Kerry James Marshall was raised during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and his art frequently speaks to issues of social justice. Marshall’s work seeks to center black bodies as the ideal artistic subject, as opposed to the traditional centering of the white European body. By featuring a black body, without white presence, the image puts the figure and his/her blackness in focus and in control.
Untitled (Bride of Frankenstein) offers a similar commentary on the invisible norm of whiteness while offering a black female body as subject and agent. In Bride of Frankenstein, Marshall draws a parallel between the non-normative monster and the manner in which black females are denigrated and vilified for the natural traits of their phenotype (their hair, skin color, and curves). By having the entire etching cast in shades of black and gray, the white gaze no longer distorts the black female. Instead of vilified, she is proudly black–hair prominently out, hands defiantly on her bared and curvaceous hips, and gaze direct and challenging. The interaction of shades of darkness requires close examination to recognize the beauty of the black female, while also highlighting the way this beauty is obscured and devalued by white normative society.
–Reshma Harripersad ’19
From the exhibition: When and Where I Enter (October 20, 2018 – January 6, 2019)