Dan Solange – African Diva by Margaret Rose Vendryes, 2019, 30 x 12 x 2.5 inches, Oil and Cold Wax on Canvas, wood mask and synthetic hair
Margaret Rose Vendryes presents images of Black celebrities reunited with their African ancestry via iconic African masks in her African Diva Project. Underway since 2005, the images, selected from commercial photographs, convey a wide range of messages from the gender fluidity of Billy Porter to the classic sophistication of Leontyne Price to the Afrofuturism of funk pioneer Betty Davis. Each African Diva wears an African mask with pride acknowledging a powerful and prestigious legacy that reveals cultural continuity and retention in the visual arts. The Project re-presents the artistry of costume designers, the specialized eye of commercial photographers, and the consummate craftsmanship of African carvers who contributed to memorable visual presentations of Black talent, style, and attitude.
Margaret Rose Vendryes was a black, queer, radical artist historian with an active studio practice in Southeast Queens, New York City. Born in Jamaica, WI and primarily raised in New York City, she completed her BA at Amherst College, MA in art history at Tulane University, and PhD at Princeton University. Vendryes was the author of the New Negro artist monograph Barthé, A Life in Sculpture. She has had solo exhibitions of her African Diva Project, a union of African aesthetics with popular Black music and visual culture, in Boston, NYC, and Mississippi as well as several group shows over the last two decades. Vendryes was currently Professor of Art History and Director of the Fine Arts Gallery at York College, City University of New York.