Identity, Gender, Race: Erica Deeman's "Brown"
San Francisco-based artist Erica Deeman addresses social constructs of identity, gender and race through the lens of portraiture.
Deeman's series Brown is comprised of a series of 26 x 26 inch archival pigment photographs of men from the African diaspora. Deeman found her subjects by approaching strangers she met through chance encounters and asking friends and acquaintances to sit for portraits in her living room. Deeman placed her models in front of a backdrop matching her own skin color as a way to personally connect to the individual and collective identity of men from the African diaspora.
Brown references the 18th century pseudo-science of Physiognomy (from the Gk. physis meaning “nature” and gnomon meaning “judge” or “interpreter”) suggesting that facial features could be used to understand a person’s character. Together with traditions of classical portraiture, the mug shot, and Physiognomy, Deeman engages the viewer to re-examine the basis of their inherent reading of a face, and ultimately, the being. Deeman’s deeply intimate portraits challenge traditional ideas of beauty, honor and truth by presenting diverse visages that reveal her subject’s personality and stature through her raw and elegant imagery.
Deeman is a recipient of the 2016 TOSA Finalist Award, the 2015 ProArts 2x2 Solos Emerging Artist Finalist Award, and the 2015 Working Artist Grant. Selected public collections include Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; and Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, CA..