Dialogue with the Exhibition “Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents”

In a Contemporary Dialogue with the Exhibition Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents, The Met (March 10, 2022-March 5, 2023) presents works by Artists Elizabeth Colomba, Hugh Hayden, Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker. Curated by Sylvia Yount and Stephanie Herdrich. Shown above is Elizabeth Colomba’s “Armelle.”

Armelle, a portrait of the artist’s cousin, was inspired by John Singer Sargent’s Madame X (1883–84). Armelle gazes toward a watercolor painted in the Bahamas by Winslow Homer, Under the Palm Tree (1885, National Gallery of Art). Throughout her art, Colomba centers stories of Black women, drawing on her extensive knowledge of art history and her academic training to subvert Western notions of beauty. As she explains: “I . . . start from a story that exists and remake it in a way that is appealing to me, dressing the subjects in a certain way and making it more about my roots, which are a mix of French and Caribbean.” This work is on view in Gallery 771 of The Met’s American Wing.

Elizabeth Colomba, French painter of Martinican heritage, explains: “The sitter is Armelle, my cousin. Virginie Amélie Avegno, known as Madame X after her portrait by Sargent, was born in Louisiana to White creoles, a term now applied to individuals of mixed-race heritage. Her father served as a major in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

The parallel between Armelle and Madame X is caustic and ironic. Both are creoles: X descends from a colonialist family; Armelle from one that would have been in bondage. Bestowing the same pose on my model, I challenge stereotypes, reframing history to apply a different narrative for the character.”

For more information on the other participating artists, see https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/winslow-homer/contemporary-dialogues

[Above: Elizabeth Colomba (French, b. 1976). Armelle, 1997. Oil on canvas. 30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm). Private collection. © 2022 Elizabeth Colomba / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]

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