They say that art imitates life. If that’s true, here’s proof that art can be just as weird as real life. Nate Hill, a performance artist in Harlem NYC, has created a controversial set of images he calls ‘Trophy Scarves’ . In itself that doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s the kicker: Mr. Hill uses scantily clad women-in some cases nude white women as his ‘scarves’. This is bad enough to have many feminists no doubt screaming misogyny and exploitation of women, but some may view it as a form of racism; Nat Hill is of African-American heritage.
On the website trophyscarves.com he says simply: ” I wear white women for status and power.” That’s quite a controversial statement, and while as an artist I respect his creative impulse, I’m not sure I would have expressed myself in quite that way.
And while I’m sure that a black man saying that he ‘wears white women for status’ is as controversial a statement as it is an image, isn’t that the true purpose of art? To provoke us, to get us to think outside the scope of our own narrow vision? But before too many detractors begin to cry foul, just know that this type of thing has been promoted, propagated, and promulgated by the media for decades. Much of this began with the so-called blaxploitation (black + exploitation = blaxploitation) genre, which began in the 1960’s and ’70’s.
Consider this poster for the French blaxploitation film, My Baby is Black, from 1961.
As an artist, one of the first things you learn is the most successful color combinations in design. It’s not surprising that simple, good ol’ black and white tops the list. Throw in the extra titillation of the taboo topic of black male with a white female, and voila! You have one of your very first blaxploitation films! As I mentioned before, one of the purposes of art is to shock you from old ways of thinking about things and considering different possibilities. I mean, it says right on the movie poster that its intent is to shock you. Meanwhile, in the U.S., one of my favorite sci-fi shows has just upped the ante. In 1968 Star Trek boldly went where no one had gone before.
Moving on to 1969, we get films like 100 Rifles, which feature Jim Brown and Raquel Welch as the heroes of this drama. It isn’t a blaxploitation film really, but clearly Hollywood has found that this particular color combo can be successful for them as well.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, the blaxploitation genre is still going strong today. Consider more modern films like Undercover Brother, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Action Jackson, Black Dynamite, and The Last Dragon. And of course you can’t forget Samuel L. Jackson in Black Snake Moan. Some may not consider this movie to fit with this grouping. But just look at Samuel L. here. I couldn’t resist.
Moving on from film, this interesting color combo is often presented in advertising. Just check out these photos of supermodel Gisele Bundchen and her accompanying male counterparts. For the life of me, I can’t remember what they’re advertising.
And then, there was this somewhat controversial Vogue cover, featuring Gisele and Lebron James, which was seen as being somewhat culturally insensitive, for lack of a better phrase.
Of course, this combination runs the other direction too, with a white male and black female. Observe:
And finally, there is a real-life example that chose, despite the hardships they had to face, to see how that particular color combination could enrich their lives. There’s probably never been a more appropriately named couple than the Lovings.