Citizen Artist Feature: Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odutola‘s piece Uncertain yet Reserved is featured in Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric. Rankine will be reading at Concordia University on March 10, 2017. Details here. Ojih Odutola (b. 1985, Ife, Nigeria) is a visual artist who creates drawings exploiting diverse mediums to emphasize how an image is a striated terrain to mine beyond formulaic representation.

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When I draw my brothers in particular, I exploit the feminine. I always give them huge lashes and I always capture them in poses that are not quintessential black male poses. There’s one piece that’s based on a photo I took at the Abuja airport, which is absolute chaos, where my brother’s head is cocked up and there’s a tinge of terror in his eyes. He was trying so hard to be this calm, cool black dude. I loved that. I called the piece Uncertain yet Reserved (2012) because he was reserving everything. He was trying so hard to hold onto his blackness, his maleness, but he was very scared and neither of us knew what was going on. It’s the slight sense of uncertainty where his eyes are wavering. I love that kind of portrayal. The whole point of exploiting that gender construct is to get at the person and not get at the label that society wants to put on them. It’s all about the social construct of an identity and the reality of a person, which are very different things.

-Toyin Ojih  Odutola speaking to Zachary Rosen on Africa is a Country, Culture (2012)

The cover image for this post (the  portrait of Odutola) is from Interview Magazine and was taken by Vicente Muñoz.

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