I enjoyed Renee Cox’s work, talk, and interview a lot. In her talk, she gave an overview of several bodies of work that spanned many years. She presented the work chronologically and it was great to be able to see how her work changed and evolved. This format also allowed me to notice similarities and through lines throughout her work. Cox herself was the subject of most of her pictures, and often she posed nude. She spoke about the power in nudity that she feels, and how it is her most direct self. I felt incredibly empowered seeing Cox’s work. I was still hurting and reeling from the election results and I appreciated seeing and listening about images of a powerful woman.
Cox also spoke about the power and responsibility she has as an artist to change and create new narrative. When people told her that her career was over because she was pregnant while in the Whitney visiting artist program, she made her pregnancy the subject of her work. She did not see any black super heroes, so she created her own, Rajé. Rajé was a giant and Cox depicted her doing things like protecting the sphinx in Egypt and grabbing a taxi in New York city. Her most controversial work was “Yo Mama’s Last Supper”, which reimagined the last supper where everyone except Judas was played by a person of color. Cox herself posed nude as Jesus. The religious right took great offense to this piece, but Cox was surprised by the controversy. I loved how she viewed the work. She asked what was so wrong about reimagining a famous scene with people that looked more like her. White men such as Da Vinci had been doing the same for centuries. I find it interesting and sad that so many people felt like it was a huge act of subversion and insult to ask people to reimagine a world where a woman of color was trying to do what white men had been doing for years. Even though my work does not address the same issues as Cox’s, I came away from her talk inspired and empowered to value my voice as an artist.