For some reason Venus’s provocative tennis outfit at the French Open got me thinking about Sofia Maldonado’s mural on 42nd Street and the uproar it created over whether it was a bold expression of art and culture or a simple promotion of stereotypical images of Black and Latina women. Why and when does art’s imitation of life become so problematic? High art or a low down dirty shame? Clearly it’s not just girls in the hood dressing like this as Venus’ reveal of her very taut booty has proved.
I argued on Facebook that because Sofia’s mural was in Times Square people were probably more offended by the images just because of who could view them (i.e. tourists and people who do not live in the hood). If this mural were in Harlem would people have been petitioning? Would it have been a major story on Fox News? I doubt it. The thing is I have no problem with the mural. I think it’s wonderful that Sofia chose to depict women who rarely figure into major artwork showcased in a midtown plaza, at The Whitney or otherwise.
Ironically though, I do have a problem with Venus’s very slightly camouflaged brown hinny being out on the red clay. At first when I posted the pics on theHotness Facebook page I was cool with it, but that was before I saw the flesh colored Spanx and felt like I was being mooned. I don’t know why I am torn like this, but I am. Maybe it’s because I think the bootleg Moulin Rouge get-up is ugly and I prefer to watch the Williams sisters serve aces and not as$. I don’t think it’s risque of Venus, but think it is lacking taste and class. Ugh, I said it! I hate that I can’t applaud her entirely for her effort like I can Sofia and other visual artists like Kara Walker who does happen to get play in The Whitney and whose work is crazy provocative and yes, even considered stereotypical.
A few years ago her exhibit, “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” opened with a huge mural of a little pickanniny slave girl giving a Huckleberry Finn-type a blow job. Lawd, folks woulda just died if that was on 42nd Street or maybe not? Although Kara gets the same flack for promoting stereotypical, and even pornographic images of Black folk, they seem to be immediately excused because Kara is creating high-art. As a matter of fact Kara gets lauded for her stereotypes, err depictions of slave life.
So maybe then that’s what Venus is trying to do through her use of black lace lin-ga-ree and flesh colored biking shorts. Maybe she is creating high art through low fashion? Or maybe, as I really suspect, Venus is just suffering from sister envy and was trying to get some of the hype Serena got when she wore this. What do you think?