Deborah Roberts creates visually arresting collages that encourage important conversations about girlhood, vulnerability, body image, popular culture, self-image, and the dysfunctional legacy of colorism. Combining found photographs, painting, and drawing, she examines the weight that society places on Black girls. “Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi,” an original exhibition organized by the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art opening January 23, 2018, features more than 50 collages, paintings, and hand-painted serigraphs.
On view through May 19, 2018, the exhibition includes collages, for which Roberts has gained notoriety, that demonstrate how she grapples with the depiction of beauty and the development of self-image in Black women. As well, her hand-painted serigraphs of names that stereotypically sound like those of Black girls, challenging viewers to think deeply about how their own perceptions are guided by societal expectations and preconceived notions will be on display. Incorporating art history, popular culture, Black culture, and American history, Roberts creates bold provocative works that confront and captivate.
In 2011, the artist started a series of collages entitled “The Miseducation of Mimi,” which was informed by a blend of the albums, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998) and “The Emancipation of Mimi” (2005) by Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey, respectively. The ongoing series highlighted how both highly visible women, through their lyrics and music videos, presented themselves as simultaneously invincible and vulnerable.
“Deborah Roberts’ multilayered collages resist singular readings and present complicated notions of Blackness,” said Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., director of the Museum and the curator of the exhibition. “The Museum is proud to present this work, with its emphasis on fragmenting and reassembling, for the first time in the Southeast. Roberts’ thought-provoking collages align perfectly with the Museum’s mission to inspire the Spelman College community and the general public through art by women of the African Diaspora and promises to intrigue and incite important conversations.”
“Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi,” positions the last five years of her career as a springboard from which to examine her more recent work.
“When I started the ‘Miseducation of Mimi’ series, I was beginning to explore issues that plague young Black girls and eventually Black women, such as perceptions about their beauty and their lack of innocence in a world where whiteness is the norm,” said Roberts. “The ideas I developed through the Mimi series paved the way for the work I’m doing today.”
The Museum will host a conversation with Roberts and exhibition curator and Barnwell Brownlee on January 25 at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reception. Admission is free.