Art of the Silhouette: Dominique Moody in The Notion of Family at CAAM
through March 3, 2019
California African American Museum, Los Angeles
Written by Genie Davis
The warm and beautiful The Notion of Family exhibition at CAAM on view through March 3rd features Dominique Moody’s stunning silhouettes which are as much a part of the collective human consciousness as they are specific. In her work “A Family Treasure Found,” she uses almost life-size silhouettes of her siblings to present her family story. In doing so, she creates a series of images that are universal in nature. In January, Moody’s work was the inspiration for a workshop that allowed participants of all ages to create their own silhouette art.
Moody’s work is graceful and elliptical, a continuation of over forty-years of work that is above all else, a joyous tribute to the human spirit. The artist was the sixth of nine children in a military family that moved frequently, both abroad and in the states. All these moves inspired Moody to create a rich series of works that recreate place and perspective, and makes her uniquely qualified to tackle the topic of family. She relates that her sense of groundedness, both in her life, and her art, is based on an idea she learned early, that “home resided within them, no matter where they were.”
Moody has long been involved in portraiture and narrative works, but due to macular degeneration which began in her late 20s, she has moved from detailed illustrative work to less traditional forms to create these stories. She has used silhouettes, collage, and assemblage to shape images that focus on family, home, and dreams.
Among her many projects, Moody created a small mobile dwelling titled NOMAD46 which pays tribute to her 46-some moves and allows her to potentially continue a nomadic life. Three years in creation, the dwelling was positioned outside CAAM in 2015, an assemblage artwork that serves as both a mobile dwelling and art, reflecting an aesthetic of “social sculpture,” according to the artist. Moody also notes that “It’s creation was inspired by my personal and family story through a cultural legacy.” She describes it as both intimate and epic; that broad yet personal scope is hugely present in her silhouette work as well.
In The Notion of Family exhibition of which Moody’s work is an intrinsic part, selections from the museum’s permanent collection have been richly curated by CAAM’s own Vida L. Brown, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager.
The show features art created between the 19th and 21st centuries, focusing on the bond of the African American family across the generations. Along with Moody’s wonderfully evocative silhouettes, viewers can take in vibrant works such as Faith Ringgold’s serigraph on paper, “The Sunflower Quilting Bee.” With a bright and cheerful palette, her work evokes that of a quilt itself. Ringgold has even illustrated the children’s book Tar Beach, based on a large-scale quilt she created by the same name. Her beautiful colors and visual story-telling across all mediums, is a family tapestry of positive images and joy. The story told by Kadir Nelson’s oil on linen painting “Stickballers” creates a poignant image of boys at play from a past time, but the recently-created, highly-detailed work allows viewers only the illusion that it is from the past – rather it explores the idea of heritage and the disarming, open-minded friendships of youth forming their own sort of family, as being transcendent through time. Mother and child are the focus of Jacob Lawrence’s stunning “The Birth of Toussaint.” The exhibition also includes sepia-toned photographs, paintings, and of course, Moody’s mixed media sculptural works.
The grace of Moody’s silhouettes, and the way in which they preserve and continue her family’s legacy is deeply moving. These silhouettes could belong to any of us, to any family, but they are also uniquely hers, retained deeper than external vision, in the viewing space of the heart and soul.
California African American Museum
600 State Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037