Steven Cozart – The Divide II: The Pencil Test
Dimensions: 30 x 24″ finished size
Medium: charcoal, gesso, assemblage on wooden panels
My work as of late is reflective of my thoughts and feelings about race and identity in America, focusing on stereotypes of the Aftrican American Male and Female within the paradigm of the African American Community. Specifically, I have noted the use of codecs (devices that compress and decompress data to enable faster transmission of that data) within the community to quickly pack and unpack information about African American men and women amongst themselves. These codecs have taken and may take many forms, such as a brown paper bag (as related to skin tone), or a pencil (as related to hair texture). The tones, textures and even features of the individuals also serve as codecs
The ongoing body of drawings, paintings, and mixed media collages refer to such things as the historical practice, in African American communities, of colorism ( prejudice and discrimination against individuals regarding their skin tone, typically among people of the same ethinic or racial group, texurism the idea that certain types of natural hair patters are more desirable or beautiful than others, and featurism the social acceptance and/or preference of European facial features over African facial features). In fact, these comparisons are based upon several superficial traits, mythos, and fallacies prevalent in the community.
Acts of colorism would include, for example, comparing a brown paper bag to skin tone in determining manhood, beauty, and admission or exclusion in social circles. In fact, there are some that are of the opinion that virility and manhood for blacks makes a direct correlation to skin tone. Acts of texturism would include using a pencil to make a judgement on the grade of an african American woman’s hair, thereby deeming it as “good” or “bad.” Acts of featurism would include choosing or making judgements of individuals based on facial traits (nose, lips, eye color) that are closer to European beauty standards in America.