Visual artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle analyzes erasure of the black female body
On the first day of a class trip to Spain, interdisciplinary visual artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and a friend got lost in the red-light district of Madrid.
“I was constantly assumed to be a prostitute because I looked the way that I looked,” Hinkle recalls. The experience was jarring.
“Men were [exposing themselves] in front of me. One man pulled out a sword and threatened our whole group.”
Though traumatic, the experience added a layer of depth to Hinkle’s the Uninvited series, exhibited at Art Basel Miami last December.
The series, which has been in the work since 2008, includes photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that interrogate the exotification and perception of the Black female body by French colonialists. Hinkle, 29 , reconstructs and re-imagines the women through vivid drawings and unique placements on the canvas — in a sense restoring their loss of power.
“I was collecting these photographs that were expressions of colonial power in West Africa that were trafficked all throughout Europe to spread these ideologies that African women arc hypersexualized [and] here for you to do whatever you want with them. [It’s the] same as how Black women are treated in America today,” Hinkle says.
The artist’s work investigates race, sexuality and history using historical objects in visual and performance art constructs. In The Uninvited Series, the Kentucky-bred Los Angeles resident uses colors and microscopic images to metaphorically represent the virus-host relationship, and to also explore the French occupation and the Black female body.
In her upcoming work The Evanesced, debuting March 1 at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, Hinkle calls attention to Black women who go missing as a result of sex trafficking and domestic abuse. Her archival photographs and drawings capture a sense of joy and trauma.
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