesthetic of John Waters and staged photography of Cindy Sherman. However, her various archetypes of women are autobiographical, serving as a platform for questions about femininity and her biracial identity. Gaignard grew up in a small mill town in Massachusetts. The daughter of a white mother and a black father, her experience was marked by “not feeling adequate or accepted as either.” She frequently references Diane Arbus as a source of inspiration because she identified with the marginalized characters Arbus photographed. Gaignard’s self-portraits are imprecise and campy. She plays with stereotypes to interrogate ideas of passing and the complexities of identity.

In Kings and Queens (2017), Gaignard leans against a signpost before a wall of partial paintings of historical powerful black men, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Marcus Garvey, and King Tut. Wearing braids, hoop earrings, and a sweatshirt with images of black women that reads “Queens,” the artist situates herself within a particular narrative about blackness. She calls attention to the identity performance ritualized through social media—particularly among women—in the aptly titled self-portrait Selfie (2016). In sunglasses and a bathing suit, the artist photographs herself against a palm tree-lined California horizon—her image is doubled on the screen of her phone. Slipping between multiple characters that embody, but do not individually define the artist, Gaignard questions cultural assumptions based on aesthetic choices and makes visible her own intersectional identity.

Our whole, unruly selves, November 19, 2021 - June 25, 2022, North, South and Central Skylight Galleries, San José Museum of Art.

South East North West: New Works from the Collection
, October 30, 2020 - October 3, 2021, New Wing, Second Floor, North, South and Central Skylight Galleries, San José Museum of Art.

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