Affinities And Affiliations: Black Pacific Art In Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1948-2008
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AFFINITIES AND AFFILIATIONS: BLACK PACIFIC ART IN THE UNITED STATES AND AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND, 1948-2008 BERNIDA ANNE WEBB-BINDER, Ph. D. Cornell University May 2016 This dissertation employs four case studies of pioneering women and artists-Juanita Hall, Jewel Castro, Faith Ringgold, and Lonnie Hutchinson-in the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand to theorize what I call Black Pacific art. The women, as subjects or as artists, share affinities in their portrayal of the black or brown female identity. To elucidate their mutual concerns, I analyze selected examples of visual art in the context of both African American and Pacific notions of diaspora, indigeneity, the body, and genealogy. I propose that the phenomenon of Black Pacific art is not a new one and that examples of its visual culture are embedded in a web of identity that is not imposed upon but chosen by the female subject. I provide a theoretical counterpart to Paul Gilroy's black Atlantic by utilizing the female body of color as the starting point in this critical intervention in African American and Pacific art history. This art history dissertation looks to Oceania for nuanced visual representations of blackness rather than to the usual contexts of North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. The dissertation outlines how the Black Pacific is a space that fosters collaborations between people of many backgrounds and describes how its art reflects what I call connections and community. The Introduction builds the historical and theoretical context of Black Pacific art. Chapter One surveys blackness from an Oceania perspective and highlights similarities and differences with other perspectives on blackness. Chapter Two concentrates on the musical South Pacific to illuminate how the African American actress Juanita Hall's black identity is erased against the backdrop of official Cold War strategies in Asia and Oceania. Chapter Three compares the intent, content, and process of Samoan American artist Jewel Castro and African American artist Faith Ringgold to outline how Castro's notions of Samoanness are prompted by Ringgold's representations of blackness. Chapter Four analyzes the signature black cut-outs and the Black Pearl video installations created by Lonnie Hutchinson (Samoan, Maori), to determine how blackness is understood and visually represented in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The conclusion projects the future of Black Pacific art.
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