Élan Cadiz, She Got It From Her Mama, 2016, Mixed media collage, 53 x 43 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Élan Cadiz created this pendant or brooch-shaped collage with fragments of beauty advertisements published from the 1930s through the 1980s. By placing a portrait of her grandmother, Dorothy C. Scruggs at the center of the composition, she makes her not only the focus of the work, but also the target of the condescending ads for the “beauty” products that surround her—ads that used lines such as “Nobody loves a dark, muddy skin,” and “Women crave lightness.” Cadiz states, “This was her reality, and like the burning sizzle of a hot comb, her self-love was seared out of her with every thick, wavy strand made straight. So much so that five decades later, when ads read ‘Beauty comes in many colors,’ generations of Black women like Ms. Dorothy were still worried about good hair and dark skin.”
This season’s Stair-gazing was selected by Guest Curator, Henone Kassaye Girma.