Graduate Alumni > Advanced Fiber Studio (Highlights)

Nika Vaughan (Fall 2008 and Spring 2009)
Nika Vaughan (Fall 2008 and Spring 2009)
"Topsy" Poster

I use my photography and sculpture to document "Topsy," a persona I created based on the on-going evolution of caricatures of female African American identity. I am an African American woman whose work often expresses how a black woman’s background and appearance affects not only how society sees her, but how she identifies herself. Because my focus meanders between race and gender, my art practice is about the act of labeling people. Referencing metaphors about identity, my photographs and sculptures focus specifically on how marginalized people are labeled individually and collectively.

In my sculptural work, I employ materials such as hair, ceramics, and wool to reference sexuality, alienation, and flamboyance. Focusing on cultural cues, such as blaxploitation nostalgia or the altering of one’s identity through wigs, I often highlight the idea of a woman as a series of bodily fragments, and not a whole person. While using photography to advertise "Topsy" as a brand, my documentation of "Topsy" addresses the ways black women specifically often embrace and deny parts of themselves to satisfy some pre-conceived standard or social norm, and how these visual cues become their cultural identity.