In the Media Arts Room, the gallery presents a video work by German-born Ghanaian artist Yvonne Osei. This is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery.
Yvonne Osei most recent work, entitled Africa Clothe Me Bare, is an ongoing series of performances, characterized by redefining outdoor nude female sculptures in Western countries. The art is birthed not through a product but through the process of dressing and undressing nude female monuments often erected to commemorate buildings, decorate architectural façades and become mere extensions of water fountains and museum fronts. The series explores ideas of nudity and nakedness both literally and metaphorically as old monuments of “nude” female sculptures are seen anew as “naked” female bodies. The work exposes an inherent exploitation of female bodies as objects of possession, while the act of clothing and unclothing transforms their status from mere objects of viewing pleasure to subjects of a heightened humanness. The cloths present residues of colonialism as they are plagiarized, mass-produced products, purchased in Western fabric shops and problematically labeled as African affiliated in order to gain global market value. These labels generated through Western lenses perpetuate stereotypes while generalizing and bastardizing a wide range of African cultural norms and traditions. Africa Clothe Me Bare also reverses expectations of the relationship between the parental colonial power and the infantilized colonial subject, as the Ghanaian artist publicly cloths Western sculptures in various African clothing styles. The performances reveal evidential and temporal indications of issues associated with colonialism and gender inequality still prevalent in our hypocritically “post-colonial” and “equal world”.
Yvonne Osei was born in Germany and describes herself as an outsider artist making insider art. She lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri.