243.8 cm x 406.4 cm (96 in. x 160 in.)
(Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976 - )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Enamel on canvas, two panels
Gift of Melanie Lawson and John F. Guess, Jr., in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, 2010
Mequitta Ahuja’s work explores the construction of identity, including her own. Recognizing that there is always an element of invention when it comes to depicting oneself, the artist refers to her heavily manipulated self-portraits as “automythography.” The term was inspired by a genre invented by the writer Audre Lorde, who braided personal history together with mythology in her “biomythography,” published in 1982.
Ahuja’s process of self-documentation begins with photographs. Using a remote shutter control, she performs privately for the camera. Then, through a series of sketches and preparatory drawings, she introduces inventive, often fantastical elements into the resulting images. Her final works wed the real with the surreal, nonfiction with fiction.
Parade captures this complicated marriage, offering in two parts the primary modes of painting: figuration and abstraction. The artist appears, poised mid-stride, on the right-hand canvas. Bright colors describe her figure and emanate from her black hair, which, as it carries over toward and onto the left-hand canvas, expands to become a dense cloud of increasingly abstract markings. The brushwork conveys Ahuja’s lively kinetic process in laying down pigment. She has referred to her interest in “the psychic proportions hair has in the lives of Black people,” which here dominates the composition, both physically and conceptually.