Diversity and Inclusion in Western Art: The Works of Renee Cox, Mickalene Thomas, and Lalla Essaydi




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This thesis examines selected works of Renee Cox, Mickalene Thomas, and Lalla Essaydi, to highlight their subversion of Eurocentric work as a strategy toward reclaiming their identities. With the exception of a few instances, Western art has historically excluded Black men and women artists to focus on white male artists.[1] This resulted in works being fashioned from a white patriarchal perspective, sexualizing women of color and coining white women as sexual objects as well as the standard of beauty. Black women artists recognize and reject their exclusion from the art historical canon. The need to redefine their individuality that has been obstructed, excluded, falsely created, and superimposed comes from being portrayed through the white male perspective. As this thesis demonstrates, Cox, Thomas, and Essaydi address the exclusion of Black bodies by using visual cultural strategies including reversal, reframing, dislocation, and distortion to insert images and imaginations of themselves into the western canon. Through the analysis of the photographs of Renee Cox, the collages of Thomas, and the installations of Essaydi, this essay discusses the creative strategies that the three women artists have engendered around issues of race, sexuality, gender, and religious beliefs in the United States. The first chapter focuses on the work of Cox, the second on Thomas, and the third on Essayi. While Thomas was born in the United States, both Cox and Essaydi are immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa respectively. The essay therefore explores inclusiveness and diversity not only along the geographical borders, but also in terms of queer and heterosexual identities.


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