First of all, these paintings are absolutely beautiful. Can you talk about your process for conceptualizing "Double Consciousness"?
Thank you! Yes, this series was first started in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and continued throughout the duration and verdict of the ensuing Darren Wilson trial. In grieving these recent events, I have returned again and again to a quote from Susan Sontag: “it's intolerable to have one’s own sufferings twinned with anybody else’s.” Cognizant of this, I have looked within, to explore the psychological impact of systemic racial discrimination and the inheritance of internalized violence passed down through the generations of my family. One of the most striking aspects of these paintings is the colors—soft in many places, but still eye-catching. What did you intend to accomplish with these?
My use of color is to establish mood and create a hyper-real sense of light. The subjects in each painting are occupants of a psychological rather than a physical space, so my intent is that the figures being represented elicit reality without being bound to conventional signifiers of race or gender.
There seems to be a certain intimacy between the subjects of the paintings coupled with a general air of sadness. Can you dwell on that for a moment?
Themes of doubling found in these paintings stem from my own experiences of feeling both a part of and apart from the society in which I live, a society where prejudices against me and the ones I love continues to be institutionally validated and justified. There is a strange sort of intimacy that accompanies violence—be it physical or emotional—and I am interested in exploring that dynamic in my work.
Almost all of the pieces have small windows in them. What was your intention for including this world outside of the subjects of the paintings?
The windows are a reminder that our internal sense of self exists in relation to an external world. Within each piece I include a focal point of light (a window, a candle, etc) to refocus the eye away from the figures. I am interested in the optical effect this has of re-doubling the doubled figures and creating a hierarchy of what is visible.
Christina Quarles was born in Chicago, IL in 1985 and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited nationally and abroad, most recently in Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin and are a part of the Drawing Center Viewing Program. Her awards include two Getty Multicultural Grants, the Arturo Schomburg Scholarship and the Simmons Scholarship. Currently, she lives in New Haven, CT with her wife and two cats, in pursuit of her MFA in Painting & Printmaking at the Yale School of Art.