WTF AMERICA?” wrote the artist Genevieve Gaignard MFA ’07 on Instagram on May 27, two days after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. With it she shared an image of her 2020 collage titled Fantasia, a piece that examines police brutality, innocence, and the white gaze.
“I was obviously angry,” said Gaignard, whose work blends mixed media, sculptures, domestic installations, and self-portraiture to explore race, beauty standards, consumption, identity, and accountability. When collaging, Gaignard—the daughter of a Black father and a white mother—focuses on Black strife and Black beauty by using images from old issues of Ebony, Jet, and Life magazines arranged over vintage wallpaper, a material she remembers from her childhood home in Orange, Massachusetts.
In Fantasia, which debuted at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair in February, Gaignard collages a series of separate images to depict a crowd of white people—one of them holding an American flag—applauding a cop as he kneels over a Black man. Beside him a dead body is covered by a coat. Black onlookers appear helpless while two Black boys on bikes are separated from the disturbing scene by a stop sign. “It’s like, please don’t go in and see this,” explained Gaignard, adding that the placement of images creates “little moments that are talking to each other.” Elsewhere in the collage, which is shaped like a triangle meant to represent the Egyptian pyramids, a Ritz cracker sits under a Confederate flag, a white hand holds money and a gun, and a Black child lays over a TV to represent “how America gets to see Blackness,” Gaignard said. “It was almost chilling to post that.”
Read more about Genevieve Gaignard’s work in this recent Vanity Fair publication.