Toyin Odutola creates intricate, pain-stakingly detailed pen-and-ink illustrations that reduces her subjects to their very essence--all thew and sinew. She's wrestling with the idea of what it means to be The Other and from that process comes the moving, haunting images seen here. I haven't had such a visceral reaction to artwork in quite some time. You can see more of her work at her website. Her artist statement below is also well worth the read for more context.
(SOURCE: Toyin Odutola's website) As a Nigerian-American and a Black woman, I am involved in two very distinct and diverse cultures which together create a personal and cultural dissonance in me. Though the experiences expressed from a Black, American woman are not at all singular and have been dialogued by a multi-platform assortment of artists in the Art World, varying degrees of said experiences and representation socially, economically, politically, even spiritually tend to be lumped together under a singular definition. I do not have a problem with this interpretation, I choose to investigate it. The hyphenated identity is my reality, yet I find I identify more conceptually with the fundamentality of Blackness. Thus, I do figurative portraits which explore the dynamics of being both engaged and disengaged with definitions of skin as an all-encompassing and singular entity.
My work deals with interaction; employing "contrast" as a distinguishing method, I explore that interaction--hence the inclusion of Whiteness as motif into the dialogue of my work. Subjectively, the Otherness of Black is my representation of "Inclusiveness," while the common Inclusiveness of White is my inverted "Otherness." Essentially, the relationship between "Otherness and Inclusiveness" manifests in Black being the positive mark imprinted into the neutral space of the foreign White picture plane. The overall effect is meant to be stark, minimal, and streamlined: the Black figure as the molded silhouette punctuating the White which seems to engulf it. With mainly rudimentary tools, such as pen-ink, I seek to reflect the rudimentary tools used socially in formulating representations of one's identity. Creating meticulously detailed hatch marks, I aim to portray the most visceral debasement of tonal Blackness. Indenting these marks into the White surface, I explore Blackness as skin akin to landscapes and/or plates -- each component comprising the Black figure and molding its presence.
Though the White surface/space is left alone (emptied), its ground varies from wood panel to paper/board. Regardless of the ground, the effect is to render, or engrave, the Black mark-making prominently, to leave an impression on the surface, forcing the viewer to focus solely on the flesh and interpret the intricacies which make up the figure. Primarily, my aim is to investigate what comprises skin, what I divulge is tonal gradations of individual moments in Blackness and Whiteness, of Otherness and Inclusiveness. In sum, the hyphenated reality manifests in Black and White interjecting while existing in conjunction, to reflect internalized representations of selfhood.
Currently, I mean to investigate a more engaging and all-encompassing interpretation of the hyphenated identity of all Americans, besides my own subjective Black experience. (source)
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