Genevieve Gaignard: Identity Politics, Identity Creation
I’ve been following Genevieve Gaignard’s artwork ever since I encountered one of her “mise-en-abîme” environments at SPRING/BREAK Art Show in 2016. So, as you can imagine I was thrilled when The Flag Art Foundation announced Gaignard’s first New York solo exhibition at their space, featuring new work created during a 2018 trip to Miami.
Gaignard continually focuses on ideas around race, gender, identity, and femininity by confronting these constructs through a personal and fictional lens. She accomplishes this by pulling from her own family history of growing up biracial, the captivating characters she conceives in her photographs, “mise-en-abîme” environments, and mixed-media pieces that playfully address those concepts.
In Counter Fit, 2018, she taunts the idea of the ideal ‘beach body’ by exposing its roots in capitalism and consumer culture. Gaignard stands on a beach with arms outstretched using the $100 Dollar Bill beach towel. She stands coolly with platinum blond hair in a beach cover-up that speaks loudly, it shows off a thin white female body clad in stars and stripes.
One of her collages, a diptych titled Red, White & You, 2018, juxtaposes two worlds set against a vintage wallpaper pattern of a house with a white picket fence. The left panel depicts white Americana and even includes iconic characters from The Wizard of Oz, like Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. At the bottom right of this panel, the collaged words read, 'We Don't See Color'. The opposite panel depicts an 18th century style portrait of a black male in an elegant gold oval frame. Below it, is an early 20th century photograph of a black family engulfed in large red roses with the words 'REBELS, RUNAWAYS, AND HEROES' below their feet.
In her “mise-en-abîme” environments she creates imaginary worlds that exist out of time, with cultural references from the past and present. Don’t Wish Me Well, 2018, references a 1970s aesthetic with strong political undertones reminiscent of the Black Panthers, with nostalgic ephemera of black panthers and felines sprinkled throughout this fictional living room. Examining the coffee table you find evidence that someone was possibly here before you. A ceramic black panther ashtray is filled to the brim with stubbed out Virginia Slims cigarettes with red lipstick prints on the filters.
It’s these types of subtle personal touches in all the mediums she works in, that makes Gaignard's insights and cultural observations so incredibly magnetic. And with that resonation, Gaignard's work contemplate their own understanding of the world and identity.
Genevieve Gaignard: Counterfeit Currency is on view through August 17th, 2018 at The Flag Art Foundation.