While learning about art history, it is difficult not to notice that the paintings revered as classic more often than not feature a majority of fair-skinned subjects. As such, this grave lack of representation became the traditional norm with women and people of color being the most commonly left out of the narrative and excluded from the canvas. However, one artist, Harmonia Rosales, is dedicated to changing the course of art history, beginning with the work she's doing today.
The Afro-Cuban Chicago-based painter is known for recreating historically praised works of art by way of reworking and reimagining the subjects as women of color.
This fall, her latest exhibition New World Consciousness, explores this theme in-depth through a religious lens, offering an empowering alternative to various beloved works. In one of the pieces featured in the series, Rosales challenges the stereotypes of The Virgin Mary and Eve, painting them as one united feminine figure.
"By making The Virgin Mary and Eve one woman, and by exploring how this one woman represents all of us because we all are perfectly imperfect," she shared during an interview with Dazed. "By presenting Eve in the same light as we give The Virgin Mary, we begin to accept Eve and her non-conformity as we relate to her through our own journeys of life."
Rosales' New World Consciousness series is an extension of the greater message found throughout her career's progression with the artist garnering a reputation for fighting for inclusivity in art and in society alike.
"Every one of my exhibits is a different branch from a central rooted question," she explained. "Why have we allowed a continuously manipulated society dictate who is superior in beauty and power?"
As exemplified by 2017's The Creation of God and The Birth of Oshun, Rosales says a "weapon in the ongoing battle against indifferent and inaction," referring to it as the best form of resistance.
From challenging perceptions of power hierarchies to deconstructing the dominant social narrative, Rosales' role in the art world thrives at the intersection of social action and beautiful self-expression. Citing her daughter as inspiration, Rosales is encouraging others to celebrate who they are, reclaim their rightful place in history and tell their own stories with pride.
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