Fahamu Pecou and Marcia Jones were the first artists to be in residence in a new collaboration between the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and McColl Center for Visual Art. The residency program, established in 2010, supports artists of color who are inspired by African-American culture; committed to artistic investigation; and are interested in community engagement. Pecou and Jones create works that are social critiques on black masculinity and imposed feminine ideals, respectively.
Fahamu Pecou states that his work "can be viewed as meditations on contemporary popular culture." Pecou appears in his paintings as the primary and allegorical figure, rather than the autobiographical one. His character depicts both realities and fantasies connected to and imposed upon black men. Having matured during the peak of Hip Hop music, Pecou uses these familiar references to raise questions about the stereotypes that fuel fame, drive consumerism and perpetuate celebrity worship. He strikes a collective nerve in the viewer by referencing art history, current events, and cultural icons twisted with satire and peppered with humor. The result is a sobering revelation; one that exposes inequities motivated by racial ignorance.
The work exhibited by Marcia Jones is from the series The Displaced Oshun Theory. Oshun is a deity in the Yoruba religion who reigns over love, sex, beauty and wealth. Mother, Sister, and Lover, Oshun is often depicted heavily adorned in jewelry, peacock feathers and yellow garments. According to Jones, "the primary goal of The Displaced Oshun Theory is to examine the purposeful patriarchal division of The Divine Mother (Mary the Virgin) and The Sacred Whore (Mary Magdalene)."
From a contemporary standpoint, this division can be seen manifested in the various depictions of African-American women in the media - specifically music videos - which is still a male dominated industry. By fusing recognizable religious images and symbols with depictions of disembodied women, Jones exposes the repeated contradictions that contribute to the ongoing damage to the feminine psyche.