Miroslava Duma came under fire Monday for publishing an image on her website, Buro 24/7, that depicted Garage magazine’s editor in chief Dasha Zhukova perched atop a chair/sculpture fashioned in the form of a contorted black woman in bondage wear. Let’s read that again: a conservatively dressed white woman, sitting at ease with a nearly naked black woman pinned beneath her.
This, on a holiday dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
It seems that Duma’s team has gotten the hint — and by hint, we mean dozens and dozens of angry tweets — and Buro 24/7 has cropped the image so that only the chair/woman’s stiletto boots are visible, thus masking the race of the mannequin. Not that the likeness of any woman on her back and sandwiched between someone else’s butt and the floor is a good thing.
Duma also released a written apology to her Instagram followers:
“The chair in the photo should only be seen as a piece of art which was created by British Pop-Artist Allen Jones, and not as any form of racial discrimination,” Duma writes.
Jones created a series of women-as-object sculptures in the late ’60s. A set of three fiberglass women — all white, one as a table, one as a chair and one standing — are priced at over $3 million. According to the Christie’s listing, the hyper-sexualized pieces are meant to point out “the inequalities in everyday life, education, unemployment.”
But context is everything with art like this. The artist’s exaggeration of female subservience may be a powerful tool in drawing attention to that problem — so long as the viewer understands Jones’ intention and doesn’t take the art as a green light to objectify women.
Similarly, when it comes to the Buro 24/7 image, context is key. The original photo shows a very white Zhukova perched atop the “art,” wearing cropped jeans with a conservative, high-collared white jacket. The goal of the styling, one would assume, was to create contrast. And with her bare feet hovering above a plushy throw rug and hair swept up in a casual bun, perhaps the aim of the photo was to show how comfortable Zhukova is in the world of aggressive, highly sexualized art. How it’s just a part of her everyday scenery.
Kind of like everyday racism?
As numerous bloggers have pointed out, the portrait of Zhukova captures a sense of absurd normalcy in the (literal) domination of the black female form, as well as the ongoing fascination with and objectification of black women’s bodies by white women. Cropping the image is kind of just putting a Band-Aid over the problem — or perhaps censoring it enough so that it doesn’t look like a problem.
What do you think? Is Duma’s apology too little too late?