By Juliana Ward

“BLACK DEATH SPECTACLE” reads the back of protester Parker Bright’s t-shirt as he stands in front of the controversial painting Open Casket by white artist Dana Schutz at the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Conversations of cultural appropriation and representation have become a contentious debate in the art world recently. Schutz’s abstract and colorful rendering of the brutally violent and historically charged graphic photograph of Emmett Till’s open casket launched an enormous controversy as it was deemed culturally appropriative and racially offensive by protesters. With the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement driving the socio-political conversation around police brutality and the systematic oppression of people of color, western white colonialist values are being identified and challenged. Part of this movement of “wokeness” is the call for decolonization of our spaces, including our arts culture. Questions of authorship and ownership are more prevalent than ever in the visual arts world, as was seen in the Schutz controversy. Do white artists have the right to author or comment on another’s cultural tragedy? For the first time in the history of art this is becoming a mainstream question. More clearly than ever in the 21st century, an artist’s personal identity (especially race, class, gender, and sexuality) informs the way their artwork and subject matter are considered. However, when an artist is not a member of the marginalized group they choose to represent these representations are called in question. Such potentially culturally insensitive or appropriative representations may reinforce colonialist values, therefore making them ripe for controversy and critique. Given the dark and violent history of colonialism, coupled with contemporary critiques of cultural appropriation, how should we as 21st-century viewers engage with these images?

Amy Cutler, Kayayo, 2011. One run, one color lithograph; edition 59/95, 21 x 16 in.; 53.3 x 40.6 cm. University Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Given in memory of Risa Gerrig ’81 by the Gerrig-Peterson family.

In the 2011 print, Kayayo (Fig. 1), white American artist Amy Cutler depicts a group of women wearing reinvented Kayayo, carrying burdens on their head in a way directly related to a human rights issue in Ghana. Due to conditions of poverty, young girls (as young as eight) called “Kayayo” in Ghanaian are utilized in a form of exploitive and dangerous labor, becoming “human shopping baskets” as they carry up to 220 lbs. on their heads. Cutler’s depiction of the scene transposes their struggle to an exclusively American context, echoing ethnographic depictions of culturally marginalized peoples dating back to the 19th century. Her contemporary cultural appropriation may be less obvious than the Open Casket of Dana Schutz, but presents an equally problematic cultural appropriation by a white American artist.

Kayayo depicts a row of five women, possibly of different races (some might be Asian, Native American, or Chicana, but notably none appear African) standing on floating island. They support on their heads a variety of western objects such as sewing machines, pots, and hat boxes. The women are tightly packed on the island with nowhere to go. It seems like an ominous and dangerous scenario, though none of the women’s faces express concern – more like exhaustion. Compounding this bleak scenario, there is no background; the women appear to float in nothingness, a purgatory. True to Cutler’s fascination with textiles, costume, and fashion, the women are in a variety of clothing referencing different times and cultures. A defining detail of the piece is the large toppling “headdresses” worn by the women on this floating island, which create the sense of weight and burden Cutler describes. All women on this island are equal in their burden, and appear as a pack, so to speak. However, each head piece is stacked with different objects such as sewing machines, or even a caged chicken sitting on one woman’s head. The material burdens are themselves symbolic of labor, chore, and its historical relationship to American feminine identity, and the women standing beneath them are partaking in a labor of sorts. They appear to have no other options but to stand burdened with these head pieces.

Images such as this can be critiqued in multitude of ways. In one reading, Cutler represents and reinvents a universal female experience of burden through the juxtaposing of symbols. Alternatively, she is appropriating an issue specific to women of color in Africa, while leaving black women out of the drawing. A comparison to Cutler’s more typical drawing Siloing in the MFA Boston (Fig. 2), demonstrates the way she uses fantastical drawing to comment on the history and politics of white female experience in the US. By contrast, Kayayo missteps in re-envisioning black experience as white and American.

(Fig. 2) Amy Cutler, Siloing, Graphite on paper, 29 ¾  x 22 ¼ in. 2016, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Born in 1974, Amy Cutler is a white American woman from Poughkeepsie, NY. She earned a BFA from Cooper Union in NYC in 1997. The concept of world building is prevalent in Cutler’s artwork. She constructs fantastical female narratives by placing groups of women in surreal structures or situations. By giving us something familiar but slightly anachronistic, such as a particular textile pattern, building, or female figure, her drawings both examine historical systems of power and allow viewers to bring in their own personal interpretations of these surreal, humorous, and sometimes disturbing scenes. Cutler’s deliberate and charged choices of wardrobe and hair or head adornments symbolically reference cultural and global gender norms as well as Cutler’s personal associations. In a 2017 interview, Cutler describes her prominent source material:

Memories, misunderstandings and anxiety are the most immediate source material. I write down things that pique my interest and do some research that usually leads me in different directions. I work from my imagination, but will refer to images or objects for details. Sometimes I will watch films or research images online. I do a lot of people-watching. The city and traveling has had huge influence on my work. I’m always hunting for different features. I become obsessed with certain details like the curve of a neck or the length of the exposed part of the septum. These things reappear in my work often. An excellent place to “shop” for features is on the subway. Sometimes, if I spend extended amount of time with someone, they will pop up in my work unexpectedly.[1]

Cutler has reiterated this statement in many interviews as she insists her own experiences are the at the forefront of her neo-surrealist image making. She reframes the cultural aspects found through research or observation as personal metaphors.

Cutler’s depiction of the female body in both narrative and archetypal forms is reminiscent of other feminist artists the generation before Cutler, such as Kiki Smith. Smith has also made extensive use of drawing as well as printmaking to juxtapose iconic and familiar images with everyday figures of women and girls. Smith’s multi-paneled drawing Pietà (Fig.3) presents her feminist and humorous take on one of the most well-known images in Western Art, the Pietà. Playing with this iconic story, Smith replaces Mary with an older woman and the dead Jesus with a cat.

(Fig. 3) Kiki Smith, Pietà, Ink and graphite pencil on paper, 55 1/4 × 30 5/16 in. (140.3 × 77 cm), 1999, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Drawing Committee

This could be read as a statement of the rejection of traditional maternal norms. The woman is instead cradling her cat, a reference to the dismissive stereotype of unwed women as “cat ladies.” Cutler’s work references Smith in her similar representational line work and subject matter juxtapositions. However, Cutler’s work is on a much smaller scale than Smith’s life-size Pietà. Cutler, like Smith, reinvents myths and fairytales as feminist narratives, and plays with both historical and contemporary imagery. With an illustrative drawing style, both artists create dark, humorous, and poignant feminist critiques.

In Cutler’s 2016 graphite on paper drawing Siloing (“Silo” meaning “to isolate”) (Fig. 2), a fantastical and challenging narrative engages us with its mystery. As is typical of her work, all the figures are female and appear American. There are three Caucasian young women wearing vintage 1970’s patterned dresses. The setting is both familiar and strange, a tension that Cutler employs incredibly well in her work. Familiar are the tall skinny white birch trees which stretch across the vertically-oriented paper. The trees are so tall that we are unable to see their tops. This use of space creates a sense of being deep in the forest, perhaps even lost. The eye is then drawn to a wooden hand-made cube-like structure floating above the women’s heads. The structure is similar to a treehouse, but has a menacing effect as there are no doors or windows. Upon further looking, we see that the cube is not indeed connected to the trees, but appears to float above the women’s heads in a threatening tension. What becomes stranger and more menacing is that long braids, evoking both rope and women’s hair, hang from all sides of the structure, cascading in loose loops off the page. Notably these braids/ropes do not appear to be in tension, suggesting that they are not holding this structure up. At bottom is the most intriguing part of the drawing, depicting a forthright young woman being coiled (alive/dead?) into a basket form. Three other young women perform this bizarre domestic labor with solemn and stern faces. Besides the women’s feet (some are bare and some have shoes) are bundles of patterned sacks, the patterns echoing the women’s dresses. Another disturbing subliminal image is the human foot wrapped in hair that comes out of one the bags at the far right. This image suggests violence done to a woman’s body. Are the women in the piece protecting the woman hidden in the central hair basket or burying her? This piece plays with our sense of time; the narrative places us in the middle of situation, but we do not understand how to read it. In relation to the experience of Cutler’s narrative, “viewers experience Cutler’s images as if they were opening to a the middle of a book. Because we have not begun at the beginning, we are at a loss to figure out what is happening in the story.”[2] This is part of what makes Cutler’s a fascinating world to enter. The viewer is not sure how to interpret or relate to the scene they have just walked into. This departure from linear narrative is what makes Cutler’s drawings so strong.

As a medium, drawing is uniquely suited to Cutler’s concepts and aesthetic. This piece, while extremely finished in terms of compositional space and detail, still feels fragile and almost ghostlike with its decidedly light graphite. The line work is intricate and representational. Her drawing process is in conversation with the subject she depicts as she herself is drawing in very tight, laborious, concentrated handwork. Cutler says that the faces of the women are likely her facial expression when drawing them.[3] While she often works in gouache and prints as well, graphite is a striking choice for this piece. There is no bright color to decorate the patterns typically seen in Cutler’s work. Also, pencil is erasable and malleable compared to paint or ink. These qualities inherent to drawing reinforce the fluidity and imagination of her scenes. Perhaps drawing puts these women in more potential danger, as they can be erased, hidden (as the girl in the basket), or harmed.

No men exist in Amy Cutler’s fantastical illustrative narratives. This alone has warranted her the label of a feminist artist, even though she herself has not identified as a feminist.[4] The serious and solemn women in her narratives either partake in a surreal labor together or stand in quiet solidarity. The women engage in labor, often referencing women’s work such as weaving. Cutler is fascinated with textiles, for their visual elements of color and pattern and feminine associations. The tribes of women in her work appear adorned in everything from colonial American dresses to Japanese traditional wear or seventies mod fashion, patched together with a variety of non-western ceremonial wear and head adornments. The women and clothing are intricately detailed and rendered in drawings and paintings that read as dark fairy tales. Cutler has an affinity to both invented and culturally specific headwear and hair, which she says represents burden.[5]

As a white woman, Cutler often references other cultures and traditions in her work, claiming these as inspirations related to globalization and climate change. While most of the women who take center stage in her pieces are white, she does occasionally depict women of different ethnic groups. Cutler does, however, have a problematic obsession with displacing the objects and fashions of marginalized groups from the groups themselves. Is this appropriation or appreciation? When asked about her “mash-up” of influences Cutler says:

As an American with no strong ties to any ancestral traditions, I am curious about other cultures, and I’m drawn to working with pre-industrial imagery because of the poetic nature of the exposed mechanics. The clothing and architecture are made by hand. Nothing is hidden in the process [….] I think a lot about climate change and globalization. This is where the mash-ups are justified. I live in a part of Brooklyn that has a large Bengali population. Jackfruit is always available. Just seeing this large fruit inspires so many thoughts. As seen earlier, The city and traveling has had huge influence on my work. I’m always hunting for different features.[6]

The idea that other people’s cultural identities and objects are commodities for artistic inspiration is problematic, as it reflects colonial ideology. To ethically represent these “mash-ups” she would need to work harder to understand the historical context out of which they developed, and investigate her own privilege in applying them to her work. In interviews, she quickly dismisses going deeper into explaining her subject matter, stating “she picks subjects that interest her.” What does it mean, though, when those curiosities that she gleefully describes are in direct correlation with Gauguin and Picasso’s use of the “other” in the problematic history of modernist primitivism a hundred years ago? As a white American, Cutler has the privilege to appropriate and reinvent these cultural inspirations without any of the violence historically experienced by many of the marginalized groups she references. These often traditional and symbolic cultural references become exotic décor for her illustrations of mostly white women.

On the other hand, should we “censor” an artist to exclude cultural influences? How do viewers know where to draw the line between art that dismantles our colonialist past and that which regresses into stale western fetishizing? I believe it is possible for an artist to engage with other cultures and depict them respectfully in their work. However, in the 21st century it seems increasingly necessary that the artist’s purpose, statement, and reflection on the impact of utilizing these cultures demonstrate an awareness of the politics of colonial western values. Cutler’s justification of her cultural inspirations as part of her interest in “climate change” and “globalization” is weak. Globalization in particular is a complex set of political and economic operations, which can be good or bad—it takes more than an image to develop an adequate commentary on it.

Contemporary art viewers demand more from the artists of our times. Art does after all reflect and shape our social and cultural imaginations. Artists that resist and critique colonial and patriarchal systems of power are redefining the visual arts as they incorporate a progressive anthropological lens when conceptualizing their pieces.

For most of art’s history, this was not case. It was perfectly valid for white men to incorporate marginalized groups such as people of color, women, and queer people into their work in any way they desired. Crude, exotic, and sexualized representations of the other (and their objects) in the works of modern artists like Picasso have served to perpetuate western colonialist values of ownership, racism, and erasure in art. As revolutionary as they were in their own day, paintings like the 1907 Demoiselles d’Avignon do not reflect an artist working towards understanding a culture, but merely the ability to take and conquer its forms. Is Cutler merely perpetuating this tradition?

Cutler’s use of fantasy in her work “allows her to both gently critique and take pleasure in aspects of culture and society that strike her as absurd.”[7] While the use of fantasy is an important way to frame her own experience, it doesn’t mean she is justified in appropriating others’ images. Her drawings challenge and reinvent a woman’s role in society by imagining entirely new female driven societies. This is evident in the lithograph of Kayayo, which depicts women in an act of dystopian labor. This is certainly a visually and conceptually intriguing feminist lens through which to view Cutler’s work. In the context of Cutler’s work, the depiction of a group of laboring women is nothing new. Neither are the hybrid textiles and racial identities of the women. There are no African women or girls included, but there is an Asian one (true to Cutler’s enigmatic choices). However, in 2018 the artist’s position in the global art world and choice of subject matter remain a subject for critique. The Kayayo piece raises important questions of cultural appropriation. Can an artist remove context completely from their work? Is Cutler trying to erase, exoticize, or bring an awareness of the situation of Kayayo women?

In researching the unfamiliar title, I found that the Kayayo (meaning “girl-carrier” in Ghanaian) has become a human rights issue in Ghana. In rural northern Ghana there are little to no opportunities for education or employment. Given this poverty and lack of options, northern Ghanaian female children and young women are sent by their families to the larger cities and trade hubs in southern Ghana. These women serve as porters, carrying heavy stacks of baskets holding various goods for miles. The Kayayo are transient workers who often sleep on stoops or possibly pay for temporary shelter. Rape and sexual violence is common in their lives, and has been normalized in the culture. Many of these women have to turn to prostitution to generate more income to send back to their families in the north.[8] This understanding of the title gave the piece a new and potentially problematic tone. Are these white women (one Asian)’s burdens of 1950s chores to be equated to the severity of the life of a Kayayo? For multiple reasons concerning class and race in America as well as the history of colonialism in Africa, the simplicity of the comparison is offensive. In light of the Shutz controversy, it appears highly problematic for Cutler, a white woman, to even attempt this cultural “borrowing.”

Image of a Kayayo girl in Ghana [9]

The exploitation of child and women’s labor coupled with the violent history of both colonization in Africa and the African diaspora in this country makes the Kayayo headdress a socially and politically charged metaphor in the Cutler piece. She has left African women out of this narrative and just taken what cultural object will serve her as a personal metaphor, without considering what impact such an appropriation may have on the women whose culture has been erased. The struggle of the Kayayo is a contemporary issue, not a distant memory to be romanticized by a white artist even in a surreal and fantastical scene.

Consider the differences between ethnographic documentation, which places one group in power in a western ideology of “objective” representation, and anthropology, a cultural study based on active dialogue. Anthropologist Tim Ingold points to the specific differences between anthropology and ethnography:

To study anthropology is to study with people, not to make studies of them; such study is not so much ethnographic as educational [….] Our job is to correspond with them, not speak for them. Only by acknowledging the speculative nature of anthropological inquiry can we both make our voices heard and properly engage with other disciplines. And only then can we lead the way in forging the universities of the future. [10]

Ingold describes the importance of correspondence with another culture versus ownership of the “other.” While he speaks as an anthropologist, we can see how contemporary artists serve as society’s “ethnographers”[11] and the precarious balance an artist faces, in attempting to represent the other progressively without perpetuating the western tradition of speaking “for” a marginalized voice, and therefore erasing that voice all together.

Cutler is effective when rendering her unified female communities struggling against universal oppression and burden. However, the reimagining and Americanizing of the Kayayo head wear, a contentious image related to a global human rights struggle, is colonialist and somewhat tongue and cheek for a serious issue. It erases the struggles of real African women and girls from this narrative. In fact, according to my research, there are no African or African-American women in her work. If she is working towards a collective and universal female utopia – women who are stronger when working together – then where are the black women? While I appreciate her collective feminist lens, it feels offensive to point to something as charged as the Kayayo without including a black woman. Of course women can express solidarity with the burdens borne by women in other cultures, but for a white woman to use the Kayayo as both title and symbolic décor on her characters without including an actual woman of color not only goes too far politically, but cuts against her apparent message of feminine solidarity.

How does this scene relate to the recent debates about racial imagery in popular culture? Reflecting on the 2017 Whitney Biennial we can see intriguing points made by both protesters and defenders of the Schutz painting. In Hannah Black’s now infamous public letter to the Whitney Biennial she states the problems with the painting: “In brief: the painting should not be acceptable to anyone who cares or pretends to care about Black people because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun, though the practice has been normalized for a long time.[12] Black puts the painting in the context of colonialism and western values which have long shaped our cultural imaginations when looking at art. Western attitudes have allowed white artists to borrow, steal, and appropriate images of black suffering for far too long – so long in fact that the practice is rarely questioned. Black argues that Schutz’s “subject matter is not Schutz’s; white free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights.”[13] This is obviously a difficult territory to navigate as art relates directly to the complexities of history, politics, and cultural norms.

Taking a different position, Afro-Cuban performance artist Coco Fusco responds to the Schutz controversy with a defense of Schutz’s work, ethically questionable as it is, against censorship: “Whether Black intends it or not, her dismissive treatment of Schutz’s painting, her essentialist position on black and white racial identities, and her use of offense as a rationalization for censorship reinforce elitist and formalist views that ethical considerations don’t belong in the aesthetic interpretation of art.”[14]. Fusco rejects the way Black’s outrage threatens to shut down all debate on the Shutz piece. Similarly, prominent black artist Kara Walker has joined other prominent contemporary artists in insisting that such critiques are essentialist and limiting. As a white person, women, educator, and artist who is still formulating my own views on the Schutz debate, I believe these conversations are complex and important ones to have. They will influence how future generations create and view art and in turn shape policies and social imaginations. I support the reform of systematic race, gender, and class oppression in the United States, and believe these controversies overall have a positive effect on the difficult process of dismantling systematic oppression and white, patriarchal, colonialist values that have been dominant for far too long.

Cutler is far from the first white person to wish to document (or in her case reinvent) cultures different from her own. Her image in Kayayo directly references one of their most recognizable formats, the ethnographic photograph. In his book Photography and Anthropology, Christopher Pinney considers the invention of photography by Fox Talbot in 1839 as a new and valuable tool in the field of anthropology. In the first section of the text, he describes the key organizations and anthropologists who utilized photography for their fieldwork. He describes the initial intents of social institutions such as the Aborigines’ Protection Society in 1837: “The Aborigine’s’ Protection Society set about ‘correcting’ false assumptions about aboriginal peoples – especialy the belief that they were naturally inferior or devoid of physical or intellectual capabilities. This, as Ronald Rainger suggests, was the ‘scientific’ means to an ethical end – the more humane treatment of colonial subjects.”[15] Organizations like the APS were aiming to preserve and uplift these disappearing communities. However, in their attempt at a more accurate documentation of the “other” they often reinscibed colonial western values and white privilege.

Pinney is not particularly interested in critiquing the systematic power systems between the researcher and the researched (or the artist and the subject). He is mostly fascinated with the opportunities for documentation that the invention of the camera provided to these anthropologists, the challenges they faced, and the interplay of science, fact, documentation, and fieldwork. The problem of attempting to neutralize the politics of colonialism arises when he discusses the how to define a culture. He describes the concept as: “on one hand culture as a lived practice caught up in the rhythms and idioms of speech, and on the other culture as objectified in visual and material representation.”[16] This phrasing reflects the western obsession with other cultures’ imagery and objects. While the language is not so easily defined or appropriated, the objects and images become scientific documentation. There are clearly flaws in this system of thinking, as the documentary image tends to misinterpret and fetishize these objects of culture and take ownership of them through appropriation.

(Fig. 5) E.H Higgs, Abors, Photograph, 1861

In this early anthropological photograph (Fig. 5), we see a group of women from the northeast Indian state of Assam, arranged in a way uncannily similar to Cutler’s women in Kayayo. Four of the women stand facing the camera while two remain seated but still in frame. There are so many compositional parallels, in fact, that one wonders whether Cutler was purposely evoking such images as a critique of historic representations of the other by the white colonial gaze.

In contemporary art, the appropriation and even copying or repurposing of images has become a contemporary practice, as it breaks down traditional modernist ideas of authenticity and individuality. We have seen the use of appropriation as a method in Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Sherri Levine, who all appropriated imagery and objects produced in their own culture.[17] What does it mean, though, when an artist appropriates the imagery of a marginalized group? It has been condemned as cultural appropriation as was the case in the Dana Schutz’s Open Casket.

Erich Hatala Matthes defines how context is essential to these questions: “Cultural appropriation can often seem morally problematic. When the abstract schemas above are filled in with details from actual events, we often find misrepresentation, misuse, and theft of the stories, styles, and material heritage of people who have been historically dominated and remain socially marginalized.[18] In her essay on cultural appropriation, though, Matthes effectively responds to critics of appropriation method whose very critiques only add to an essentialist view of a marginalized culture, echoing the position of Coco Fusco regarding Black’s critique of Dana Schutz. Thus, persons who make claims objecting to cultural appropriation predicated on essentialist distinctions between insiders and outsiders risk causing harm of a similar kind to the appropriations to which they are objecting. In my critique of Cutler’s Kayayo I insist on the misguided and appropriative nature of her equating the Kayayo headpiece with the American women she depicts. Am I perhaps essentializing this Ghanaian culture, therefore depicting my own problematic view of another culture (as a white woman)? One key point, for Matthes, is whether the social situation of the culture depicted is valued in the appropriation. She writes:

After all, as we have seen, cultural appropriation often goes hand in hand with misrepresentations of culture, something anyone who values a culture should be concerned about. More importantly, valuing a culture should involve increased sensitivity to the injustices faced by its members. If anything, a failure to acknowledge the harms of cultural appropriation should lead us to question whether someone truly values a culture, rather than leading to the mistaken judgment that concern about cultural appropriation stands in the way of cross-cultural appreciation.[19]

Might Cutler have represented the Kayayo out of concern for these women, and a desire to raise awareness of their situation? Unfortunately, the lack of African women in the piece or a cohesive artist statement combined with Cutler’s problematic accounts of her process all point to a neo-colonialist white feminist narrative in which Cutler reinforces western values of ownership and erasure.

In truth, use of the ethnographic surrealism like Cutler’s has been celebrated for longer than it has been critiqued. Imaginings of complicated imaginary worlds such as Kayayo have long seeped into visual art as well as literature. Juxtaposing the familiar with the exotic and fragmenting cultural imagery has long been condoned in modern art and specifically the Surrealist movement. In his classic account of the relationship of Surrealism and ethnography, The Predicament of Culture, James Clifford argues that “ethnographic surrealism is a utopian construct, a statement at once about past and future possibilities for cultural analysis.”[20] By this definition we might consider such images as Kayayo progressive as they challenge our essentializing of black and white identities.

But it is not that simple. The power of this piece is too dependent on the stale decontextualizing of African objects, which we have come to celebrate in the work of iconic artists such as Man Ray and Picasso. To quote contemporary black artist Fred Wilson when speaking of the western valuing of African art: “If your modern art is our traditional art, then does that make our contemporary art your cliché?”[21] Wilson directly confronts the western fetishizing of the African other, as well as the problematic way western institutions continue to own the terms of the debate.

As 21st century viewers we cannot remove personal context, subjects, history, and systems of power from our interpretation of art. These interpretations only become more complex as we work actively to dissolve long held colonialist values and stop essentializing other cultures. We need to reject the devaluing and decontextualizing of the other in art. This is not to say a white artist can never depict a marginalized group or issue, but that we need to be aware of the way they represent other cultures. Is it appropriative borrowing for decorative purposes or does it value the culture in a progressive way? If art reflects its own time, then the contemporary questioning of how an artist relates to their subject is important. It means asking a white artist to be mindful of their own privilege and its relationship to history. It means challenging viewers to acknowledge uncomfortable truths about systems of power. It is the first step toward dismantling the oppressive structures of a violent colonialist history within our culture.

[1]Amy Cutler, “Amy Cutler No Frills” interview by Kristen Farr, Juxtapoz Magazine, July 2017

[2] Fantastical Fables: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints by Amy Cutler (Brunswick Maine: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2008), 9

[3] Cutler, “Amy Cutler No Frills

[4] Amy Cutler, “Artist Amy Cutler on Her Quiet Magic Realism,” Interview by Paul Grant, Art Talk, The Blue Rider, October 5, 2005

[5] Cutler, “Amy Cutler No Frills

[6] Cutler, “Amy Cutler No Frills

[7] Fantastical Fables

[8] Peter Dicampo, “Girl power: in the southern cities of Ghana, thousands of young women from remote northern regions work as street porters, or Kayayo. It’s a poorly paid job that involves long hours, backbreaking manual labor and cramped living conditions, but for some women, it gives them freedom and money that would be unavailable to them in their hometowns,” Geographical, Jan. 2011, 50+

[9] Mari Bakke Riise, Kayayo, The Living Shopping Baskets, film, 30 min., Women’s Voices Now Online Film Festival, 2016.

[10] T. Ingold, “Anthropology contra ethnography,” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, no. 1 (2017), 21-26.

[11] Hal Foster, The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996)

[12] “Hannah Black’s Letter to the Whitney Biennial’s Curators: Dana Schutz Painting ‘Must Go,’” e-Flux Conversations, Mar. 22, 2017

[13] “Hannah Black’s Letter to the Whitney Biennial’s Curators: Dana Schutz Painting ‘Must Go,’

[14] Coco Fusco, “Censorship, Not the Painting, Must Go: On Dana Schutz’s Image of Emmett Till,” Hyperallergic, March 27, 2017

[15] Christopher Pinney, Photography and Anthropology (London: Reaktion, 2011), 17-63

[16] Pinney, Photography and Anthropology, 17-63

[17] Marina P. Markellou, Appropriation Art and Cultural Institutions, 3 Queen Mary J. Intell. Prop. 145 (2013)

[18]Erich Hatala Matthes, “Cultural Appropriation Without Cultural Essentialsim?” Social Theory & Practice 42, no 2 (2016): 343-366

[20] James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988)

[21] Art21: Art in the Twenty-First Century. Season Three: Structures. Art21 Inc., distributed by PBS, 2009.