Read: With Costumes and Camp, Genevieve Gaignard Is Telling New Stories about Race and Beauty

Kings and Queens

Genevieve Gaignard, Kings and Queens, 2017. Copyright Genevieve Gaignard and courtesy of Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.

Genevieve Gaignard turns our expectations about race and beauty upside down. She’s known for campy, costumed self-portraits in which she masquerades as a shape-shifting cast of characters: a leopard-print clad babe with a hairspray-stiff bouffant; a young woman decked with long braids, gold hoops, and a shirt emblazoned with the words “Hoodrat Thangs.” These personas are a way for Gaignard to explore her own identity as a mixed race woman (her mother is white and her father is black)—and her struggle to come to terms with “not fitting into just one category,” she says.

Since earning her MFA at Yale in 2014, Gaignard’s work has popped up in buzzy solo exhibitions at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery and the California African American Museum (CAAM), both in Los Angeles, where she lives and works. This fall, you can see her work at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Houston Center for Photography, and the Prospect New Orleans triennial, where she’ll debut a new, site-specific installation.
All three venues showcase how Gaignard, in recent years, has expanded her photographic vision into immersive environments that further chip away at close-minded stereotypes and cultural norms. From afar, her domestic-style installations look cozy, like a grandmother’s overly decorated living room. But get closer, and unexpected, unnerving details emerge.
Read and view more of Genevieve Gaignard’s work here.

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