This series of manipulated digital images arose out my teaching a course entitled Art & Identity in New Orleans at Sweet Briar College. My students and I read and discussed works of literature such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, identifying the ways in which people of color exist only on the margins of these classic works. We then read Natashas Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia and poems by Brenda Marie Osbey, and we examined the distinct and original creative expression of New Orleans’ jazz and brass band musicians, Mardi Gras Indian tribes, and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.
These “Portraits" began with archival photos of early 20th century mug shots taken in New Orleans, my hometown, and include echoes of Bellocq’s portraits of the prostitutes in Storyville. My aim was to capture something of the interplay between art and identity.